Design Onion – Irish Furniture Design
I’m a huge fan of art and design … paintings, sculptures, jewellery, fashion, interiors … you name it, I’m a fan … add an Irish design element to it and my attention is held immediately … and now that Patrick and I have bought our first home … add to the list furniture design and my heart races a little. ‘House & Garden’ (and House & Home) is like a little bit of heaven to me and don’t get me started on Pinterest … it’s like a drug.
You may remember reading my review on the Forest Domes at Finn Lough. Well these domes contained some very fine furniture design from a designer called Ronan Lowery from Design Onion. Not only was the beautiful custom made four poster bed his work, but so too was the custom made dome shaped ensuite bathroom.
Patrick and I got to meet Ronan during our stay in Fermanagh. He’s a really sound guy with a great talent, and because of this I wanted to know more and share with you some of his work.
Q&A’s with Irish Furniture Designer Ronan Lowery of Design Onion
1. What was your inspiration to become a Furniture Designer?
I always had an interest in the mechanics of things and in how things were put together. I enjoyed the process of creating and making and I got great satisfaction from making things ‘work’. I liked the idea of combining the creative/artistic side with the mechanics of making.
My Dad and Granda were both engineers and there is also a creative background in the family, be it music, art or design, so I think my family were a strong inspiration to becoming a designer/maker. In school I loved maths and physics as well as all the practical subjects. I did work experience with a local furniture maker and went on to work a summer with the company. I think this confirmed to me that it was what I wanted to pursue and influenced my decision to study it.
Walnut chair – Designed with aesthetics and ergonomics of equal priority, laminated back and rails, coopered style seat. Approx £2200
2. How did you officially become a Furniture Designer?
Following school, I went to The Furniture College, Letterfrack and studied Furniture Design and Manufacture. I worked during the summers with local furniture designers/manufacturers and gained invaluable experience with them. I graduated in 2007 and I was accepted onto a two-year craft business start-up programme with Craft Northern Ireland called ‘Making it’. The programme allowed me to establish Design Onion through help from technical and business mentoring, exhibition opportunities, network
building and structured business training. Subsequent to completing the programme I established the independent workspace in Belleek where I am located today.
Room Divider Bookcases – Mobile room divider bookcases with porthole details and adjustable shelving, birch ply. Approx £4000
3. Where do you take creative inspiration from for your own designs?
The inspiration for my designs comes from a variety of sources. I think looking back at pieces I have created over the years, geometry, mathematics and natural patterns are definitely strong influences, albeit in a subtle way. When I’m designing for a client I always like to include something personal into the piece, whether it’s a material, the form or concept itself.
Recently materials have been a starting point for the design of some work. I have been exploring the use of the ancient Japanese technique of Shou Sugi Ban which involves scorching the surface of wood to protect it. I think there is something intriguing about a destructive process giving a material enhanced qualities. I completed a recent commission where I used it to symbolise how overcoming illness can result in a stronger being.
Engagement Boxes – Two elements combining to form one unique piece signifying unity of marriage, ash, maple, cedar. Approx £650
4. What’s the wackiest design request you’ve had to date?
I have completed commissions ranging from regal thrones and ceramic-esque Toby jug chairs to beer serving platters, magician’s props and spaceship-like en-suite pods in forest domes but I think the most unique request I’ve had (so far anyway) was for a wooden engagement ring. The ring was made from Mediterranean Olive wood with a message engraved on the inside and came complete with its own matching box. Definitely the smallest piece I’ve created also at under 2cm!
Belfast City Block – Abstract interpretation of Belfast street map, oak, walnut. Concept applicable to any city location. Approx £1000
5. What would be your ultimate design commission / Where would you ultimately love to exhibit your work?
I don’t tend to focus on exhibitions too heavily. When I do, I prefer to treat them as an access route to new clients and a means of exploring potential new projects as opposed to gaining recognition or notoriety. For me, the most fulfilling recognition I can gain is from satisfied clients, with unique work in their very own personal ‘exhibition’ space.
In terms of my ultimate design commission, I must confess that I don’t hold any one potential concept in higher esteem than others. Every commission is treated as an ultimate in its own right. As a furniture designer, it is important to me that every piece is appreciated and enjoyed for its relative value to the client rather than acquired as a commodity and so, my focus always remains on what that value is and how best to represent it.
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