Daniel Schofield portrait at his Woolwich studio.

Daniel Schofield

Studio Visit

On the eve of the London Design Festival, our Editor Duncan Riches visited new SCP designer Daniel Schofield, to find out more about his working practice and approach to life.

After a pleasing cycle ride along the Thames Path, I arrive at Daniel Schofield’s studio in Woolwich, which is situated right next to the river in a former plastics factory. The story goes that the company that was formerly working at the site, lost a lot of business to companies in the far-east, the building owner quickly changed the usage of the building to smaller studios, for use by a range of companies, many of whom are creative businesses, from printers, to furniture makers to bicycle frame builders. The place has a nice riverside cafe and Daniel and I settle down to talk while watching the Thames flow by.

Duncan Riches and Daniel Schofield in conversation.

What does a general working day look like?

“I don’t have a fixed routine, but if I have a meeting I generally tend to work from home at the moment, as this is quite far out. If I don’t, I just come here all day, from about 9 to around 5 or 6. I walk to Lewisham, get a coffee and get on the bus, and I usually draw on the way here (Daniel sketches in small notebooks that he always carries with him). Just doodling on the bus really – I would actually like to start to name designs after bus routes. Once I am here, I will first go through my emails, and then it’s like a mixture of pottering, drawing, making models and testing ideas. Sometimes I will scale up a drawing to think about it a bit more. If I think I have something worth pursuing, I will then get it into CAD and start putting some dimensions to it, if it’s worth pursuing more, I will start mocking it up one to one.”

As we talk, a solitary plane flies slowly descends into London City Airport from the West, are rarer sight these days, with far less planes in the skies.

"Once I am at the studio, I will first go through my emails, and then it's like a mixture of pottering, drawing, making models and testing ideas."

Daniel Schofield

I would like to go back a bit and get a sense of your journey into the design industry. How did you begin?

“I didn’t really do good in school, I was a bit distanced. I was only really good at art and technology. So the tutors told me to go and do graphic design. So I did, I enjoyed it, got a place at University, but wanted to do something more practical, so I went to do a carpentry apprenticeship for four years. I learnt loads, but perhaps wasn’t really applying myself. I then felt that I needed to do something more creative and a friend who was in a similar boat had found this furniture designing making course at University. So I made a little portfolio, had an interview and got in, and I loved it. I did my first year in High Wycombe, at the  National School of Furniture. That was a making course, but after a year of it I figured I wasn’t much of a maker, despite my background in carpentry, and I wanted to focus more on being a designer. I was also a little bored with High Wycombe, so I transferred to Sheffield on the advice of a friend. I loved it there and enjoyed having a bigger city to get my teeth into. Once I graduated, I got offered an unpaid internship at Tom Dixon, which I didn’t really fancy, as I thought it would be hard to do that by day and earn money by night in a bar or something. So instead, I stayed in Sheffield and got a place on this business incubator programme that was connected to the University. They gave me £200 a month, a desk space and use of the workshops, which was great. I did a little carpentry on the side, learning on the job and failing a lot. I started to make my own furniture and sell it, showing at Tent, New Designers and things like that in London. It went quite well, despite the fact I knew nothing about the industry at all.”

Early form study sketch by Daniel Schofield of the Dover sofa for SCP.

When did you come down to London?

“I was up in Sheffield and things were going okay, but I felt I needed to be on the doorstep of the industry in London. My brother moved down, so I came down and started out on his sofa. Then he bought a place and I moved in with him. I began with a bedroom as a studio, but I made do. I then found a house where the landlord wanted a bit of work done in exchange for a rent reduction, so that worked for me. It’s hard in London, but there are gems here if you look for them. Since then, I have just gradually been building up my client base and developing my practice.”

Do you have a plan for the future, or any idea how you would like your practice to develop?

“I have a bit of a long-term view, but I am also just seeing how things go. When people ask me what I do, I say I am a designer, and they say what do you design, I say what anyone will let me. It’s mainly furniture and lighting, but I would love to do interiors and other things. I really like the collaboration with brands and manufacturers. Working with SCP, who have an amazing level of expertise in upholstery, I get to go and work closely with Tim (Tim Cox, the Director of Coakley & Cox, SCP’s specialist upholstery factory) and the team in the factory and I learn loads, which is amazing. I think the main thing I want to do is to keep learning and improving, and what will come will come. I am more trying to focus on an approach to design than on what it is I design.”

How has 2020 been for you, with the pandemic, lockdown and all?

“In the first couple of months, I took this little box room in the house and made it into a studio. It was weird at first and I didn’t feel very creative, but then I got really into it. I actually really enjoyed just being able to get up, make a cup of coffee and start working. It was like working from home again, like I did all that time ago. I actually quite enjoyed that, the time it gave me to work on other things and work up lots of ideas that I had, but hadn’t had the time to focus on. I managed to resolve a few concepts and then sent a lot of these out. It’s strangely been quite fruitful and I now have a few new clients off the back of that, which is great. I did a lot of work in the garden too, I felt like I turned into a sixty-year-old man for a few months, which felt good. It gave me time to reflect on who I am as a designer, it gave me time to sit back and look and frame it all a bit more clearly. It’s a work in progress, but I feel content with that.”

"When people ask me what I do, I say I am a designer, and they say what do you design, I say what anyone will let me."

Daniel Schofield
Dover sofa by Daniel Schofield for SCP.

SCP 2020 Collection

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