Journal Newspaper (UK) September 2009
13/09/09 Filed in: Design Publications
Inspired by nature, crafted by hand
Jolyon Yates has gone form designing cars and boats to cutting-edge sculptural furniture. Karen Wilson speaks to the Whitley Bay Designer about his new venture ODEChair.
At first glance you'd be forgiven for thinking Jolyon Yates's work was simply sculptural art. But the 41 year-old Designer has managed to fuse form and function perfectly with his stunning curved furniture, which is influenced by the natural world around him.
After launching ODEChair last year, his designs has created a buzz among the design world on the internet and been picked up by International design publications, winning a Gold award from Craft&Design Magazine. Their also on display at Newcastle's Biscuit Factory.
It's no surprise though when you consider his design pedigree.
As the son of a well known local architect and painter Peter Yates, Jolyon grew up in County Durham around many influential architects and artists. His father, who dies in 1982, was a partner in Ryder&Yates, which is now recognised as the most influential post-war architectural practise outside of London.
He designed many iconic buildings on Tyneside, including the Vickers factory, the former Tyne-Tees building on City Road and Norgas House in Killingworth.
Earlier this year his fathers mural the history of Cinema was restored and reopened at the Tyneside Cinema.
"They worked to Corbusian ideals", said Jolyon, who is named after a character in the Forsyte Saga.
"Peter first met La Corbusier in Paris during the war. He was also a good friend of Berthold Lubetkin - a Russian emigrant who spear headed the modern architectural movement in Britain."
"So I had lots of influence in the artistic side from a very early age."
After leaving school Jolyon headed to New Zealand for adventure and a series of temporary jobs, including chauffeur for a government minister.
He returned to the UK to study industrial design at Sheffield Hallam University and then went to the Royal College of Art in London for a Masters in Automotive Styling.
But it wasn't long before he got itchy feet again.
After a spell at Opel in Frankfurt, working on the development team of the worlds first wholly virtual car design, Jolyon worked at Style Porsche in Stuttgart.
returning to New Zealand he taught design at Massy u=University in Wellington before taking up a role at Bakewell-White Yacht Design in 2000.
Talking with a part Geordie, part New Zealand accent it's clear Jolyon is fired up about his latest move from virtual industrial design to hands on furniture design.
"In a world of loveless volume manufacturing, ODEChair displays soul by reflecting the care and honesty in which they have been conceived and crafted," he says.
"There are lots of products out there that can be made quickly and very efficiently — this isn't one of them."
Jolyon's distinctive one off pieces, such as his Leaf Stool, Stingray Stool and Ocean Rocker are all inspired by nature and represent and ode to the elements.
"They're sculpted in layers and glued together but some people imagine it's from some sort of bending process," explains Jolyon who rents a workshop in Cramlington alongside The Product Group.
"There's a lot of hand work involved and they're finished with 2 or 3 coats of satin lacquer.
It's supposed to look natural, like it's not really there, but it also brings out the natural grain. It takes an awful lot of work to sand it so I've had to develop some tools to do that".
Jolyon uses a mixture of computers, machinery and hand work to craft his designs.
His most expensive items such as the £5000 rockers can take a month to make. One has even been bought by a theatre company in Belgium who were looking for a distinctive piece of furniture.
"It's the only thing on the stage with two dancers," says Jolyon. "It represents a lost lover of one of the ladies who was a woodworker, and this was the only thing that was left of him."
Others are multi-functional such as the Tulip wood 'Coffee Chable', which is both a coffee table and a chair. The seat shape appears to grow out of the pure flat table top.
"With something that's hand made, the owner can make a stronger connection with it and for longer," says Jolyon, who admits he's also been influenced by designers from the 50's and 60's such as Arne Jacobsen and Raymond Lowey.
"In that sense it should be a more precious piece and it should be a more environmentally friendly piece because it's something that lasts."
Although Jolyon has only sold four rocking chairs so far, to collectors in the States and Switzerland, he's finding there's a bigger market for his Stingray Stools for £1200 and Book Ends £200.
"As soon as I bring them to the Biscuit factory, they're gone," he says.
But he's keen not to 'churn out' the same old things like a production line.
"You can get yourself in a corner quite quickly," he says. "I want it to be something that's done more through love than money."
It's clear that Jolyon loves what he does, having turned a hobby into a business.
"I work as many hours as I can find," he says of his current 8am to midnight routine.
"But that's my choice. Once you become interested in design, it's one of those things that becomes overwhelming.
It informs everything you do in some sense. You look critically at everything around you."
Jolyon has his quirks too. He doesn't have a mobile. ("I needed quiet while starting the business") and is constantly scribbling in his pad, which he takes everywhere.
"I have a visual mind," he explains. "I never scribble down words. It's always a diagram."
But working all hours has relegated the pursuit of his own perfect home to the back burners.
"Home has not been a priority while setting up the business," he admits.
"But ideally it would have to be near the sea and full of things that were inspired by nature. Having lived in New Zealand it's very difficult now not to live by the sea."
In the meantime he is renting a home in Whitly Bay with partner Eva Ganzert a Speech and Language Therapist at Newcastle's Percy Hedley School.
As for the future, Jolyon admits he may not be a one man band forever.
"I've got lots and lots of ideas and I need more time to develop them," he says. "I'm quite excited about working in different materials such as Bronze, Aluminium and different kinds of timber. And I'll be looking for other venues and Galleries to show my work. It's quite an exciting path forward. There are so many avenues to explore out there."
And his ultimate dream? "I always had the idea that I'd like to show a pice of furniture on the top floor of Liberty," he says. "Because when I was a kid I used to go there and look at the designs." With the compliments coming in thick and fast to his website, maybe it is just a matter of time.
For more information visit www.jolyonyates.com