We initially saw the Turner and Harper handmade brushes and homeware accessories in Labour and Wait on Redchurch Street, London E2. As part of the Shoreditch Design Triangle 2011 exhibition their wares were being showcased on the central table of this beautiful shop. We instantly fell in love with the careful craftsmanship, solid durability and functional aesthetics of these covetable handmade objects, so we contacted Tom Harper to find out all about their creation and provenance. Here is what he told us.
Question: Tom, how did you set about creating your brushes and homeware range?
Answer: The central idea was to create a range that worked as a family, but also to develop an aesthetic that will set the tone for things to come. The aim was to detail the products in a way which makes them feel familiar; not in an immediate or loud way, just enough to inform your of their properties and how they should be handled. I think it’s very important for products to honestly display how they are made. It’s these details which make the range what it is.
Question: Where are your products made and by whom? Where are the raw materials sourced?
Answer: Everything in the range is manufactured in the UK and I use various manufacturers operating on very different scales. The quality of work that one craftsman in a workshop can achieve is amazing; for them the quality of their work is everything, whereas the larger scale outfits need to be pushed much harder in order to achieve the desired quality.
In terms of raw materials, the timber is sourced from certified sources in both North America and Europe. The special enamel grade steel is produced in Holland and the bristle is a by-product of the meat industry.
Question: What is your design-manufacturing background and why did you choose to go into this particular niche?
Answer: I trained as a product designer but have always enjoyed working with my hands and in developing the range I also designed and developed a lot of the method behind the production. In some cases it has become quite a specialised process and the products somehow seem more authentic as a result.
The goods and homewares focus comes from my interest in everyday things, and working with really high quality materials offered an exciting opportunity to balance these in quite unusual ways. I’ve always felt it’s the details which make the overall design work, and working on a smaller scale really highlights this.
Question: How did your exhibition in the Labour and Wait shop in Redchurch Street come about?
Answer: I’ve been in contact with the owners Rachel and Simon for several years now, but it was only in the past twelve months or so that we decided to collaborate on the exhibition. It was great of them to support these new products alongside the classics they already stock.
Question: Are you going to be opening any Turner and Harper shops in the future or are you going to showcase your products just within other shops?
Answer: There are no plans to open any shops at the moment, although an online shop should be running in the near future. After the success of the show, however, it would be great to do a pop up shop or something similar. It’s difficult to communicate the quality through photos alone, and being able to handle the products was crucial to people understanding the range and the brand.
Question: Your products look so beautiful that no-one should really hide them away in a cupboard. In your own home how do you display your brushes and products?
Answer: I use the hooks to hang them in my utility room, which is just off the kitchen. Because they are quite graphic they work really well as a set hanging side by side.
Question: We live in a mass-consumer, throw-away society, where, particularly in a recession, consumers buy the cheapest thing possible. Can you make a one-sentence case for really well made, well-conceived homeware products that last forever?
Answer: People who appreciate quality will always understand the merit of buying fewer but better products, and in general consumers are much more conscious of the value in knowing how and where the things they buy are made.
Turner and Harper: www.turnerandharper.com