One thing that is very heartening about the project is how it has influenced Carl’s idea of the future of his working practice. He is now wondering whether he should only be working like this from here on. That one should only be using items, components and materials that currently exist, that things that are required to be newly manufactured should be avoided.
“Before I was even into design, I think I was interested in people’s spontaneous ways of dealing with problems. Physical issues if you like. In some ways, my work has always been about that. With this thing here, it’s kind of interesting. I think I have fallen out of love with the idea of designing mass-manufactured things. I don’t think I want to make anything new unless it’s sustainable. Of course, Beasley is about doing a good exhibition, and about hopefully making some lovely things. But for me, it’s about what I might be doing next.”
The idea that the manufacturing process should be something that is already in the past, and that the future is one of fashioning things from things that are already there, is a powerful one. The idea itself is not new, various incarnations of similar thinking are littered across the history of European product design. This kind of approach has an esteemed and serious lineage. It will be familiar to anyone who experienced the influence of Droog in the 90s, or going back much further, the “ready-made” products of the Castiglioni brothers in the 50’s and 60’s. Which, incidentally, were very much a response to Government led industry advice in post-war Italy, aimed at encouraging manufacturers to use pre-existing components to create popular lightweight products that could be sold for export. Now, a confluence of different factors – around issues of the climate, sustainability and shrinking globalisation, to name a few – give these ideas a new gravitas. In 2022 they make perfect sense, rather than in the past, where they made an alternative kind of sense, and were in fact, alternative.
Another important factor is reach. “What is different now,” explains Carl, “to in 1998, when I set up in the OXO Tower making small batches of things, is that the support platform is there now. You don’t really have to do Milan, you could run a business off Instagram if you wanted.”