In our shop: Jo Elbourne's exclusive stools
Interview Vilma Paasivaara
Photographs Hannah Burton
Designer and maker, Jo Elbourne, talks about her work with textiles, her minimal aesthetic, and the inspirations for the exclusive stools she made for Hole & Corner…
Tell us a bit about yourself…
I’m a designer and maker based on the Kent coast. I’m not specifically a textile artist but at present, I work with various yarns, twines and cords.
What do you specialise in making?
I make artwork, props and occasional furniture, applying a technique of wrapping, binding and weaving of sorts. I mainly work to commission and I’m really fortunate to have a varied client list which includes art directors, interior design studios, furniture makers and private collectors.
How did you get started?
I’d had a long break from hands-on making, but I just started trying things out using what was to hand. I had a reel of rope that I’d found in a charity shop and I began wrapping it around the seat of a chair at home – undoing and redoing – and my interest was piqued. It’s all been trial and error from there. I don’t know how to do seat weaving in the traditional sense so I wouldn’t dream of calling myself a professional weaver or restorer.
Do you have a particular philosophy or set of values when you approach your work you can describe?
I like to keep the overall composition simple and balanced. I hope there’s also a sense of continuity, momentum even, from the cord ‘travelling’ around the frame. I try to conceal all of the joins so there’s no obvious point where the wrapping begins or ends. With second-hand furniture, I try to find frames and seats which are in need of repair, rather than simply undoing someone else’s work to replace it with my own. I like reusing in the sense that it avoids waste and I choose to use natural fibres.
What part of your work most pleases you?
Because this work is relatively new to me there are still a lot of ideas I have to try, so that’s exciting. I’m ok with not examining it too closely for now – just letting it happen. It’s interesting to see how people respond to a finished piece – they often want to turn it upside down to try and understand the construction. I still find it extraordinary that people find the work that engaging.
What is your favourite step in the making process?
Often the work is built up in layered sections as opposed to a linear process of working from one end to the other, so it feels a little as if there are a host of other options hidden in those layers. There are moments where new compositions present themselves on the way to reaching the finished piece. I take a lot of photos throughout the process to carry the ideas over into new work.
Where does your inspiration for the colours and shapes in your designs come from?
It’s fairly intuitive. I’ll often change my mind early on and end up with something very different to the original idea – so it’s an exploratory process. In a broader sense, the Bauhaus aesthetic possibly goes without saying. Buildings and interiors inspire me – I like the notion of ‘emotional architecture’ and that simplicity and clean lines can be soulful and calming as opposed to cold and functional.
Is there a particular material, person or object that has influenced your work?
Sophie Taeuber-Arp. Her works, the multidisciplinary nature of her practice and her apparent lack of concern for categorisation are inspiring. Reading about Applied Art (the area she taught) has helped a few things fall into place with how I feel about my own work.
I must also give credit to Resort Studios where I’ve been for the last 3 years. It’s provided not only the physical space to develop, but the opportunity for collaboration and creative/critical conversation. From an initial group of 7 like-minds setting up in 2013, the membership now is over 40 strong and is there is a wealth of talent – from artists and architects, arts activists, designers, photographers, printmakers, playwrights and musicians, graduates and seasoned practitioners… We exhibit as a group at least twice a year, and from those shows alone, my work has been nudged into new directions.
Who’s your ideal buyer/audience? Where would you like to see your stools?
Well, the seats are functional but they are best suited to occasional use – so it would ideally be someone who appreciates the value in buying a chair or stool as an object to look at as well as to sit on.
Could you tell us a little bit about the stools you’ve made for Hole & Corner…
The colour choices were actually inspired by hearing that the new H&C issue was going to be called ‘Nest’ – I’ve deliberately chosen soft muted tones and some of the cord I’ve dyed with tea. The slight variations you get with hand-dyeing make more sense with the patina of vintage furniture. The frames themselves have been dismantled, rebuilt and revived, with the new seat designs taking a subtle steer from the shape and feeling of the frame. They are one-of-a-kind pieces.
Jo Elbourne’s stools were also featured in the Goods section of our Nest Issue.