Focus on Cornish Makers: Felix McCormack
Photographs John Hersey
Fresh from his appearance at the Design Frontier show for the British Craft Pavilion, curated by Hole & Corner, Felix McCormack explains his approach to ‘material experimentation’…
Design Frontier is a new initiative for showcasing exceptional design and craft from Cornwall. This launching showcase at British Craft Pavilion is part of the Cultivator Programme, and was made possible through funding from European Structural and Investment Funds, Arts Council England and Cornwall Council.
What do you do?
I’m a furniture designer and maker. I’ve been working in Cornwall on an idiosyncratic farm of other makers of things since I graduated eight or nine years ago.
You use several materials and mediums – does this help to keep things fresh and challenging for you?
I put my interest in diverse materials and processes down to a kind of constant curiosity. I’d feel happy to be defined as a ‘master-of-none’ type of a craftsperson. I feel like that’s a legitimate role for someone who makes things for a living now. I think the diligent approach – and studious respect for the history of process – which you find in traditional crafts can equally be applied to how to work within a diverse range of materials, in our current climate of material experimentation.
How does he Cornish landscape inform your work?
I find the industrial history fascinating, particularly the boat building. Parts of Cornwall, especially Penryn and Falmouth, have a kind living history of working boats and boat building which is a window into the last 400 years of seafaring in the British isles. A small community of people is keeping alive some fantastic skills and traditions. Besides that, the mining and associated architecture can be very influential. The granite from the farm we work on built the walls of the Southbank. There is a very far-reaching legacy to the industrial landscape of Cornwall.
How would you describe your working ethos?
Ethos is a difficult word because where I am now and where I am trying to get to are probably two very different places. I’m trying to achieve with my work a way of being completely involved within the community I live in. I want my furniture and my design to be informed by, and facilitate my local community. But generally, I’d describe my ethos as honest and intuitive. I try to take a considerate and playful approach to the journey of ‘idea – drawing – object’.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned?
Probably the most traditional craft lesson I have learnt is avoiding the desire to rush. I enjoy pondering problems and allowing solutions to appear while doing the washing up.
Do you sense that people’s attitudes towards mass-produced objects are changing?
The provenance of objects seems more important now. Although whether that genuinely changes attitudes to mass production is questionable. My intuition is that mass-produced objects that are at the luxury end of the market will have to become more socially aware and more materially conscious. The objects we design and buy are going to have to fight a little harder to justify their existence.
Felix McCormack was taking part in British Craft Pavilion as part of Design Frontier, a new initiative for showcasing exceptional design and craft from Cornwall. This launching showcase is part of the Cultivator Programme and was made possible through funding from European Structural and Investment Funds, Arts Council England and Cornwall Council. cultivatorcornwall.org.uk; felixmccormack.com