Today Hatchlings Club meets Thomas, the founder of Hand & Eye Studio.
Currently, lighting is one of Hand & Eye Studio’s key product ranges. This is a brilliant market to enter. In 2014, the UK lighting industry was estimated to be over £1.7 million in the UK and growth this year is projected to be approximately 9%.
Read on to find out more about Thomas’ next steps in the industry.
Tell us about your products.
Hand & Eye only has a small collection but it is steadily growing. We specialise in lighting at the moment but will look to branch into other areas when we feel we have a solid base of beautiful lights.
I think all of our products have a common approach. We look to make designs that are simple in form but have a warmth and beauty that comes from the attention to detail. This is not to say that each product is identical or precise. We work with imprecise materials and production methods and we celebrate the small imperfections.
How do you produce your products?
We use existing techniques and materials but we pay attention to the smaller things that make the difference. For example we spent ages on our glaze for our terracotta range. We wanted a white that allowed just a little bit of the terracotta body colour to come through.
We spent ages looking at perfecting the junction between the glass and terracotta on our Duo lamp by making special setters that the terracotta is fired on to keep them round. We also fire our terracotta a little higher to marginally darken the clay colour so it is a deeper richer colour. It’s the small things.
Where do you sell your products?
Who are your target customers?
Whoever thinks they can find a nice home for one of our products. Generally we work with designers and architects on projects.
What drove you to set up the company?
I need to make things. I started making the terracotta lamps in my rented bedroom. This was fun but also totally impractical.
How long did it take to start up?
We are still starting up. I think I first started making things about 3 or 4 years ago under the name of Hand & Eye but I have been working part time on this. As of this month I will be giving up my architectural job to spend more time on Hand & Eye projects. I am very excited about this and hope I can develop the company.
What were you doing before you set up your company?
Working for Ab Rogers Design.
Did your previous experience help prepare you for setting up your business?
We will find out. I hope so.
How did you come up with the name of your brand?
I am an architect. I spent all my student life making things from models to ceramics. Then I graduated and went into practice and made nothing. I think the best designs are born out experimentation and it is impossible to do this without getting your hands dirty. My design practice combines both the skills of an architect and that of making and prototyping.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far?
Ideally we need a dedicated space that could be our workshop, studio, shop and storage area. In London it is impossible to find affordable space. I think London is one of the best cities but it does have to watch out that the prices do not kill off young designers ambitions. There is always a way and we are looking at all options all the time.
What is the most difficult lesson you learnt?
Not to expect a new design or product to happen quickly. It can take ages to develop, find the right people to manufacture it with, develop awareness and then sell a product. It’s a long process and takes time.
What do you enjoy the most?
Developing new clay mixes and glazes and testing them in our new kiln. One of them came out looking like a Frankenstein experiment. I love that with pottery you never know quite what is going to come out until you open the lid.
How many people work at the company now?
I do most of the work but have a team of helpers and collaborators. I think this is how small businesses have to run. I also have a team of 2 people who help with all the sales / admin side of the business. Naturally all of these collaborators are friends or family at the moment.
Favourite city: Of course London features for me as there are not many cities like it for an amazing design community / scene. I went to Rome recently and I am not sure I have been anywhere quite like it for the sheer scale of architectural history.
Favourite meal: All things Middle Eastern. The problem is that the ingredients here are just not as fresh.
Favourite book: The nothing that is by Robert Kaplan. It is a book about the history and movement of the mathematical concept of ‘zero’. It’s amazing how concepts move around the world and even disappeared only to emerge again.
Favourite animal: I like the idea of all animals that have been around for longer than human history like sharks. Shame we can’t speak to them.
Favourite person: I have never met him but I think it would be interesting to talk to David Esterly. He restored the Gringling Gibbons wood carvings at Hampton Court. His book made me think he would be really interesting to talk to and also visit his wood workshop.
Best piece of advice: I would say it is too early to know.