Best of British
Russell Pinch turns his hand to trophies
FURNITURE DESIGNER Russell Pinch was showing his new cabinets at the Milan Furniture Fair earlier this year when he was made an unusual offer. Impressed by Pinch’s designs, a friend asked whether he would be interested in designing a trophy for the Panerai Challenger Trophy, a sailing and windsurfing competition for young people, which is presented at Panerai British Classic Week in Cowes this month.
Though Pinch, 45, had never designed a trophy before, he agreed and the resulting creation, which is made of European cherry and shaped like the cross section of a yacht hull, took two months to complete. ‘Usually we’re obsessed with making sure a piece is functional,’ says Pinch. ‘The beauty of a trophy is there’s very little function, so it’s like a piece of art.’
Pinch set up his eponymous furniture design company with his wife in 2004, after training as a furniture designer at Ravensbourne University in London, where alumni include Jay Osgerby, who co-designed the London 2012 Olympic Torch. Today he employs 10 people and works from a converted railway shed in Clapham, south London.
His furniture is largely wooden, though he has experimented with jesmonite (a resin and plaster mix used for sculptures), and he is inspired by traditional craftsmanship techniques. However when it came to designing the trophy, he drew inspiration from Eilean, a striking 1930s-built yacht that had been restored by watchmakers Panerai, sponsors of the award. ‘It provided so much inspiration. It was a case of what to edit out,’ he says.
To make the trophy, Pinch drew an abstract sketch of Eilean using a pen with a tip that creates a watercolour effect. Next he drew 20 to 30 further drawings of the yacht before whittling them down to a shortlist of six, and then worked up 3D models of each by hand. ‘I’m keen to take things into 3D as fast as possible,’ he says.
After refining the design, he created a prototype using balsa wood, superglue and veneer, then gave it to a cabinet-making workshop in Dorset to create the final trophy, which is the size of a champagne bottle.
Pinch plans to travel to Cowes on Tuesday to watch the trophy being presented to the winner. ‘I’m a bit terrified but also excited. The moment we hand it over, it is no longer about the design, it’s about the winner and that’s quite lovely.’ pinchdesign.com; paneraiclassicyachtschallenge.com
Top Pinch in his south London studio. Above left The prototype of the trophy. Above right Sketches made of the 1930s yacht Eilean. Interview by Jessica Carpani