Drawing inspiration from Joshua Tree National Park and the lights and colors of Los Angeles, Tom Faulkner‘s Papillon collection – launching September 19 – is lustrous and organic.
We spoke with Tom about his creative process and the work that went into producing this collection, comprised of dining tables, occasional tables, and, new for Faulkner – a drinks trolley, and a screen.
Could you walk me through your design process when you start a collection like this?
This whole collection took quite a long time to come to fruition. It all started when I made a trip to Joshua Tree National Park in 2016. I was looking at the boulders there and started thinking about the gaps between the rocks – the interstitial spaces – and the lines they created.
I went home and started working on a console table which replicated these lines, a lot of my work in the year or two before this had been very rectilinear and graphic, so it was great to be doing something a bit more free-flowing and “organic” in spirit. For me the same rules apply whether one is working with straight or curved lines – it’s still about the lines themselves, their weight and the proportions.
The console table I made was called “Boulder” and then about a year later – while looking at the flat “pattern” for the console I thought it would be great to develop it as a flat screen or room divider. (Ideas often come about like this, like when you put a table upside down and realise it looks completely different and better the “wrong” way up!) The screen – looked to me like a butterfly when we made it – the lines like the veins insect wings.
I have a small design team in the workshop and then it became a very collaborative process – when we decided to take the pattern to create other pieces – side tables, dining tables, and a bar cart. The addition of color seemed like just the right thing at that moment. Almost everything we made up until that point would be finished in metallic colors – bronzes, greys, silvers. (Incidentally the original Boulder console had been finished in a bright ultramarine blue, so the collection already had some form in that department.)
The colors have become a big part of the collection – there are five colorways – all named after butterflies, and they are applied by hand using the powder coating process. This is usually a very industrial process so very unusual to do it like this. We were blending colors in a very creative and exciting way.
The icing on the cake was the addition of “dichroic” glass – inspired by the iridescence of the butterfly wing. This makes the glass change color according to the angle and position of view. When the sun shines on the tables it casts pools of light which again change color according to the orientation of the table.
When designing a collection how do you strike a balance between creating versatile
products that people can utilize in a variety of different spaces, while still creating
This is always a bit of a dilemma – but in the end, it is always a balance, and there are compromises that sometimes have to be made. We obviously need to be able to replicate the designs to a certain extent. With these, each piece is always going to be slightly different. The way the colors are applied is not an exact science, more of an artistic process. They are available in standard finishes, but if they are finished in one of the butterfly colorways I oversee the finishing and I sign the piece!
What materials were used in the collection, and how important was material selection
when conceiving such delicate designs?
The materials are steel (or aluminum for the screen), and dichroic glass. Steel is our métier, and it is perfect for this collection because it is so strong in such thin sections.
What feelings do you hope this collection evokes among designers specifically?
A sense of freedom and fun, and possibly joy? When we showed it in the UK at the end of last year it had a fantastic response. It’s very different, and somewhat unexpected. Designers who fall in love with it then have to convince their clients that they need an amazing technicolor dream table in their lives!
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