StolenForm - An Interview with Christian Marsden
Posted on February 20 2020
- What and who inspired you to become a product designer?
I’ve always paid attention to how things are made, from looking at sculptures to seeing how large commercial buildings were constructed. The interest led me to study a BA Honours in Craft at Falmouth where I could get hands on with materials and production methods. I kept an open mind with what I could create as it was more sculptural and experimental development rather then a more linier route of industrial design. The workshop environment appealed to me the most.
A big influencer was Ron Arad, particularly his 1980’s work around the time his studio and shop, One Off was in Covent Garden. I respected the career he’d made himself, he was directly involved in the production but it was also his designs that I found really cool, almost without boundaries between art and design, or being an artist or designer.
The Concrete Stereo By Ron Arad
- What made you start StolenForm and explain the idea behind the products?
The concept came about in my final year of Uni, where I was replicating objects that I thought had a wider meaning and expression then simply being utilitarian.
It’s about symbolism, juxtaposition and accidental ergonomics that some objects bring, but they must be recognizable. It’s interesting how a common house brick can have so much appeal, even when it’s far removed from its original intention; as a building material. It’s a bit like the Marcel Duchamp school of thought; can something be elevated to a more impressive level and what connotations are involved? It’s down to how you see an object and what value you can imply that I find important.
I’d latched onto the idea and knew it had some mileage, so my aim was to develop more products in this style, as a professional studio ceramicist after education.
3.Your Brick Vase has become your Hero Product can you briefly tell us the process you go through making this product without giving away too many secrets?
All the products are handmade in ceramic using the process Slip-Casting. It involves encasing a model in sections of plaster, known as a mould. Slip, the name given to clay in liquid form is poured into these moulds, and when left for a few minutes, will start to set because the porous plaster is drawing moisture from the slip. The longer the ‘casting’ time the thicker the cast will be. Then it’s a matter of emptying the mould of excess slip and leaving the cast to dry hard enough inside the mould before being removed. It’s cleaned with a fettling knife and sponged before firing in a kiln. That’s the short of it but it’s a widely used method adopted by different sized companies when replicating three-dimensional forms; large manufacturers can make toilets, medium sized potteries produce their tableware or studio practitioners can sculpt one-off objects. I learnt this process in Falmouth and it was the eureka moment; not only could I replicate existing objects, such as a brick, I could then reproduce the finished vase as a continuous production run.
- Which product of yours is your favorite design and why?
It’s the Brick Vase for sure. It’s the first product I designed and remains my flagship idea to this day, without it, StolenForm might not have ever happened as the product came before the brand. It’s a classic in it’s own right and has helped me win awards and continually sell to prestigious stores around the world.
The Terracotta with white inside version was launched this year, it closely resembles the matte texture of a real Brick so there’s a bit more realism to it now, a direction I’m looking into further. I’m launching my Chimney Cap Vase in Terracotta as the material choice is a match made in heaven with the object too. They will be available soon through Design My World.
- What new products can we expect to see in the near future?
I’m looking into regional Bricks from around England, as I would like to extend the range other then just the London Brick. I’m in an out of architectural salvage yards trying to source new ones, but it can be a needle in the haystack trying to find the right bricks.
I’ve had my eyes on my turntables for a while, an object I hold of great importance because it was strongly connected with my youth. I used to put on nights in Falmouth but still play on them regularly to keep the pipe dream alive of playing out to an audience. Music certainly connects people and the equipment associated can highlight a point in time. There’s been resurgence in record players and vinyl collecting, so there’s this retro feel to it now. There’s no mistake that the 1210’s are an iconic object so I think it’s time to celebrate them. Theirs a few parts that lend themselves to being used domestically elsewhere so I’m prototyping an idea at the moment.
- Where do you see yourself and Stolen Form in 10 year time?
The brand is in its 7th year from when I officially launched the company, although the groundwork started back in 2009 when I graduated. I’m about to relocate the business and myself to Bedford, funnily enough about 3 miles from where the London Brick factory was. I’m buying my first house where I’m going to set up a home studio so I can be closer to my work and be able to manage my life around the business more easily. It can be all encompassing as I work by alone for most of the time and I’m currently still involved in the production of the existing designs, which can be a huge restriction when freeing up time to develop future product ideas. The need to collaborate with other companies is more evident with each year that passes. I’m a craftsman by trade but the reality of running the business means I’m less involved in the making process. I’m leading more towards being a designer who outsources the production to potteries in England, which is a shift away from being a studio ceramicist.
7. Do you have any advice for young designers just starting out?
Designers and Brands are known for having a particular style, make yours prominent so others recognise you for it.