Behind the scenes with Michael Armstrong in AFID Design’s Newcastle studio.
Why did you start your own creative business?
Well I had always wanted to do it from university. I didn’t go straight into it as I worked for an agency in London for about 15 years and it got to a point where I thought to myself, ‘if I don’t do this now I never will’. I had always seen myself as being a hands-on designer maker, in a workshop designing things. If someone had said to me when I first graduated what would be my ideal job, this would have been it – designing and making pieces that are totally from me.
What was your first design?
Before I started university at age 18 I made a clock, but that was before I had any design training. When I started this business it was my T2 coffee table. I had set myself a brief to make something without having straight lines in it, as I worked a lot with straight lines.
Who or what inspires you?
There are a lot of people who inspire me, but I love the detailing of Gordon Matta-Clark’s art. Within design I’m inspired by Dieter Rams, his work is fabulous as it’s very simple, clean, modern and almost minimal. Also, Walter Gropius and Mies Van Der Rohe from Bauhaus, what they did was amazing at the time they did it.
Where are you based and what is your studio like?
My studio is an amazing space. It’s in a very old warehouse building, which was the first fireproof building in Newcastle. Everything in the studio is solid stone and cast iron. It has a lot of character and it’s somewhere that I get very excited about coming to everyday.
What are you most proud of?
A lot of my work is made out of hard wood timber; I try to create very good joints so that the piece will last a lifetime, as my work is all about making pieces with integrity and longevity. I’m very proud of my ES range, I really like it and everyone else seems to like it too. It embodies what I try to do within all of my designs as a handmade, strong jointed, piece made to last.
What is the most interesting collaboration / commission you have worked on?
I’m working with an artist and photographer at the moment, we’re called GRAIN and we are in the process of developing smaller products, which is a bit of a departure from what I normally do. So it’s exciting. She is designing and making along with me, it’s very much a collaboration.
What has been the most unusual project you have worked on?
I’ve just made some bookcases, which are hidden doors that lead in to a storage space behind. It’s quite different to what I would normally do and it looks really good. I’m waiting for the go ahead to start a 5 meter conference table for a company, that want it to look like an old school surf board made out of timber, that should be quite interesting.
What would be your dream project?
I like the idea of making something that’s used in a public space, designed specifically for somewhere like a library or a civic centre. Something that will be left somewhere over time would be nice.
What are you exhibiting at the Northern Design Festival this year?
I will be exhibiting my new B range, which will be made up of a cabinet or two and a lounge chair.
I’m starting to do new pieces which my collaboration with GRAIN, and I’m going to be working on promoting that collaboration. We’re working on a broad range, with smaller products as well as some larger ones.