Friday, 30 January 2015

Brit Decor: Interviews/ Ian Archer

Since 1989, Ian Archer has been gracing the world of design with his outstanding furniture pieces which have attracted the likes of Ercol, John Lewis, and Heals. However, Ian's successes go far beyond the shores of the UK, with designs launched in Milan, Paris, New York and Stockholm. 

As if this wasn't testament enough to his creative talent, Ian also runs his own hugely successful business, Archer & Co (formerly Couch Design), creating sustainable and high quality sofas and armchairs to high acclaim -  his Raffa armchair won the Design Guild Mark Award for British Design and Craftsmanship. 

So you can imagine my excitement when I was recently fortunate enough to catch a moment or two with the very man himself to find out more about what makes this prolific and innovative designer tick...

How and when did you first discover furniture design? 
Did you undertake any formal training?
I always had an interest in art & design. I still have drawings of
cars I did when I was 4!

I won the school art prizes and so it was a natural progression to do a
foundation course in art & design. It was here that I started to realise
my love of drawing could be allied to developing 3 dimensional forms -
initially sculpture, and subsequently furniture.

What inspires and drives you in life?
I have a tremendous enthusiasm for my work, and really never struggle
for ideas. I actually had to stop myself spending so many hours designing
last year as I had given myself a repetitive strain injury in my drawing

Fabrics can be an inspiration, when I find something I really love I
visualise what sort of shape I would want to wrap it around. This can
also work in reverse; when I have a shape in mind I will talk to Judy
(textile designer partner) about working on something that will best
suit it.

As some of my early years were spent working with very traditional furniture
makers, there is often a reference to the past in my work.

How easy was it to get your first break with iconic brands such as
I think getting a break working with an iconic company such Ercol, can
come down to luck, timing & ability. I had quite a good track record
making commercially successful products in an area of the market that
they were interested in, and I was recommended by a couple of respected
people in the industry.

Can you describe the creative process that takes place when you 
begin working on a design, from conception through to completion
All of my designs start in the same way - with what I call 'sketch
notes'. I scribble down lots of rough sketches, of ideas that may solve
the design brief. These can take minutes, hours or days depending on the
complexity of the project. I then refine these designs in my sketchbook
until I am happy with the final designs. 

I then visualise these either using 'Illustrator' or 3D modelling software. Then when the final design is signed off I produce full size working/construction drawings. These are passed to the frame maker, and when complete the frame goes to the upholsterer, at which point I discuss what I want, and usually after 2 or 3 meetings we have a finished piece - be it a production-ready prototype or
a one off bespoke sofa or chair.

What part of the design process excites you the most?
There are 2 aspects of the design process that I enjoy greatly. These
are, the initial idea generation through copious sketching - I just love
drawing & never tire of it. Secondly, seeing  a completed beautiful piece
of my furniture is really very rewarding.

How do you choose your materials?
Regarding the materials used it varies greatly with my broad range of
clients. The range for Archer & Co and companies such as Arlo & Jacob,
and Ercol, allows me to select natural and sustainable materials, and
generally just the most beautiful and highest quality materials and
fabrics possible. I visit key international fabric & furniture shows to
select the latest fabrics, and to identify current trends and to keep
abreast of new techniques & materials.

In terms of your designs, do you have any personal favourites, 
and if so, which ones and why?
I do have personal favourites of my own designs - usually the latest
things! But probably the Raffa chairs for Archer & Co (AKA Couch Design)
are my favourite. We have a pair of them at home & I often sit in one
whilst sketching ideas.

Can you tell me about your new range of furniture for Arlo & Jacob,
what was the design brief?
I have had a long standing relationship with the owners of Arlo &
Jacob, and when they approached me last year with their ambitious plans,
I was delighted to be involved. Their desire to create a range of
competitively priced, contemporary furniture, with a specification &
quality surpassing that offered by other 'on-line' retailers was a tall
order. I was able to get very involved in the whole 'ethos' of the
business, and starting with a clean sheet of paper, allowed the creation
of a range spanning updated 'classics' to more modern 'linear' shapes.
The range will keep evolving too, with more modular elements &
'signature' pieces to come.

Are there any other brands on your wish list for future collaborations?
There are several brands I would particularly like to work with,
Conran being the most notable in the UK - and I have some things under
discussion with them at the moment. Outside of the UK I think my work
would fit with Morosso & Edra particularly well. But I'm keen to do more
work in Scandinavia and the USA too.

Why did you decide to change the name of your own brand from Couch Design to Archer & Co? 
Our range is much broader than just my sofas and armchairs, Judith is now designing her own collection of fabric and the shop stocks accessories and wallpaper by other designers so I felt we needed a name that reflected that change.

What is next for Ian Archer?
2015 should be a great year. Many things I've worked on in 2014 are
being launched early this year in the UK, Cologne, Paris & Stockholm.
I'm also working on some more 'contract' orientated soft seating, as well
as a whole new collection for Archer + Company, to coincide with the
re-branding. Onwards & upwards as they say, 'just trying to make beautiful 
comfortable furniture for as many people as possible!'


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