Your work has been informed by a laser-like focus on the design possibilities afforded by the latest technology. Why have you taken that approach?
Ironic it may seem, but it’s my interest in depth and permanence – the archaeology and anatomy of life – that pushes me towards hyper-modern, hyper-futuristic things, because I’ve also learnt that’s it’s death to follow the rest, to do what’s already been done. My feeling has always been why live now, in this window in time, if you don’t access and use the tools and possibilities of the time you live in? What is the point of making a vase in the way you could have made it in the past? That just leads to yet another consumer object. Ceramic, to use that example, was one of the very first materials, and it’s incredible, but then you have to think, what am I going to put on the end of that story so far? So you have to push the limits of the material. That may take two or three years, but ultimately the things that are released have a rare complexity to them.
I always saw what I do as some way of becoming a more educated man. It was not to make a living – it was to find out how a violin is made, or what makes an EV work, or whatever. It’s about the accrual of knowledge.
So it’s about exploring the outer reaches of the potential of old materials as well as new ones?
I’ve always wanted to know the origin of materials. Some 15 years ago, I was in the Philippines working with kevlar, carbon, bamboo and hemp together, trying to make by hand a mixed composite material for furniture. I think we failed in some way, but I wanted to know what happens when you collide materials that typically don’t go together. I think that comes from when I did cooking at school and I’d put salt into things you wouldn’t normally put salt into, for example, partly because I have an experimental spirit, but [also] because out of that kind of experimentation you end up with, say, the world’s lightest suitcase, which I did a decade ago. I’m [not] looking for a suitcase – I’m looking for lightness. It’s about trying to take an overarching view of design that converges the past and present, but also the weirdness of the future, which is something only humans seem to have a go at.