The Future of Contemporary Craft & Letting Go of Perfection
Earl of East Meets Charlie Boyden
Meet Charlie Boyden, object and furniture designer and maker. Being admirers of Charlie's Objects of Strange Desire concept, we we wanted to know more about his practice (and have a look around his work space too).
We headed over to Charlie’s studio in London Fields where we chatted about what inspires his work, the future of contemporary craft, the enjoyment of letting go when it comes to the pressure of perfection in design, and lots more - enjoy!
Hey Charlie, please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your practice?
I’m Charlie Boyden and I am an object and furniture designer / maker, currently based in London Fields. I work mostly with wood but I tend to take existing objects and reinterpret them in my own way, looking at its form and giving it a new story or new idea based on the materiality or the existence of this thing as I find it.
You make some really fascinating and unconventional work, how do most projects begin?
Most projects probably begin by observing what's around me. I take lots of photos of objects I see on the street or wherever I go. That object may then ‘click’ something in my head and I reference it later on.
For example, the other day I found this strange looking traffic cone and I got home and managed to search where the traffic cone was from. I’ll probably end up doing something with that. It's taking existing objects and finding things that inspire me and then maybe adapting my work around that.
'Most projects probably begin by observing what's around me. I take lots of photos of objects I see on the street or wherever I go.'
Can you tell us more about your Objects of Strange Desire concept?
Over the past five years I've been making and thinking about different objects that I want to make. This started with more conceptual ideas which didn't really work as well. Then my practice developed to working with wood and other mediums. With that development came the realisation that these ideas were seen and I can make these ideas slightly more functional.
All in all, Objects of Strange Desire is this visualisation of strange things I see or have in my head. Whether that is a sculpture or piece of furniture. It's an object that has some kind of desire whether it's to me or someone else.
You recently had an exhibition at the Duende Gallery In Peckham, what did the preparation look like for that?
There wasn't loads of time, but I went at it with the approach that I had never done a show before and I had a lot of objects and things I have made over the past years. I thought instead of panicking and making loads of new stuff in such a short amount of time I would bring all of those objects together. A lot of the older things are prototypes of the newer things.
What do you think the future holds for contemporary craft and furniture design?
I see people that make stuff sourcing their materials more locally, whether that's upcycling existing things they find. I personally see people using things that are close to them rather than sourcing manufacturers and materials from a far.
Can you talk a bit about form and function and how you think they work together?
It's a weird one, I have different thoughts on form and function. There is this idea that there is function and that its form should lead to its function. But I think some things don't need to function, and the reason they don't need to function is because of its form.
So the two words are quite connected in a way. Within my practice some things need to be beautiful and some things don't. Some of the things I make, to me maybe aren't that pretty, but it's this idea of getting rid of the need for it to be perfect and the need for its form to be pretty which is something that I think a lot of us think about is perfection within our work.
'It's this meditative thing coming here making things with objects I might have found yesterday. Being physical with your hands is something that's very important to me.'
Thinking more about that idea and the pressure of perfection…
I’ve just recently enjoyed letting go of the pressure of things being perfect within my work. Where I've been working before was based on mass production and perfection. Batch production is great to know and learn about, but I've just enjoyed coming here and really thinking about those smaller details and taking some time to work more freely and not be restricted to perfection.
Where do you want to take your craft, is there an end goal or dream?
I'm not quite sure what the end goal is, but I have a lot of things that I still want to make; every day there are new ideas. I don't know where it's going to go, but it's this meditative thing coming here making things with objects I might have found yesterday. Being physical with your hands is something that's very important to me.
I have ideas of what I want to do and have objects in shops that I really respect, being stocked by certain groups of people. I would like to work with shops and installations and more creative things, maybe going into set design and doing things like that.
Now that I'm free of anything else work wise, I've been trying to go back to the idea of being more sculptural or creating things that don't have as much function. More like experiments that may then turn into an idea - then hopefully I will have books filled with ideas.
Does scent play a role in your life day to day?
I'm quite a tactile person, any touch scents smell, in order to understand something whether it's a TV Remote or piece of work I'm doing. I need to be able to have those sensations in order to really understand that object.
Another thing I do most days is put my diffuser on, that happens before I go to bed. It's the scent and sound which is soothing to me. My favourite scent is Mandarin, and I also use a lot of lavender on my bedding. Scent for sure plays a role at home as well as at work.
Finally, what does home mean to you?
I surround myself with objects whether they are things I've made or been given or found. Home to me is the positioning of the collection, the layout. What I surround myself with, is home.
'Home to me is the positioning of the collection, the layout. What I surround myself with, is home.'