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To tie in with the introduction of Massproductions to our collection, we caught up with one half of the brand, Chris Martin, to find out more. Trust us, it's a good read!
Chris Martin (left) and Magnus Elebäck
Massproductions was launched back in 2009 in Stockholm. How did yourself and Magnus Elebäck come to the conclusion that you wanted to start up your own company?
It was slightly accidental actually. We had been asked by a German company to design a chair in metal wires and I came up with the Tio Chair. When the company dropped out, we decided it would be a good challenge to produce it ourselves. After 18 months of development, we made a small batch of the chairs and presented them at the Stockholm Furniture Fair in 2009 under our own brand, Massproductions.
We understand that you met Magnus whilst working as a freelancer for IKEA in 1999. How have your ideas both developed since then?
Working for a furniture company of that scale taught us a lot about how to make a product work in all of its aspects – function, materials and how it is manufactured. Even things like how it’s packaged and transportation come into consideration and that’s good knowledge to have for any producer. Since we started our own company, we have had greater freedom to define our own projects, but less freedom in terms of resources that a giant like IKEA has.
Could you tell us a little more about your career journey?
I studied in Liverpool and then was lucky enough to have a year of employment with Jasper Morrison. That was a great experience and allowed me to further my studies in furniture design at the Royal College of Art in London. After that, it felt like all of the opportunities and manufacturing happened abroad, so I headed north to Stockholm to join an architectural studio I’d got to know through Jasper. I was introduced to IKEA through them and after a few years, I set up my own office, sharing a space with Magnus. We joined forces shortly afterwards and built up a client base as a design consultancy, until we decided to change track and become masters of our own destiny with Massproductions!
Would you ever have pictured that you’d have your own company 15 years ago?
Absolutely not! It always seemed like an ‘us and them’ situation between designers and furniture companies. Many designers find it hard to get their ideas into production though and that together with the realisation that you can access factories directly has meant that more and more designers are taking the plunge and starting their own companies. We were quite early with this model in 2009, within the current trend at least. It’s still a risk, but there’s a lovely sense of freedom if you can make it work; you get to see the products you really believe in be tested on the marketplace.
I think deep down I love efficiency and the idea of making an investment to produce something of quality. Sharing that cost through distribution to many people represents that. In actual fact, many of our pieces require hands-on craft skills, but we always have at least some volume produced elements in them to reap the benefits of mass production.
As well as producing your designs in single or part recycled materials, how else do you minimise the effects of production?
In the way that good design always has done even before we became extremely concerned about the environment (rightly so). We aim for functional, long lasting and elegant products that will outlive trends and be cherished in the environments they end up in.
Do you have any particular designs in the pipeline?
Right now, I’m working on a modular/room divider/storage unit and a follow up to our Jig Chair series.
Have any ideas not made the cut and why?
Plenty - maybe 95% - never make it. I think that’s the way it should be too, otherwise you are playing it too safe or not pushing yourself hard enough. It’s a struggle, but once you know you have a good line of reasoning, the process of refining an idea can be an absolute joy.
Which materials do you both most like to work with?
I like materials that have a certain warmth, tactility or depth to them. There’s quite a lot to choose from fortunately! Also, the finish or colour is very important. That can have a big influence on a product.
Where do the names come from for your products and where do you draw your inspiration from?
We have products named after each of our sons (Sander & Harry). I also have a daughter named Rose, so something needs to be designed for her too! Inspiration is varied and can come from anywhere. I designed the Waiter Chair by thinking about how a waiter would like to have a chair as a working tool. The Mega Sofa was inspired by the sculptural qualities of freshly baked bread squeezed into a metal rack at the local bakery.
The Mega Three Seater Sofa
What is the most fascinating thing that being a recognised designer has allowed you to do?
I was invited on a whirlwind trip to Sydney and Melbourne by our Australian distributor. I really like the travel opportunities that arise in my work.
To finish things off, which 5 words would best describe you?
Difficult to describe oneself! I’ll go with left-handed, determined, practical, focused and cyclist.