July 2023
Photography: John William

In a series of four features, Faye Toogood explores the guiding principles of the Toogood studio: Drawing, Material, Sculpture and Landscape.

My first piece of furniture was made from sycamore. A blonde wood, like ash or pine, but with a much more delicate grain. People weren’t really using it at the time. I moved away from wood but have been revisiting it with my last Assemblage 7 using bog oak.

In the beginning the sycamore felt simple and quiet, but it wasn’t long before I didn’t want to be quiet. I cut all of my hair off and came back with a collection of steel, security mesh, and bronze.

As a female furniture designer back then I felt like a bit of an outlier. That galvanised me to use these heavy duty, overtly masculine materials. I wasn't about to start picking up the decorative arts, pottering with ceramics or textiles. I wanted to be welding like Louise Bourgeois.

I had children and then Roly-Poly came. Round, plump, fuller, softer. I started to work on fibreglass because I could make it curve. A lot of the time fibreglass has a coating on the top of it, a colour. I developed raw fibreglass where the fibres are exposed. In this primordial jelly finish, fibreglass has its own glow. It has personality, changing colour over time going a bit greeny or brown.

Materials are the starting point of everything we do. There's a big area dedicated to it in the studio, I've always called it my jewellery box. I’ll pull pieces from this library and see how they talk to each other. I like the fact that if I take a Roly Poly chair and I do it in plastic, bronze glass, aluminium, or gold leaf, every time it has a completely different connotation. It's the same shape, but I just changed the material. How do you feel about it? How does it impact you? How do you connect to it?

Materials are a playground. Assembling, collaging, clashing them. Creating coats out of cling film or silver gaffer tape or dustbin liners. Thinking up a collection that's entirely made of mud… this is the real fun part of the process for me. Give a child a box of junk and watch them make something magical. Picasso would love it.

If you can make something look good in canvas, it will look good in cashmere. A huge part of my work has been focused on creating “wow” out of ubiquitous, simple, basic materials. Cardboard, paper, tape and tin. I like playing with tensions between materials. I created a collection of cardboard furniture, only it's not cardboard, it's cast bronze that has been painstakingly hand-painted to look like cardboard.

I would love people to think about their relationship with materials, and the hierarchies of value. Who are we to say that gold is more precious than tin? Over the years, I've got rid of lots of things. Precious design objects, collections I've obsessively amassed that one day leave me cold. Ultimately I’m most happy with my stones and bones and bits of paper.