People: British furniture makers – Mark Laban
Mark Laban’s furniture interprets rustic and natural forms through digital manufacturing technologies. He exhibited in Future Heritage at Decorex and Designers Select Designers in The Aram Gallery. Last year, he also won the Wood Awards Student Designer category.
What do you think the current perception of British furniture is?
I think British furniture continues to be recognised by its traditional hallmarks: well crafted and constructed, high-quality products that are made to last. Importantly, I’d say it also has a strong reputation for design driven innovation.
What do you think the history books will say about furniture – making and consuming – in the 21st century?
Obviously the 21st century still has some way to go, so a lot can and definitely will change from present speculation. But seeing how technological advances have played such a strong part in shaping our world today, I’m imagining that developments in digital processes and new technology based industries will most likely be the catalyst for innovation and ideas that define this epoch.
How has the community of British furniture designer-makers influenced you?
They are essentially my peers and/or precedents. Collectively they form a context which helps me understand what kind of designer I am, and where I position my practice in relation to theirs. Also pretty much anyone I’ve ever spoken to within this small community, apart from being very busy, have also been friendly, approachable, and open to sharing experience and knowledge.
What are the challenges you face today?
Apart from the basic yet eternal ones like multi-tasking and general work-life balance, I’d say keeping a consistent momentum can be a significant challenge.
Who is your main customer type and what do you sell the most of?
I’m not in the business of producing off-the-shelf products at the moment, so I’m living off bespoke commissions for private clients.
Who are your biggest inspirations/influences?
The list is as long as my arm. I took part in an exhibition at the Aram Gallery in London earlier this year, the premise of which involved established designers selecting emerging designers to show alongside their work. The wonderful Dutch design force that is Ineke Hans invited me to exhibit alongside her, which was a huge privilege – and the room was basically teaming with esteemed designers that have always inspired me!
Do you have any relationships with established furniture designer-makers?
Yes, I’ve been lucky to meet quite a few designers, emerging and established, through some of the exhibitions and events that I’ve participated in over the last couple of years. Working on your own can be a lonely business, so it’s great to have contemporaries to turn to.
Do you think it’s harder to start out as a furniture designer-maker compared to 30 years ago?
In short, I’d speculate no. Every problem you face can ultimately present its own particular set of opportunities. New generations face new sets of challenges, especially at this particular moment in time due to the current political situation in this country. But at the end of the day, there is also a path well trodden by precursors in this field to reference for inspiration and guidance.