It is somewhat funny to tell the story of how today’s article came about. Our Myth stories often come from an interview with a brand that we love, however I met today’s special protagonist in the opposite order.
Roddy Clarke is a design writer, presenter, consultant and contributor to a few major sources such as Forbes and Financial Times, and I came about reading his articles one day about eco-friendly furniture makers after hearing him at a Conference talking about impactful design and his work in writing. Whilst many journalists are extremely passionate on the subjects that they write about, it was even more interesting to learn that the kind of know-how from Roddy’s articles came not only from passion but the fact that he is a designer himself that is hands-on working on integrating sustainability into his own design process as well.
So today we are turning the tables and popping Roddy on the interviewee’s chair for a moment to talk more about his work as a designer that has been strongly advocating for building a more sustainable way of living – literally.
First of all, as an interior designer who is aware of positive impact, what are the key elements in keeping an equilibrium between design, luxury and sustainability?
“When working as an interior designer, sustainability shouldn’t be an add-on, it should be an underlying mindset which influences every decision you make and an inherent principle which guides you. ”
Homes should be designed to create a personal and timeless space, avoiding passing and transitory trends. Longevity is key, especially when choosing furniture and accessories for the home. Look to natural materials and vintage items to ensure a circular approach is adopted. Think about the second life of each item/finish/material you choose – can it be reused, repurposed or recycled?
While these points only cover a few solutions, they will ensure you begin to start taking steps in the right direction. Also, remember the influence you have as a designer on your client. By working with this mindset you will automatically encourage them to think about their own lifestyle choices and the impact they may have. Never underestimate the power of individual change!
How do you develop a Circular design process in the different architecture and interiors projects you work on?
It is an inherent consciousness of the impact each choice you make has.
I always start by taking into consideration the second life of a material or product. By doing this it leads you to make decisions with a circular future in mind.
If this mindset was adopted for all interior projects it would make a huge difference to the spaces we inhabit. Find solutions which help to close the loop on such production cycles. For temporary spaces look to furniture rental options or modular systems which can be easily taken down and reconfigured elsewhere.
If you feel daunted when trying to consider how to shift towards a circular design approach, take one step at a time and document your journey so you can easily see the progress you make.
How can we revive craftsmanship and make consumers appreciate the human ingenuity, unique material sourcing, and production process behind an artisanal piece?
Our love for individual crafts has increased in recent years as homeowners strive to bring meaning and a personal connection to each space, especially after a year like 2020.
While this has facilitated the revival of many crafts, there is still a long way to go to ensure artisans and makers receive the support they need to secure a financially stable future.
I would encourage all homeowners, when looking for pieces for the home, to begin searching locally. There is a wealth of talent in each town and city, from furniture makers to upholsterers and artists.
By investing into local artisans, it not only helps them and the craft, it also enhances your own local economy. And, in doing so, it adds a personal narrative to the home and one which can be passed down for generations to come.
Speaking about something passed down generation to generation, the passion of restoration has been quite a part of Roddy’s life since his childhood. We asked him if he could share a story about the most unique antique item he’s yet seen.
I grew up with restoration and spent my childhood watching my father restore ceramics and porcelain items in the garage of our house. He had made his own studio and for over 20 years worked on his own until my brother decided to join him which led to the expansion of the business and a diversification into other areas of restoration.
I didn’t realise until my teens how unique it was to grow up in close proximity to such an amazing craft which, unfortunately, is a dying trade.
One of the memories which sticks in my mind, and has left a lasting impression, is a terracotta camel which had been unearthed from the pyramids in Egypt. It was hundreds of years old and it needed quite a bit of repair work.
I was around 7 at the time and, when watching my father restore it, I sat there wondering what this piece had witnessed and, if it could talk, what stories it would tell! I think this was one of my earliest memories where my passion for antiques, and homes with a strong personality, really began.
Of course, we asked for a tip or two on how one would go about choosing sustainable materials based on his own experience in crafting contemporary pieces.
For makers and artisans today there is a plethora of material choice available, with so much knowledge and research emerging in recent years. Again, as mentioned above, don’t think about a material for just the purpose of the piece you are making. When the first life of that piece ends, does it have the durability to be passed down?
If not, can it be easily recycled or repurposed? Asking these questions at the outset of any design project will lead you to choosing the right materials. Also, many designers are now looking to waste as a primary resource. As outlined superbly in Katie Treggiden’s latest book, there is a new world of potential in looking at waste as a resource while it simultaneously contributes to solving the waste crisis we face across the globe.
After explaining a bit about the Myth community and what we strive to achieve in joining forces with small and medium sized businesses that care about the environment and society, we asked Roddy about his thoughts on how small businesses from around the world, across industries can come together to make positive change.
Small businesses make up a huge percentage of each industry and collectively have so much power when acting together towards change. It may seem like your actions, as a smaller outfit, don’t make much difference when observing the global scale of the environmental issues upon us. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
If enough businesses change it will add pressure to larger organisations and governments in changing policies towards greener strategies. As we look towards a ‘post-pandemic’ world, the need for a green recovery is critical and each business can play a part in this. Now is the chance to rebuild and restructure with positive social and environmental actions at the heart of what you do as a business. Also, when focusing on circularity, don’t be afraid to look to collaborate across sectors and industries.
What may be waste for one industry could be a valuable resource for another! Think outside the box and, through bold ideas and collaborations, a positive future can be secured!
As we close this interview, moved by Roddy´s insightful perspective and ingenuity, I felt the energy on this article to be a great way to start a new year and hoped to share this on with our Stellars and friends. If you’re looking for more good reads, check out some of Roddy’s own editorials, and articles on Forbes. There is also an abundance of inspiration on his social media accounts as well.
Photo credits to Natalie Towell, Julian Victoria and Roddy Clarke