It’s quiet in the narrow lanes and on the leafy suburban streets of Hackney as we make our way to Fred Rigby Studio. That’s because it’s early. Fred likes to get a jump on the day, tackling a few important tasks before the majority of the city has started the journey into the office or towards their home-working stations.
Unluckily for him, his bike has suffered a puncture and so he’s running late. We use the juncture to pick up breakfast pastries and he arrives unflustered, reinflated and ready to begin.
Welcoming us into his studio, the first thing he does is brew us a cup of coffee in his Moccamaster, which bestrides a beautiful marble countertop in the corner of his office and is surrounded by plants. Everywhere you look, from the sketches pinned to the wall to the books and models on the shelves, you get a sense for the natural and the organic – two enormous influences on the pieces Rigby creates.
“Growing up in Dorset and around nature, I love the concept of connecting it back to nature. Afterall, my pieces are made with natural materials on the whole. Our tables are carved and shaped like a pebble so you’ve got this organic shape sat in your room and the curvaceous nature of them let’s you come into the room and run your hand round the piece and follow it. For me, it’s just got this calming nature, whereas with a more rectangular table doesn’t create that kind of environment”.
That natural influence means Fred is incredibly careful with the materials he chooses to work with.
“Because of the size of our studio and the amount we produce, we make sure the raw materials at the beginning are quality. We’re craftsmen and we want to make sure that what’s being sent off is quality.
After years of experimentation and trial and error, we’ve managed to find a really good source of different materials. We’re on a first name basis with the suppliers that we use and they know what we’re looking for and what we’ll reject, so we’ve built a really good relationship with them.”
We’ve not quite finished our first cup of coffee, but the parallels in our approaches are already becoming clear. Does he, like us, think about the origin of the materials he uses and how that will impact the final piece?
“Origin really depends on the materials, but all of our suppliers are UK-based, and we don’t use exotic hardwoods. Hopefully the designs work in harmony with the natural materials because all we’re really trying to do is show what they’re capable of and how they can look their best."
So beyond finding the right materials, is there a process or overarching ethos that the studio adheres to?
“We like to think we’re a thoughtful studio. We think about something when we’re designing it and where the materials come from, but we’re also trying to think all the way through to packaging; where it comes from, what someone’s going to do with it when the piece arrives with them – we’re thinking about the whole revolution.
I think whether it’s furniture or something else, a lot of people have been neutralised. You can get things that are just made – ready to go. It makes it easy to forget the process behind all of those things. A table doesn’t just exist, someone’s had to design it, someone’s had to source all the materials and someone’s had to make it. It’s the same with a cup of coffee I guess.”
On the subject of the coffee, does that play a part in your day-to-day here?
“Our days start with a coffee. We always sit down and have one in the morning, discuss what we’re going to do – it’s just an integral part of a day. After lunch as well. We’re always flat out, so it’s that moment we get to sit down, talk and taste something delicious. It’s like ‘let’s have a cup of coffee and grab a piece of paper and a pen’ and by the time you’ve finished you’ll go your separate ways and crack on with the project.”
But ultimately, you’re working to create something that lasts?
“Longevity is built into the pieces we’re making. The cycle of our furniture sees us choosing sustainable materials to work from and making pieces that last. There’s so much greenwashing at the moment, with so many companies saying they’re sustainable. They’re saying it but there’s perhaps one part of their business that’s actually sustainable; you look at the back of house and everything arrives in plastic. There’s just so many areas to cover, but I think the best thing you can do is be thoughtful about what you’re doing.”
We’re currently running a competition with Fred Rigby Studio. To win his brewing set-up and a Raindrop Side Table, head to this Instagram post before midnight on Sunday 24th October and enter. You can find out more about Fred Rigby Studio and view his pieces at fredrigbystudio.com.