Profile | Studio William
I first became aware of Studio William on a visit to the V&A during London Design Festival a couple of years ago. The company’s 2012 exhibition Sweet Instruments of Desire showcased innovative and practical new cutlery forms designed by students in response to a brief that invited them to explore how creativity and innovation can impact on the sensory experience of design. It was one of those serendipitous design festival discoveries that stuck in my mind.
Founded in 2005 by industrial designer William Welch, and based in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire (just a few miles from my own home), Studio William has built a reputation for producing beautiful, elegant and timeless cutlery. Their designs appear on the tables of numerous Michelin starred restaurants and stylish homes, and the Mulberry range, which received a coveted red dot award, can even be found at the Prime Minister’s residence, 10 Downing Street.
The studio’s work also features in the permanent collections of a number of leading design museums including the V&A, which has acquired several of the company’s patterns for its national collection of metalwork, and the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design.
Since the 2012 exhibition, the design team at Studio William has continued to focus on creating sensory forms, working with leading chefs and restaurants to anticipate new trends and developing pieces that transform the way we experience food. It’s refreshing to see a company that’s willing to take these kinds of innovative designs forward into the marketplace, with all the associated challenges that poses, as opposed to just offering them up as conceptual pieces for an exhibition.
The sensory texture spoons, for example, which are designed for fine dining and taster menus, have been created to stimulate the sense of touch on the lips and within the mouth, allowing more than just our taste buds to be engaged in the act and enjoyment of eating.
“We have been focusing on pushing the experience of human senses,” says William. “Looking at how we can take a utilitarian item like a knife, fork or spoon and challenge and innovate to create new functional and sensory experiences. Asking why it is that we use items such as a knife and fork or chopsticks, and not something different.”
Alongside these more innovative cutlery forms Studio William also offers timeless designs intended for lifelong use, with each pattern carrying an extensive range of pieces, from coffee spoons to pastry forks or lobster picks. Lines are rarely discontinued, so customers can be assured of the long term availability of designs if they need to replace items or add more place settings.
Embedded in the company’s design ethos is the belief that beautiful cutlery should enrich the dining experience, feel good in the hands and in the mouth, bring the table alive and help shape the mood of an occasion.
During a detailed design process each piece is developed through many prototypes with relentless attention to detail. Minute adjustments involving the tiniest of measurements are made until the design is perfectly weighted and balanced.
The resulting designs fuse together creativity, quality, an eye for beauty and a passion for design.
“I love and thrive off being creative,” says William. “My life is a lifetime apprenticeship to design.”
Here’s what else he had to say to Design Hunter about his inspirations and life in design.
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As a designer, do you have a certain style that defines your work?
All of our designs are about clean and elegant forms. Each cutlery item is proportioned and has complimentary scale to its partnering cutlery pieces. We always look to create a family with the corresponding pieces. We do not design handles and apply utensil heads; we design a fork knife and spoon as a family and relating to each other in scale and proportion. All of our cutlery is ergonomic, in the soft edges on the handles for comfort and well balanced pieces. We want cutlery to be a natural extension of the hand.
Do you have something to say about inspiration? What is it for you? Where do you find it? How does it make you feel?
Sculptural, beautiful form is a key inspiration; the things that influence me are often organic and come from nature. Frequently user functionality and innovating new sensory experiences means that the form of an object is often dictated by the function. As an example, can we create a new eating instrument which allows the chef to target flavor to certain areas of the tongue?
Watching our customers dining with a utensil they have never used before and seeing the emotions of delight and discovery is one of my most rewarding experiences. I am a great believer in timeless design - elegant proportions and minimal sculptural forms allow products to start this journey.
Was there a moment when you just knew that you had to make design important in your life?
Design has always been a part of my life, from a young child living at home with my father Robert Welch. True ownership in the design process happened for me whilst attending the Royal College of Art in London when doing my Master’s Degree. I entered the college as a designer and I left as a thinking creative.
Where do you picture your designs out in the world?
For me, everywhere. We supply hospitals and Seven Star Hotels. We are in airlines, Michelin star restaurants and people’s homes.
Who are you, really?
I am a collector of Twentieth Century modern design for the home, being a self-confessed detail monster! I enjoy living in the country, having a view up high with a great perspective. At 6AM rain or shine, I will take my two dogs for a walk, and then return to my home to my modern and minimal living space and head off feeling content for a great day at the office.
EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT OFFER & GIVEAWAY
Design Hunter is partnering with Studio William to offer readers an exclusive discount of 20% in their online store until 1 January 2015. This is a very special offer as Studio William do not usually offer discounts. Insert code SWDHUNT at checkout.
Studio William are also offering Design Hunter readers the chance to win a beautiful 24 piece set of cutlery. Click below for details of how to enter.