De­signer, artist and en­gi­neer Ben Tew ex­plains how the tra­di­tional tools in his stu­dio help keep him grounded

Amer­i­can de­signer, artist and en­gi­neer Ben Tew ex­plains how the tra­di­tional tools and ob­jects that adorn his Sh­effield stu­dio help keep him grounded

Computer Arts - - Contents -

With a stu­dio in Sh­effield’s Port­land Works – a for­mer cut­lery works that was built in 1879 and later con­verted into var­i­ous work­shops – Ben Tew is not short of in­spi­ra­tion. With neigh­bours that in­clude a joiner, a black­smith and a gui­tar maker, Bal­ti­more na­tive Tew is able to col­lab­o­rate with and draw upon the work of “a fan­tas­tic col­lec­tion of mak­ers work­ing in both old and new ways.”

“My work­ing space has a very in­dus­trial look to it,” says Tew, who ex­plains that he took over the work­shop two years ago from a mo­tor­cy­cle builder, and so ended up with all of his old tools, ma­te­ri­als and var­i­ous mo­tor­cy­cle bits. “For the de­sign of the space, I wanted to keep a bit of the old in­dus­try still vis­i­ble, while bring­ing in the newer technology I work with,” he says.

An­other way in which Tew keeps the spirit of the past alive is with a re­minder of his child­hood: Lego (1). “I like to keep th­ese guys around as I was a Lego fa­natic as a child, and they re­mind me not to be too se­ri­ous,” he ex­plains.

Other dec­o­ra­tions in the space take the form of Tew’s past pro­fes­sional cre­ations, such as the pin­wheel (2) he made while work­ing at Ja­son Bruges Stu­dio on a Dyson com­mer­cial for a Ja­panese au­di­ence. “It was a re­ally fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity to take a seem­ingly sim­ple ob­ject and recre­ate it us­ing high-pre­ci­sion man­u­fac­tur­ing and high-fin­ish ma­te­ri­als,” he says.

Tew uses the old pieces of ma­chine work (3) that are scat­tered around his stu­dio as ref­er­ences for the weight and tex­ture of par­tic­u­lar ma­te­ri­als. “I just love hav­ing th­ese hang­ing around,” he says, be­fore adding: “It’s easy to get lost in the vir­tual space of de­sign, and be­ing able to han­dle th­ese pieces keeps things grounded.”

Tew’s pas­sion for well-crafted ob­jects also shows in stu­dio ob­jects such as his “old school fold­ing rule”

(4), which he de­scribes as “just a nice, well-made tool.” The rule was a Christ­mas present from his fa­therin-law, who is also an en­gi­neer and shares his love for hand­crafted ob­jects and vin­tage tools. “It has th­ese won­der­ful brass hinges that have such a sat­is­fy­ing move­ment to them,” Tew en­thuses.

The mark­ers (5) Tew uses were also a gift, this time from his mother. “They’re re­fill­able and my go-to when do­ing early con­cept sketch­ing,” he says. “They have a lovely feel to them and I love that their square pro­file keeps them from rolling off my desk.”

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