James Shaw portrait - Photo by Crafts Council
James Shaw's design work speaks of sustainability, materiality and squiggly lines. It is funny, but not like ha-ha, comic-sans funny, instead it is funny in the way that engages us more with his objects. Forcing us to ask important questions regarding issues, such as the plastic problem and the role of the maker in our current design climate. We caught up with him in an interview about his work.
Wellproven chair by James Shaw - Photograph by Peter Krejci
How would you describe your work?
My work is colourful, sometimes blobby and sometimes polished, sometimes beautiful and sometimes grotesquely intriguing. I follow paths of research, exploring aspects of the material landscapes in a hands on way, to try and make new results. Sometimes this may be exploring the nature of waste plastic or sometimes it's trying to grow plywood using bacteria.
Extruded Lamp by James Shaw
Describe a regular day at the studio.
Much to the detriment of those who share a space with me, I am a bit of a flitter and so I tend to have about four things on the go at the same time and hover between them. At the studio, this usually consists of a commission I need to finish off in the workshop, something on the computer I need to finish down in the office, a test of some kind without any direct purpose in the workshop/bathroom/outdoors or some kind of fiddling around with food in the kitchen. My studio is becoming pretty well equipped now, which is really good, as it means we can incorporate lots of different materials and processes.
What or who inspires you the most?
Right now, I am obsessed with a group of people known as the 'Synergians'. They came out of San Fransisco in the nineteen sixties and went on to create some absolutely incredible things through the power of optimism, determination and group effort. Their most famous project is the Biosphere 2, the entirely closed off eco system built in a huge greenhouse in Arizona which supported eight people for two years in the early nineties. There is a recent film about it called 'Spaceship Earth' which is mind blowing.
Extruded Cutlery by James Shaw
What was the most significant visual moment in your life?
Watching 'Spaceship Earth' a couple of weeks ago.
Lino Table by James Shaw
If you weren't a designer, what would you do?
I would love to live in the woods for a while, ideally with a group of interesting people, building, growing things, and learning with nature. Not sure if that is a job… but I think having a varied, physically engaged work, is really important. I worked as a builder for a little bit and I’ve always thought that's what I would fall back on if the design thing fell through.