The designer trio Founders of furniture and lighting brand Ochre reflect on their most dazzling pieces
The founders of the British brand renowned for its breathtaking lighting installations and artful furniture reflect on its unique and enduring aesthetic
‘ Working with the beauty and imperfections of natural materials has always run through what we do,’ says Harriet Maxwell Macdonald, one third of the team behind sophisticated design brand Ochre. She started the company in 1996 with fellow art school graduate Joanna Bibby – four years later, they were joined by Solenne de la Fouchardière. Revelling in the tactility of hand-forged bronze, sensuous nubuck leather, rough-woven linen and the grainy richness of woods such as oak, Ochre has consistently pushed the boundaries of design, marrying traditional artisan craftsmanship with the ‘ barest of clean lines’, says de la Fouchardière. It’s this aesthetic for which the brand has become renowned.
‘It’s about appreciating the quality of how something is made,’ says Bibby. ‘ We use materials that feel as though they’ve already had a life of their own in a slightly more unusual way.’ This might mean wrapping a ‘Sungaya’ lamp stand or ‘Sable’ chair entirely in hand-stitched, naturally dyed leather, fashioning an ‘Oasis’ rug from a myriad differently sized veined-stone discs, or forging the base of a ‘ Willow’ table from granite, with polished plaster on top. ‘The key is never to work with too many materials in one piece,’ explains Bibby. ‘Each component needs room to speak for itself and to breathe.’
EACH OF OCHRE’S PIECES BEAUTIFULLY BALANCES ARTISTIC TEMPERAMENT WITH EVERYDAY FUNCTIONALITY
‘WE USE MATERIALS THAT FEEL AS THOUGH THEY’VE ALREADY HAD A LIFE OF THEIR OWN IN A SLIGHTLY MORE UNUSUAL WAY’
Nowhere are these materials more magically brought to life than in Ochre’s vast range of lighting installations, from the raindrop effect created by the hundreds of Led-illuminated glass buds encased in rough cast-bronze hung in the ‘Seed Cloud’ chandelier to the way in which the mass of glass droplets in ‘Moonlight Murmuration’ imitate the swooping, swirling shapes and patterns created when a flock of starlings takes flight. It’s this spectacular innovation that iconic gallerist Rossana Orlandi calls ‘ brava’ (clever), and why she invites Ochre to Salone del Mobile in Milan every year to display its new collections.
During this month’s London Design Festival, Ochre will showcase its most recent design, the jellyfish-like ‘Medusa Bloom’ – each organic glass bubble on the installation has been handblown with a subtle shade of grey pigment at its heart. As well as this, more new pieces are on display at the brand’s showrooms in London and New York, most notably the ‘Gaia’ pendant (above, £4,752), which is reminiscent of an Alexander Calder mobile – a large, solid illuminated glass droplet balances at one end, a blackened nickel weight at the other.
Today, the Ochre trio’s design process is as organic as when they first started working together just over 20 years ago: sometimes inspired by their own personal needs, but more often by the discovery of a new material or technique. The result is an impressive catalogue of lighting, furniture and accessories, with each piece beautifully balancing artistic temperament and everyday functionality. ‘ We’re just following our hearts,’ explains Bibby. ‘ When we’re designing together, we come from different angles, yet we always end up with something that we all love.’ ochre.net