I grew up in the Sussex Weald in a farming family, which gave me a unique understanding of the traditional ways of making from local materials such as wood, clay and metals. My time was split between the farm where I would watch the machinery being used and mended and in my Grandfather’s carpentry workshop. From the earliest time that I could swing a hammer I have been fascinated by design and construction.
The carpentry workshop had been passed down through several generations from a 19th century wheelwright’s business. There were over 100 years of accumulated tools and materials to use. It was nearly all hand working and the techniques used were based on my grandfather’s wheelwright training. The products he produced included Sussex field gates, Shaker style oak furniture and other always useful designs.
I started with offcuts of wood and second-hand nails both of which needed straightening before use. Everything had a use. Lessons in the use of hand-tools were under the watchful eye of a master who observed every pencil line and saw-cut you made. Otherwise there were no rules when it came to design - I think I broke most of the traditional design rules!
It was one of those spaces that was alive with the smell of wood and warm log stove. It seemed that your imagination was the only limit.
This is how I leant to think about making, about design as a process and developed an appreciation for the quality of materials. If a good days work was done, then the Cuban cigar cabinet was opened which had chocolates and a drink.
From this beginning I developed my career around design, engineering and innovation. I was a regional winner and national finalist in Young Engineer for Britain 1991 at A-level.
I went on to study architecture at Kingston University and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen where they had some of the best prototyping workshops imaginable.
I worked in many materials including metals, plastic, wood and ceramic.
Harry Potter Effect
During my degree I worked for Bill Dunster, an internationally renowned zero carbon specialist building his solar house in Hampton Court. From 2004 I joined his practice, Zedfactory and led ZED projects as project architect.
I designed products such as Coolvault and a tile rainscreen system with Ibstock.
My work at Zedfactory culminated in the launch of the UK’s first zero carbon Code 6 house at Ecobuild 2008 where I set up a consortium of over 20 of the UK’s leading supply and manufacturing companies to support the building system.
The consortium members included the St Gobain Group companies UK, Dupont, Ibstock and Rockwool.
I went on to develop Landark, a low impact relocatable cabin with engineers Buro Happold. A locked chain structure was designed, assembled, tested and exhibited in 4 weeks at Ecobuild 2009.
All the components were designed for manufacturing with CNC technology along with a 2 storey product display cutaway house frame working with International Timber, Calders and Gradidge and Jewsons.