One of the new generation of British product designers for whom narrative is an increasingly important element in their work, PASCAL ANSON (1973-) combines industrial production and improvisation to create products and furniture that tell a story while fulfilling their function.
Each object in Pascal Anson’s Reunification Project not only has a story to tell from its old life, but is starting to tell a new one. By unearthing orphaned objects – such as cutlery, tea cups and saucers, tables, chairs and tailored suits – that once belonged to a set but have since become separated from it, and by changing their appearance, Anson unifies them into new sets and imbues them with new purpose and meaning.
Born in London in 1973, Pascal Anson studied three dimensional design at Kingston University and design products at the Royal College of Art. He has since designed and developed his own products, as well as concepts commissioned by manufacturers such as Rosenthal and Memphis, and has taught at Middlesex University and Central Saint Martins in London.
Anson was one of the five young British designers to be awarded a bursary by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation after participating in the Design Museum’s Design Mart exhibition in autumn 2004. His work also featured in the exhibition, Great Brits – The New Alchemists, organised in collaboration by the Design Museum and British Council in Milan during the 2005 Milan Furniture Fair.
Both in the development of newly designed pieces, such as his vacuum-formed cloud lights and the mirrored Flowermiser vase, and the reinvention of found objects for an exercise like the Reunification Project, Pascal Anson draws inspiration from unconscious design – doodles on paper, graffiti on walls and the whitewashing of shop windows while the interiors are refitted – to create design objects that are “different, challenging and beautiful.”
Q. When did you first become aware of – and interested in – design?
A. I have always loved making things and expressing myself in three dimensions. I made a tiny blue kangaroo when I was very young and became interested in design at school as I had a really amazing Design & Technology teacher.
Q. Why did you decide to study design?
A. Like many designers curiosity drives me. I wanted to learn more skills and about history, about materials and process.
Q. What was the influence of your design education on your work?
A. My Design & Technology teacher at school was very good at explaining how things were made, which gave me a head start. Later my design education gave me the confidence to pursue one idea, rather than loading extras on to a piece of design, which does not make it stronger.
Q. What were your design objectives as a student?
A. As a student I was competitive, so I wanted to do well and to make an impact. This competitive part of my personality had a negative effect though because I put too much pressure on myself which resulted in a kind of frightened inertia.
Q. How have your objectives evolved since leaving the RCA?
A. I have grown in confidence since leaving the RCA, I question myself too much perhaps. I think the search for an independent creative identity is what drives me at the moment.
Q. Which of your early projects was most important in defining your approach to design, and why?
A. I designed the Stars in your Eyes lamp as a student, and it is very characteristic of the way I work. It is a magical product which looks quite ordinary. I like that tension and contrast. It has lasting appeal as a product, yet very little initial impact, which can be a negative attribute in the design world.
Q. How did the design of the Flowermiser vase develop?
A. The Flowermiser developed from my love of mirrored surfaces and illusion. I am also quite a cautious person with money – a kind of miser! I try to make the best of what I have. The product has now been tweaked a little and is being mass-manufactured.
Q. And the Reunification project
A. The Reunification Project starts to look at recycling in a new way. It challenges the beauty and newness of consumerism. This is a philosophy that I try to apply to my work where possible. It allows me to be expressive in a way that is sometimes missing in design.
Q. How important is function to your work
A. Function is very important. It is what drives me as a designer and separates me from being an artist. I like the constraint of function’s importance.
Q. And narrative
A. Narrative is the reasons why something is the way it is. Everything should have a good reason for its existence.
Visit Pascal Anson’s website at iampascal.com
For more information on British design and architecture go to Design in Britain, the online archive run in collaboration by the Design Museum and the British Council, at designmuseum.org/designinbritain