#IANDMEstories is a new collaborative series exploring the work of our favourite creatives.
First is Joel at Listen Studio who we worked with on our ‘One Thing Well’ Resin objects.
Describe Listen Studio in a short few sentences.
Working across furniture, lighting and interiors, typically small run or one-off commissioned work with a mix of in-house and out-sourced production. I’m not sure about how much consideration I gave it at conception, but it’s interesting to think about the choice of the term ‘Studio’ and the sort of intentions it sets out before you even get started. I didn’t want to set up an ‘Office’, that felt too rigid. I didn’t want to set up a ‘Workshop’, I’m not a craftsman working with a single material / process. I didn’t want to put work out under my own name, although I do actually work alone a fair bit I wanted to encourage collaborative projects and encourage others to take ownership for their part in a project. I like to be free to move location with projects but when practitioners say they don’t need a studio – “my studio is in my head”, however appealing this prospect may be it doesn’t function for me, there has always been a physical space attached to my practise, I deal with physical stuff.
Where do you work? How long have you been here? Who else works around you?
22-27 The Oval, just off the top of Hackney Rd – for around 5 years now. There is a good mix here; Architects, Graphic Designers, Product Designers, Artists – though not in a floaty Bauhaus type vision.
We’re interested in your everyday process; how do you find your way here, from where, how does it pan out on a day-to-day in Listen Studios?
We recently bought a flat in Dalston which I’ll now split time between. I try not to build a routine to the day though, even in the studio I think I would get frustrated if the same sort of work was coming in that required a similar set of undertakings – I’ve been fortunate so far to work on a pretty wide variety of projects.
More on the everyday. Are you able to you switch off en route to the studio, or are you constantly sourcing inspiration? How do you document your findings?
I’m a great fan of cities in general, everything co-existing in close quarters, the friction, the chaos, its all very alluring. Every city has a similar set of requirements though each will adopt a slightly different solution for each – there is a great line in Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction’ where Vincent describes his time in Europe – “It’s the little differences. I mean, they got the same shit over there that we got here, but it’s just…it’s just, there it’s a little different.”
What do you listen to?
NTS all day – Charlie Bones’ Breakfast Show – absolute staple.
Your background is in fine art. Explain how your output evolved from study to where you find yourself today…
I studied Sculpture – though there was always an interest in design, in architecture, a reference in the work. In that sense I don’t feel much has changed, I still draw from all these areas. What did change is where I wanted these things directed to, as in I was much more interested in areas outside of the gallery where these items would be put to purpose, lived with and in engagement with the world.
When would you say your best work happens and why? In the morning? Is there a pattern to things? How does inspiration strike?
I’m not really going at the moment as the Lido has closed for refurbishment, but the morning swim is a great clarifier of thoughts. I’ve had some pretty epic moments down there, dappled sunlight, steam rising off the water early on a winter day.
Let’s talk about the relationship between experimentation and premeditation in the execution of your work. We get the impression that the more preparation the better. On this, just how significant is experimentation in the work you do?
I think the more versed you are with a material or process the better for sure, so you need to allow for a space to test the limits of things and get the most out of what you are doing. It’s why I would never be happy relying on research alone, the physical engagement is a different kind of understanding and it’s during this time where you have more control over pushing a material and making decisions on the direction you want to take it.
Let’s talk materials. Taking the ‘One Thing Well’ resin vessels as an example, concrete seems to be a big player in your repertoire. Why does that material work for you?
I like it as a background material, a job material and something that makes up an increasing amount of our environment, because of this it becomes ever more familiar. We are seemingly warming to it as a society, one that once considered it cold and insensitive. I started using it to make small casts from glass moulds, the surface of the material mimicking the high sheen of the glass, revealing a sensitivity in this process. I recently developed a furniture collection based on the work of Brutalist architect Juliaan Lampens, what was interesting about Lampens is his non-compromised brutalist structures that operated at domestic scale, family dwellings conceived in raw concrete and plywood throughout. He would often design custom furniture for these houses which became almost seamless with the building, at times becoming hard to tell where the building stopped and the furniture began.
Tell us more about your current investigations into rubber…
I’m very in to rubber at the moment. Not in a sex-game type context, but it’s definitely a sexy material. There’s something about the characteristics of rubber, it feels very modern – even futuristic. If I think about an evolved, super-human type character I consider the T-1000 from Terminator 2 the ultimate example, with the ability to flex and change form, adapting to different scenarios and adopting different qualities.
Dream location for a Listen Studio install.
A Spa would be a great place to host a furniture presentation, walking from one misty climate to another or visiting pieces at the bottom of the pool.
Is there anything that you collect? Do you have any sort of archiving process?
A part of me quite likes the idea of living out of a suitcase as a good model for living, now we have our first place though I am looking forward to bringing in some of the objects that we have collected over the years, a lot of ceramics and books mainly, but I’m quite hard nosed on catering for the superfluous – if it’s not the right piece for that particular place then I’d probably opt out of keeping it.
Finally, your favourite year so far and why. Ours is either 1996 or 2012 (we won’t explain why…)
2017 for sure, we all have eyes on the front of our heads and feet that point forward, I tend to be weary of over-romanticising the past and will be more inclined to view it as a mirror to the future, this is where we are all heading.