20 Minutes with Mark Newson

Friday 6 July 2018

Mark is a maker who works closely with his clients to ensure they always come away with something special. He works hard to ensure his commissions work harmoniously with their environments, whether in terms of the sustainability of the wood he uses or how they fit in with their surroundings.

F&C: What are you working on at the moment?

Mark Newson: I have just finished a jewellery box and am planning a speculative piece for an exhibition in November.

F&C: Why did you become a furniture maker?

MN: Redundancy. I was in retail banking for 25 years and could not face another office job. I had a good grounding from an inspirational teacher at school and with the support of my wife who trained as an industrial designer, I did a year's course at Rycotewood which gave me the confidence I needed to make it into a career.

F&C: What inspires you?

MN: It depends on the project; it could be something from nature or the built environment. Aiming to have a satisfied client at the end is always something to motivate you.

F&C: If your furniture were music, what kind of music would it be?

MN: Classical, with a bit of an edge.

F&C: What do you admire in the craft at the moment?

MN: The fact that there is so much diversity.

F&C: Who has been your greatest mentor/role model?

MN: I am not sure I have had a mentor but I did speak with Martin Grierson whom I admired before I started and worked with Ashley Cartwright and Rupert Williamson early in my career who were both very helpful.

F&C: What comes first, design or technique?

MN: Design.

F&C: Are we too obsessed with outdated modes of work?

MN: I don't think so. Look at Festool's Domino system; there can't be many serious workshops without one.

F&C: How or where do you exhibit your work?

MN: I use galleries and exhibitions like Celebration of Craftsmanship and Design and local shows.

F&C: How comfortable are you with working at someone else's design?

MN: Reasonably. I take a pragmatic view; as a sole trader you take the work where you can get it.

F&C: What's your creative process like?

MN: It's much easier once I have a brief, then it's a case of sketches, drawings and sometimes models.

F&C: Do you consider yourself an artist or a craftsman?

MN: I suppose as a designer I should say an artist, but I do make the stuff as well so how about both?

F&C: What's the practical process you undergo when moving through the stages of a project?

MN: I obviously have some plan as to what I want to do as I need it to cost the job, however, I often find that I end up doing it differently.

F&C: Do you think furniture making is in danger of disappearing?

MN: No.

F&C: What advice would you give to someone starting out?

MN: Assuming they have some training or can demonstrate they have the skill, to find a job in a specialised workshop or rent bench space in one, network with people in the business and sell yourself.

F&C: What irritates you about the industry?

MN: As a small fish in a big pond the extra cost incurred in buying timber is annoying.