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10 questions with…Deadgood

A behind the scenes studio tour of Deadgood’s Newcastle studio with Elliot Brook.

Why did you decide to start your own creative business?

I’ve always been motivated to run my own business from an early age, having been ‘shown the light’ by my grandfather, a successful builder and hotelier. He built hundreds of houses across Yorkshire over a thirty-year period and was a true innovator in terms of style and material choice.

Although my own personal journey started out from humble beginnings really. Deadgood was set up my best mate (Dan Ziglam) and I straight out of university back in 2004. We met whilst studying furniture design together and soon realised we shared an entrepreneurial streak and a vision to create a world-class brand.

I never really had a burning desire to pursue a career in design, I wish I could say otherwise, it was more just the motivation to do my own thing and I guess furniture became a vehicle to allow that to happen.

Being from an art school background with no business training has never limited our enthusiasm, and armed with nothing more than a vision and an endless supply of determination we have captured the design industry’s imagination and cemented our reputation as one of the leading British design brands.

What was your first design?

Probably the layout of my micro machine city; a little bit of town planning so to speak.

What or who inspires you?

I’m inspired by people – people who have managed to find their way through the myriad scope of possibility in order to find their passion and realise their true potential. Anyone really who has the conviction to trust their instinct and their own ability, those people who are brave enough to challenge convention and not be fearful of standing out from the crowd.

Specifically, I admire and respect the attitudes and approach of creative visionaries such as Verner Panton and Paul Smith and draw a lot of my personal motivation from cultural and literary heroes such as Hunter S Thompson and Jack Kerouac.

When we first started our business we were very much inspired by the Dutch company Moooi and have drawn a lot of inspiration from the vision and values of company founders Marcel Wanders and Casper Vissers throughout the years.

Where are you based and what’s your studio like?

We run two studios, one in Newcastle and one in London. Dan made the move to London in 2010 to set it up. I’m still in the North East and both studios are now thriving.

In Newcastle we mainly manage the sales and marketing. The studio space is always full of products. We share it with British designer David Irwin, whose broad spectrum of design work ensures that there’s a steady stream of material samples and delightfully engineered components to be mused upon.

Dan and the team put the London studio through its paces with a constant array of boxes and products coming in and going out the door. It’s where the in-house product development happens, amongst many other things. There are lots of prototypes within reaching distance and inspiration adorning the walls.

Both studios are relaxed but busy. We’re a friendly bunch!

What are you most proud of?

My beautiful family.

What is the most interesting collaboration / commission you’ve worked on?

Our current project is probably one of the most exciting in terms of collaborators. At the London Design Festival we launch our showroom and installation, the ‘Deadgood Library’ as part of The Shoreditch Design Triangle on September 22nd at YCN, 72 Irvington Street, London.

The Deadgood Library will be home to our temporary showroom throughout the London Design Festival as well as the 2015 Northern Design Festival.. Inspired by paper as a medium, our installation places an emphasis on reading, graphic design and illustration.

We are inviting visitors to navigate their way through this immersive space, discovering the favourite books of some of the design industry’s most recognised luminaries including Marcel Wanders, Karim Rashid, Patricia Moroso, Giulia Cappellini and Terence Woodgate all of whom have responded to our question, ‘What’s your favourite book?’

Dan sums up the concept quite nicely: “We’ve built a reading collection based upon the design industry’s favourite books which you can discover as you move around the space. It’s a simple concept. Books are a source of inspiration, a chance to relax or let yourself go in a world outside of your own. By asking industry persons what their favourite book is, it’s a chance to discover a little bit about them. It gives us a rare chance to see what their own inspiration is, in hopes that this may further inspire us.”

Alongside this we’ll be showing a selection of Deadgood products both old and new.

What’s been the most unusual project you’ve worked on?

The Deadgood Rainbow was pretty far out… In 2011, dozens of artists, lighting designers and community groups showcased a series of light installations and projections that illuminated Durham’s buildings, streets and bridge as part of Lumiere Durham. Up to 140,000 visitors flocked to the streets to view the specially selected works.

Through a competitive process we were commissioned to create a lightwork and chose to take inspiration from a natural weather phenomenon. Rainbows have a unique ability to lift the spirits even on the gloomiest day and have inspired countless literary, musical and artistic works. They appear when the sun’s light shines through droplets of moisture in the atmosphere from rain, mist and dew, projecting a spectrum of colour seemingly in distinctive bands. Because the human visual perception of colour is poor in dark conditions, we normally only see rainbows in the daylight.

We wanted to create a piece that could engage a wide and diverse audience, Rainbows stir the imagination in many from an early age and it felt like the perfect symbol to touch and inspire such a large amount of visitors on a cold dark winter evening.

The Deadgood Rainbow was created using scaffolding to support over 250 specialist pieces of lighting equipment (a combination of high powered LEDs and aircraft landing lights) that shone through the full spectrum of colours down onto the walkway and up into the night sky, creating a visual delight that immersed people in colour. It could be seen from the Durham Moors.

What would be your dream project?

Right now, continuing building Deadgood into a world-class brand.

Every day I feel like I’m living the dream…

What are you exhibiting at the 2015 Northern Design Festival?

We’ll be showing part of an exhibition we showcased at Clerkenwell Design Week recently which included four separate vignettes each taking its cue from

different facets of the company’s eclectic style – Lux. Fun. Minimal. Mindful.

It’ll be a playful presentation of our collection of modern interior ‘products with personality’.

What’s next?

Right now I’m heading to the big smoke to catch up with my business partner. Hoping to offer someone a job, discuss some forthcoming projects with clients and shoot a recent product installation on Liverpool Street. A pint at the end of the day will be well deserved I’m sure…