Tom Faulkner started working in steel in the early nineties and opened his first workshop in Wiltshire in 1995, designing and making distinctive metal furniture. I caught up with him to see what he was up to these days...
What’s the most important thing to know about you?
I'm happiest when I'm making something - using my hands.
Describe a really good day and a really bad day in the life of Tom Faulkner.
A good day is the end of a design process and realising the new product has come out even better than expected.
A bad day is when you get stuck creatively in the middle of the design process and you don't know whether to carry on or to quit while you're (not) ahead...
What inspires your ideas?
Everything and anything. It all goes in, and some of it comes out.
Describe the process you go though to turn your ideas into products.
Most of my designs start with a single motif - a silhouette or something. It's then sketched and prototyped in my workshop. One of the advantages of having your own workshop is that you can experiment freely. But it's only when you actually make something for real that you know what it looks like, whether the lines and proportions are right - no number of CAD renderings make up for seeing the real thing - so a lot of the design comes during the making.
What advice would you give to an aspiring furniture designer?
It's difficult for me to give advice as my own career trajectory has been quite unorthodox.
I think you need to know if you want to be commercial (large volumes) or more bespoke; and whether you want to work for yourself or for an organisation.
I started because I liked the idea of having a workshop and creating new things. But that's only half the story - you have to be able to sell them, and discover what people want (which isn't always the same as what you want!) and what is commercial and what is viable.
But there's no substitute for hard work, and being brave. And remembering your relationships with your suppliers are as important as with your customers.
I also work with very good people who are perhaps better at selling and sticking to a budget than I am! That helps.
Desert island design time - which three items could you not live without?
The iPhone - obviously!
Four coloured bic biro.
What are you most proud of?
Following my heart and creating a viable business which employs people and creates products that bring pleasure. All from a few ideas from my head!
What’s next for you?
Wood and wallpaper.
And, finally, what’s your favourite colour?!