Longevity? It’s A Hearts And Minds Thing
I’m not an eco-preacher and I do think in some sectors of manufacture, for example where hygiene is involved, that throwaway can work (as long as it biodegrades). But I do strongly believe that interiors are different and that furniture should be made to last. I believe in designing and making products that can be cherished and cared for and in running a business which has sustainability at its heart in as many ways as time and money will allow.
The reason this is doubly important in the furniture sector is that these are the objects we are surrounded by every day – they shape our interior landscape, which makes us who we are. Because I craft from wood I have a lot of respect for the simple fact that a tree takes time to grow. The least I can do as a designer is to show this natural process respect in the way I then go on to use that wood. When you see something grow and change and then are involved in the process of cutting it and shaping it at every stage I think you see the manufacturing process in a different light. It’s very easy for people nowadays to buy a piece of furniture made of wood and have no knowledge of where that wood came from or even, in some cases, realise that it was once a tree!
I try to extend the sustainability policy as far as I can in the way I live and the way I run my business too. We have a compost toilet on site and I now live and work in the same place which cuts down on fuel costs. We are looking after the woodland where we live and recently planted 100 new saplings. Where we use wood from the site we ensure it is replanted and our external sourcing is run on the same basis. The steambending process we use to make our products also has a low environmental impact as it uses only steam and no nasty glues or processes.
For me it’s about designing something relevant that has longevity. I think the relevance comes from making it fit into people’s lives and the longevity from making it stand out. My designs don’t come from analysing other products out in the marketplace but from looking at the shapes in nature and in this way I am able to create pieces which have an originality that customers invest both their money and themselves into.
You see it even more when you craft a bespoke piece. The idea that a customer can choose their own sizing to fit their room is quite alien in a world where products are mass-manufactured, but in our workshop we are able to make these adjustments because every product is made by hand. It often delights people that they can request small or large amends to our standard product range and each of these changes gives a piece longevity by linking it more closely to its owner and making it mean something to them.
So the mental durability is as important as the physical and for me, a product that has longevity must 1) be functional and do what it needs to, 2) be beautiful and 3) be loved. If those three elements are in place then it is much more likely a product will last and not become disposable and I hope that is where the products we make at Tom Raffield sit.
You can find out more about our company and how we work sustainably, as well as view our product range at tomraffield.com
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