Five Minutes with Charles Wilson

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    Five Minutes with Charles Wilson

    Charles Wilson, designer of Herman Miller's new Carafe™ Table, was recently described by the Australian Financial Review as 'arguably the most talented designer in Australia'. We speak to him briefly about his collaboration with Herman Miller and some of his personal favourites.

    HermanMiller Carafe0014 Website

    News - 29.02.2016

    You’ve got a prolific design history. How many products that you have designed have made it to market? 
    It’s funny to be thought of as prolific as only such a tiny fraction of what I have worked on has made it to production. As the work is in ranges with quite separate permutations, it’s hard to get a count on the products – probably about 16 to 20 works in production thus far.  

    What is your personal favourite work (of your own)?
    It’d probably be Carafe at the moment. That project has been a very satisfying collaboration, and I think it has resulted in a genuinely useful design. There’s also the Broached Tallboy. Designing limited edition conceptual work isn’t a direction I was really anticipating but, again, it was a rewarding partnership, both with Broached Commissions as well as the craftsman, Dirk Leuschner.

    What is your favourite/most admired piece of work that someone else has designed?
    The Ferrari Lusso, though I could just as easily choose the Lamborghini Espada, or R-type Bentley or a number of others. Last year I visited the Museo Nazionale dell'Automobile in Turin and realised that, for me, there’s just no object that does it like the great couch building of the 50s-70s. It’s the same knee-trembling response other people might have to seeing great Renaissance art. And similarly, it’s a past art. The most expensive current production car in the world now looks like it was designed by the work experience kid who’s father you owed a favour. 

    What was the impetus to design the Carafe Table? Tell us more about its mixed use/your response to modern day living/working dynamics. 
    The original impetus came with a brief from Herman Miller to design a table/desk that would address contemporary apartment living and the way we interact with technology. Initial discussions were around a compact desk that might unfold into a table, but the more we looked into this it felt like the wrong direction. I just couldn’t imagine anyone coming home, dealing with emails and such then transforming themselves and the furniture into dining mode. Technology is far more integrated into our lives these days and often in a fun, elegant way. This is the shift we sought to address with Carafe. 

    What was it like to work with a company with such a rich history as Herman Miller?
    I’m very conscious of the company ideals and design legacy when working with Herman Miller and enjoy the particular design challenge this brings. I associate the company with a kind of robust, optimistic modernism and this has a big influence on my design work. 

    QUICK FIVE

    • Next holiday destination: Japan. Though officially just for the Carafe launch I’ll spend about ten days in Tokyo and Kyoto. ​
    • Recent notable read/book: Barcelona by Robert Hughes. I was living there for some months last year and it was great delving into Hughes’s incites into the history of that city and Catalan culture. 
    • Favourite local restaurant/café: Billy Kwong, which is literally at my front door in Potts Point and wonderful. 
    • Favourite building/house: The JFK Terminal by Saarinen. I visited it just before its closure and it was in a shocking state, but still such an extraordinary vision of elegant futurism. 
    • Most admired designer, architect or other creative: Dieter Rams.

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