Just the white rabbit is missing – Paul Cocksedge portrayed by his brother Mark. Photo © Mark Cocksedge
Daniel von Bernstorff
Meeting Paul Cocksedge is always an event. The London based designer is one of the most inventive young designers in the UK, not just doing experimental designs but also running a good business. And with his projects he seems to be a little bit like Gyro Gearloose because of his experimental approach. His first project for which he became famous is a lamp made out of melted plastic cups. Meanwhile he did projects for companies like Established & Sons and Flos as well as many installations, mostly about light. Daniel von Bernstorff, Stylepark, met Cocksedge in London to talk about his recent projects, his solo exhibition in New York and his fascination for crowd-funding.
Daniel von Bernstorff: What's up on our agenda at the moment?
Paul Cocksedge: It's a “living staircase”, an interesting project in a big office building, in an atrium with a lot of sunlight. It had to be an installation, but a functional one, because it needed to move people from the ground and pull them up to the upper floors. It's a simple idea in terms of a structure, but quite complicated to resolve. We're doing a spiral staircase with spaces for people to sit, play and relax. On the top floor we'll really celebrate the sun by growing fresh mint, so people can go put mint in their tea. The spiral creates so many possibilities. It's actually a journey where you can stop and interact on these platforms.
This is why it's nicknamed “the living staircase”?
Cocksedge: Usually when you think of a staircase, you think of steel work and glass. Here the balustrades are made up from plants, so all of the mechanics of the stairs are hidden under the plant. And the idea is that each plant signifies a person in the building, so the people could look after their plant. It's a huge project. It’s architecture, in terms of permanency. And that's very much what I'm interested in, because the pieces I've done before, they've been very temporary. Design is very satisfying, but I'm kind of getting older and I can tackle more.
What else is up at the moment?
Cocksedge: It's an electronic product that we launched on Kickstarter. You know Bluetooth speakers? So on my way to work, I kept seeing these older speakers, left outside people's houses and there were little notes saying “please take me”. I felt sorry for them, because they don't talk to new technologies, so you can't connect to them to play music. They're not portable. So I designed a little object for them: The Vamp. If you find any speaker or if you've got one in the attic, you place the Vamp on top, wire it to the terminals, connect it to your iPhone and it becomes an amazing sound.
How exactly have you done it?
Cocksedge: Inside The Vamp is an amplifier, a battery and a Bluetooth signal, so the sound quality is incredible. It's such a friendly project. It's got a little magnetic disc, so you can stick it on. It's like a parasite. And the battery is amazing. 20 hours plus. Coming together, all these technologies, it's wonderful!
What's about the costs?
Cocksedge: The Vamp costs 45 Pounds, it's very affordable. If you want an equivalent product to do that, you have to spend 150 to 200 Pounds. When we launched it on Kickstarter, we needed 35,000 Pounds, we got 101,000 Pounds in four and a half weeks. Crazy. We've presented that project to a lot of manufacturers, they liked it, but then they said “we've got our own portable Bluetooth speakers. Why would we want to recycle yours?” But for me that's the point, instead of finding the new, why not just take something you already have and adapt it?
But, did you find a manufacturer?
Cocksedge: We're going to do the whole thing. And this is new, this is why I'm so inspired at the moment. Because I don't rely on others. As designers we can do it ourselves. It's a big trend, isn't it? You don't need a manufacturer somehow, if you just go straight to people. It's brilliant. It's so liberating and also the designer gets to keep control, you don't have to worry about how it's shown, if the graphic design's bad. If you want to create it, you can do it.
Who produces it for you?
Cocksedge: We've got a company in China. We found someone to do the production. Well, because of this Kickstarter collaboration, we have many opportunities to take. But again, the power of Internet is amazing. We have so many sales through our online shop because of that project. The shop is good as well because it's a very fast turnaround for my products. Because of this particular project, I'm kind of getting quite excited about mass production. The first mass produced product I've done in my ten year career.
You're doing product design for companies like for Flos. Your Flos product, the Vamp, so, this vast kind of range it's really exciting.
