The New Designers 100% Design Award Winner: James Michael Shaw Answers Despokes Questions

Image:photos by Ed Reeve
What made you want to become a designer in the first place?
I have a need to create and bring objects into the world.

Where did you study design?
I studied at Falmouth and Kingston Universities.

What was the first thing you designed?
When I was a child I used to spend hours and hours drawing impossible houses and cars, I wanted to be an architect. Then when I was about ten I designed a desk that my father had made specially, it was terrible, much too high.


How do you define good design?

My idea of good design for what I create is things that are simple, beautiful and functional with an intelligent awareness of manufacture and making. But this is just for me sometimes I like it when other people create things which are bombastic and loud or just fun.

What would you be if not a designer?
Something medical, it’s in my genes… or a shopkeeper with a brown apron or a baker I love baking bread.

Which design of yours are you most proud of and why?
Currently my ball joint lamp, which simply exploits the nature of its manufacturing process to create a functional and charming object that is a pleasure to use.

Anything in your career you wish you’d done differently?
Not yet…

Which designers do you most admire?
I really admire Alex Moulton for his commitment to constantly refining his designs, even now at the age of ninety he is still improving and developing products that he first began sixty years ago.

Which product do you wish you’d designed/do you think is an example of good design?
Last summer I spent three months working out in Sri Lanka where they use this fantastic spoon for serving food. It is made from a section of coconut shell with two holes made into which a roughly hewn handle is wedged. It must in fact be a vernacular object that has evolved slowly over time… probably these are the best products.

Tell me about your design style at home?
I have an eclectic mix of things that I have found, bought or made. I just moved into a huge new studio with massive ceilings and hardwood floors which we will sadly have to divide up into separate rooms. Its quite tempting to leave is as one big space and forgo privacy. I find it very difficult to walk past things that I find in the street so am constantly fighting my urges to fill my space with scraps of wood, broken furniture and interesting bits of plastic. Slowly I am acquiring a collection of chairs which are of a decent quality that I hope will stay with me for a long time, I have a fifties Parker Knoll armchair, a Møller chair number 75, a Jasper Morrison Air Chair and a lovely Ercol.

The judges remarked on his ‘good process; strong use of industrial materials which is original and utilitarian. James demonstrated passion and drive to succeed as a commercial designer.’
‘I am passionate about keeping the art of spinning alive as it is, like much British industry, dying out. I worked with a sixth generation spinner on my collection,’ explained James. He wants to set up a shop and design consultancy with a colleague from his course. Meanwhile in the lead up to 100% Design in September he says, ‘I will endeavour to make my stand as good as possible and develop my designs and products ready for September. It’s a fantastic opportunity – it’s the biggest show of its kind. I am overwhelmed to have won and feel like all the hard work has paid off.’


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