Mark Gabbertas

From starting his career in an advertising company and then a professional cabinet maker, Mark Gabbertas’ early life has been experimental before he took up to the most glorious chapter of his life as a furniture designer. We had the privilege to have Mark Gabbertas to know more on his design journey, British design, his products and projects. Excerpts:

FAE: How did you get into design? Tell us about your design journey in short?

Mark Gabbertas: I initially worked in the advertising industry before deciding to train as a cabinet maker when I was nearly 30 years old and after working as a designer /maker for around 7 or 8 years I decided to focus on furniture design, whilst I still had all my fingers. I was always interested in design and in furniture and made my first piece of furniture when I was 14 years old, a table which still looks surprisingly modern and fresh but I didn’t follow this path initially. It has been an interesting journey.

FAE: What design means to you?

Mark Gabbertas: : It means everything, good design makes my heart sing and brings me joy at the most visceral level, bad design depresses and rather vexes me. We are surrounded by objects, interactions and experiences all of which to some extent have been designed. If we acknowledge that good design has the ability to improve the quality of life, then why would one not embrace and encourage it?

FAE: How do you describe British design? Share with us some basic features of British design?

Mark Gabbertas: Well this is an interesting subject now as the UK prepares to exit Europe. I have a sense that we will start to repossess our identity as a nation of designers. Whether one is aware of the process or not, I sense there has been an influencing of the UK vernacular design approach in the last 20 years as the result of being part of Europe. The UK has an extraordinarily dynamic design scene which is characterised by its innovative and unconventional approach. As a nation we seem to take pleasure in finding new ways to solve traditional problems and celebrating that difference; I would like to think that this idiosyncratic perspective will flourish.

FAE: What are the basic differences you have observed throughout the years between British design and European design?

Mark Gabbertas: I believe that there are a number of European aesthetics; Scandinavian, Italian and German for example. These all differ in a number of ways whilst sharing certain characteristics as well of course but I could probably spot a Swedish, Italian or German chair. Without wishing to fall into the trap of perpetuating national stereotypes, I think the designers from these countries approach problem solving in slightly different ways, each incorporating various degrees of rationality, expressiveness and flair. In the UK we seem not to be overly concerned with elegance, engineering or singularity, but instead try to find a way to combine these valuable attributes. And then we add a good measure of attitude.

FAE: How has been the feedback for Eclipse and Scoop you have executed for outdoor furniture brand, Gloster? What are the features you offer to your clients through these products?

Mark Gabbertas:When we designed the Eclipse and Scoop ranges for Gloster some years ago, these were our first projects for an outdoor furniture brand. They were both very well received and helped grow the profile of Gloster in what was a rapidly changing and developing market. The Eclipse range won a number of awards and its ability to be used in different ways to create different atmospheres expressed truly innovative design thinking. The Scoop range represented a new aesthetic for outdoor furniture at the time when it was launched over 10 years ago the idea of a soft, organic flowing profile that took its cues from the elegance and reduced mass of indoor furniture was a new one. It is as important for the Studio to create a beautiful design as it is to understand this same design’s role within the strategy of the company and how that design can help shape the brand’s profile. The Studio has a reputation for designing creatively innovative and commercially relevant work. We are totally at ease with the idea of designing products that have resonance in the real world; if a design doesn’t sell, then perhaps it is not such a great design.

FAE: What have been the most satisfying projects you have worked on among outdoor and indoor seating?

Mark Gabbertas: The most rewarding projects have been those where the design has been both successful and stood the test of time. As a Studio, we are motivated by trying to find solutions that have both a functional integrity and an enduring aesthetic; it is easy to shock, but much more difficult to please. The modular Cloud seating programme launched in 2010, again for Gloster, represented a step change in the market, as it both was the most comprehensive and flexible outdoor range in production, and also incorporated innovative material and manufacturing techniques to make it totally weatherproof. It has gone on to become perhaps the most successful outdoor seating range ever launched and continues to set the standard for the category. Similarly, the Haven programme for Allermuir launched in 2010 incorporated seating, tables and screening into a multipurpose and highly flexible range that allowed for and facilitated new ways of working and interacting. It was ahead of its time and still has significant commercial application.

FAE: You have worked under so many renowned brands. Tell us how did you manage to get into several design projects at a time?

Mark Gabbertas: We work on approximately 10 projects concurrently for various brands. We love this approach whereby we are able to move from one project to another at their various stages of development. We are aware now that the projects we are working on seem to be more involved and technically demanding meaning that the period of development can be 3 or 4 years. Interestingly as a result of this extended gestation period, we have found it is highly rewarding to be able to leave a project for a while and return to it with fresh eyes and a new perspective. This may sometimes mean we start again or merely adjust, but either way, it is an extraordinarily valuable process.

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