Cocksedge: Yeah, yeah. I'm having my first solo show with Friedman Benda, a gallery in New York. I'm launching tables, ceiling, lamps and some architectural models as well, in September. It's important time for me because I've been working on these pieces a long time. Especially the table.
Can you talk a little bit more about it?
Cocksedge: It's heavy. It's about heaviness. It's about the logic of using weights. It's not that logical for designers. Why would you design something heavy? At the beginning, I said to Marc from Friedman Benda: “Let me get a piece of 20mm steel and role it, to a point where, it's not a table, because I would overdo it, so that would be kind of fold over”. That's half of ton, by the way. The idea was taking it to the limit of what a table can be. It came like an exercise in physics and mathematics, I was nervous by these animations because if they would fall over.
But does it really behave like that?
Cocksedge: It just came from a machine, it was just this very awkward moment. So I've got my niece and I put her on top - and it was fine (laughing). I was really happy with it. The improbable has become probable. It's a really wonderful piece of work. The hard work is not in the making, the hard work is in the thinking. It's not the sculpting, the polishing, it's none of that. The discussion is the thinking, the angles, the calculation, because, if you take a millimetre off this, it won't work. It's actually at a perfect balance to be a table.
All the pieces you're showing in the exhibition are this kind of work?
Cocksedge: No, no, there's a lamp. It's a hemisphere. It's actually about stripping down all of the unusual elements of what a lamp is. It's a removal of the mechanics of a lamp, and basically, what there is left is just light. You can't see anything, apart from light. So this is shown in an almost very dark space, then we just have this lamp hanging there. And initially you won't perceive what it is. And then you turn the corner, and you see there's a lamp and then you understand the outside container, it's the spun metal.
Are these unique pieces or want you to sell them?
Cocksedge: No, this would be unique with Marc Benda, my gallerist. So the last piece in the exhibition is a ceiling, a space, 6m high. Imagine me and you here, having a conversation, okay? I'm matching sunlight in terms of a colour temperature. It's a room where nothing changes, but everything changes. So the room is going to be completely empty, with white walls, white floor, but when you look at the ceiling, a completely white illuminated ceiling, and we look back, maybe 10 seconds later, the whole ceiling will be covered in hundreds of different colours, hundreds of tiles of colours, perfectly flat colours, made out of LEDs. So it's a celebration of colour and light.
You'll be showing in New York, but later in other places?
Cocksedge: Yeah, the pieces will go to different places. We've been working on these pieces as a team for three years, a long journey for those projects. It's illogical as well, half of ton tables. It's ridiculous, but when you see the outcome, they make a perfect sense. They look light. And then we're designing some jewellery as well.
But the first objects you did were always with light.
Cocksedge: When I think about the first pieces, the light was a component. In a way it wasn't even a reason. When I go to lighting fairs, I realize I don't design lamps. I'll always be interested in light, light itself, not the lamp. And the piece for Flos, the shade, it was about deconstructing, taking away the usual aspect of the lamp, the components, and using very thin wire, removing the stem, removing everything, and just leaving what light deserves. When you think about a lampshade, all you want to see is the shade. You don't want to see this aggressive electrical cable, which restricts you.
You will do more?
Cocksedge: Yeah, I'll do more. It's just a dream to work for Flos. They do deliver consistency, and I love the way they present their work and most importantly, their attitude towards the creativity. It's not about compromise, it's about trying to keep the idea as true as possible.
Thank you and good luck.
Taking a table to its limits – „Poised“ was developed by Cocksedge for his first solo exhibition at Friedman Benda in New York. Photo © Mark Cocksedge
“Let me get a piece of 20 mm steel and role it.“
Photo © Mark Cocksedge
“Poised”. Photo © Mark Cocksedge
“The Vamp“ brings sound to old boxes.
Photo © Mark Cocksedge
A Mini-amplifier that turns on via bluetooth. Photo © Mark Cocksedge
With “Capture” Cocksedge puts artificial produced light in an untypical shape. Photo © Mark Cocksedge
“Just light.“ Photo © Mark Cocksedge