One of the design activities I hold dear is working with talented, local craftsmen and artisans. I talk often about provenance and story telling in a design process, and building these layers into a scheme has far reaching positive effects on everybody from client through to suppliers and wider source communities. Kalukanda House was built with this concept at front of mind and so it is filled with such pieces from talented Sri Lankan artists. I love celebrating like minded designers and hearing their stories around their projects, life is so much richer for hearing about the connections they made and wove into their stunning schemes.
Talented friend and award winning Interior Designer Brian Woulfe shares this passion for collaboration with skilled local artisans when designing for his projects abroad and at home in the UK and Ireland. Our shared interests lie in not only the aesthetic benefits of incorporating these beautiful, luxurious and intricate elements into our work but also the social and economic benefits of supporting local talent while doing so.
Brian joined me for a panel debate on Ethical Luxury for the British Institute of Interior Design in November 2020. We discussed the importance of designers leading mindset change by being careful in selection and vocal in celebration of our collaborators. Luxury schemes can be created in an environmentally and socially conscious way and are all the more precious for doing so.
Celebrating Local Artisans With Brian Woulfe
From leather, wood, and metal workers to knitters, weavers, glassblowers, and ceramists, traditional crafts can be seen as an embodiment of a country or region’s cultural heritage and an integral part of its identity. Whether it’s an ancient weaving technique that has been passed down from generations or a particular ingredient used in fabric dye which is exclusively native to a certain part of the world, we as designers are continuously learning from local and indigenous craftspeople.
Sourcing artisans who can take influences from a different culture to create something new and unique is a fun part of the job and expanding your creative community can have a great positive influence on your work, allowing you to experience points of view and techniques which you may not have previously come across.
In a world where disposable, mass-manufactured goods are often churned out at the expense of workers’ health and safety and the wellbeing of our planet, having something which is crafted with care, holds a unique story behind it, and is fairly sourced, is a luxury in itself. Purchasing these items brings value to the creators as well as ourselves as the owners. Our homes are a place to feel comfortable and secure. The way they look and feel is in many ways a reflection of our inner selves, and we want the items we fill them with to communicate our personal identities. We want them to tell a story and be a talking point, particularly when inviting guests into our interior spaces.
Artisan-made products can have beautiful imperfections, as the materials and traditional production methods used to create them tend to be natural and sustainable. They are often driven and dictated by nature, which is beautifully imperfect. For example, the way in which wood ages or leather darkens and softens with time.
Aiveen is a multidisciplinary artist, upholsterer and designer who works with top interior designers and architects worldwide to provide specialist finishes and embellished surfaces using textile artistry. Some of her stunning techniques include lace embroidery, sculptural leatherwork, couture-grade hand beading and fabric weaving.
Ensuring that the materials they use are ethically sourced is of great importance, and her team collaborates with small studios who are experts in their field, from metal workers making adornments for shoes and bags to specialist leather and feather suppliers for the couture industry.
Brian Woulfe is the Managing Director and Founder of Designed by Woulfe, a multi-award-winning luxury interior design studio based in London. Crafting bespoke, high-end interiors for private individuals and property developers around the world, Brian and his team have travelled extensively and Brian himself lived in Asia for 5 years. He has an intrinsic understanding and appreciation for collaborating with artists and designers across the world to incorporate one-of-a-kind elements into the interiors he creates which are memorable, evocative and tell a story.
Brian has sat on several panel discussions on the topic of emotional design and on November 5th discussed ethical luxury with fellow BIID members and interior designers, Dee Gibson, Harriet Forde and Henry Prideaux as part of ‘Interior Designers Leading the Change Webinar’. The conversation was around how interior designers can be thought leaders and affect change in the industry’s campaign to deliver ethical and sustainable interiors for a healthier and happier future.
Design Studio : Designed by Woulfe
Instagram : @designedbywoulfe_