Focus on Cornish makers: Head and Haft
Photographs John Hersey
As part of the Design Frontier show for the British Craft Pavilion, curated by Hole & Corner, Chris Thorpe reveals the ethos behind his Falmouth design company Head and Haft…
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?
My name is Chris Thorpe, I run headandhaft, a furniture, lighting and homewares design and manufacture brand based in Falmouth Cornwall. We design and make pieces with emphasis on quality of craft, material, and longevity. We hope to incite more interest, ownership, and relationship with the furniture our clients fill their homes and lives with, and enjoy the journey along the way.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
The constant Catch 22 between the development of new, exciting work which could lead to new business, growth, and earning, and the need to realistically – and physically – earn. Often this is fulfilled by small, unglamorous jobs that don’t stimulate new business, or promote the brand, but do pay the bills. The challenge in getting this balance correct is ever present, and never easy.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from your practice?
A positive one: that filling your time with something that you are passionate about, that is difficult, and challenges you – and that you feel ownership, and pride for – is time well filled.
Do you think in this digital age it is important to have handmade, tactile objects in our lives?
I think the important factor is that the objects in our lives are considered. That they inspire ownership, appreciation and the desire to maintain and look after them. This is certainly far more commonly found with handmade items, but not restricted to them. Vivienne Westwood put it fantastically when she suggested ‘Buy less, choose well’. This is the core principal we design and make with, and the fact that our hands and minds spend time with each piece ensures this consideration, and quality within each piece.
Do you sense that people’s attitudes towards mass-produced objects are changing?
Absolutely, and it’s what we count on for our business to continue growing. However, in some ways mass production has a part to play. Take IKEA for example: in many ways IKEA and similar design-led brands allow a larger range of people (who might otherwise have no access to well designed, attractive products, largely due to price) to fill their homes with items they appreciate. When they grow older, or their interests, and knowledge develop, perhaps they seek out the next, better thing, which is where we step up. We see IKEA as a gateway drug, it allows people to get a taste for it, before moving onto the serious stuff !
We don’t begrudge anyone mass-produced products though; handmade can be expensive, and unaccessible to many – most even – and it’s important that people have choice. But we aim to emphasise that products made by skilled hands and focused minds hold more narrative, and will be with you longer.
Head and Haft is 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; headandhaft.co.uk