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

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‘ 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

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