Meet The Maker: Michael Marriott In His Studio

The utilitarian designer, who has just opened a pop-up in our Borough Yards shop, gives us a tour of his studio and talks to us about form vs function, sustainability, and why “ugliness has a lot going for it.”

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One of the first things you notice about Michael Marriott’s studio is, well, things. Lots of things. Some might say too many things – at least to take in at once. The jumbled shelves are stacked with tools and treasures. There’s endless boxes of screws, stacks of tape, sheets of wood, jars of paint, odds and ends. And that’s before we get to the wood and metalworking tools. There’s even a precariously balanced pile of empty tahini jars (Michael tells us he’s saving them for a project, but he hasn’t quite figured out what yet). Venture through to the adjoining room, which houses his kitchen and overflowing desk, you’ll also find rows and rows of volumes on perhaps almost every artist and designer you could think to name.

Nowadays, his work ranges from large-scale installations and furniture to useful bits and bobs to keep around the house, with a strong focus on found materials and upcycling using wood, metal, and plastic. The selection available for sale in the new Paul Smith pop up (as well as online), for example, includes what he calls the ‘platonic ideal’ of a wooden chair alongside metal bookends, an upcycled bottle opener, a colourful broom, salt and pepper mills, and much much more.

But despite all the evidence to the contrary, he’s a little reluctant about giving himself the title ‘designer’. “I feel like there's just too much design. The world is full of rubbish already. And then we add loads of overdesigned stuff to it on top,” he explains. “I'm really interested in making things that are functional and work well that last – that aren't led by any sense of fashion or marketing or fads – and that would sit happily in any environment.”

That’s one of the reasons colour plays an important role in his work, too – another parallel between Paul and himself. The pop-up edit, for example, has plenty of natural wood, ply and metal, but it’s also packed with pops of neon pink, lime green and fluorescent orange. Nature, he says, is the reason we gravitate towards colour.

“It's like when the sun comes out, we all smile because it's that big yellow glowing thing in the sky,” he explains. “Little pops of bright colour in nature, like flowers on a field of grass or straw, they stand out and we're drawn to them, and I think it's just human nature. Colour plays a really important role in things – manufactured things as well as natural things.”

But then that brings us to that tricky word again: things. If you think there’s already too much stuff in the world, how do you reconcile that with being a creator? The topic of climate change is an important one for Michael – who already upcycles a great deal of his pieces – but sustainability, he says, is always front of mind. And unlike behemoth corporations, he makes most things himself in small batches – with an incredible amount of attention to detail, overseeing every single stage of the process. ”Sustainability is really important but it feels like a bit of a dilemma. I’ll try and make things with as much care as possible.” he says. “I also make things at quite small scale, which helps, and I feel like I try and make them in the right way.” Well, we certainly can’t think of a better way.

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