Feature in Designing Magazine

July 9, 2020

Feature in the Summer Edition of Designing Magazine

We are thrilled to be featured in the Summer Edition of Designing magazine. We were approached by the editor Willy Adam who invited Edward to pen a few words about his background, education and design inspiration. Designing magazine is specifically aimed at schools, colleges and universities and is produced by the Design and Technology Association.

Edward is passionate about actively keeping the furniture industry alive and the continuation and advancement of original design and craftsmanship thriving. He hopes to inspire young people to join the industry to keep both the traditional skills, and of course, the latest technology progressing.

The Design and Technology Association supports high quality design, engineering and technology in education.

“We are a membership organisation providing advice, support and training for those involved in teaching design, engineering and technology. We work closely with government, awarding bodies, Ofsted and other regulators, advising on the curriculum and lobbying on behalf of the subject. We also work with employers and corporate partners to help promote the value of the subject and the range of careers and opportunities to which it can lead. We specialise in developing links between education and industry to mutual benefit.”

A double page spread of the article featured in Designing Magazine: summer 2020
Designing magazine: Summer 2020 – No. 116

Read the article:

Crafting innovative furniture for inspiring people

Throughout my senior school years, I was either found on the rugby pitch or in the DT department where I was fortunate enough to have excellent teachers and facilities. This in turn led to my friends nicknaming me ‘DT Ed’!

I found that focusing on my art and design work had a calming effect on my restless mind, helping me to focus, and enabling me to explore my passion for design and to develop my ideas.

My overarching consideration, when thinking about and approaching design, is to question everything with an open mind and a deep-rooted determination to solve problems. I always believe that, no matter where you are with your education or career, you should always strive to improve and to always aim to progress your ideas and products to make them the best they can possibly be. Following school, I went on to study furniture design and cabinet making at Buckingham Chilterns University, graduating in 2007.

My questioning mind became apparent as a child. I always wanted to know ‘WHY’: I wanted to know the reason behind almost any decision being made. Therefore, as you can imagine, this didn’t make me the easiest child to teach! I would often ask too many questions and disrupt the flow of lessons. Although I realise now this must have been very challenging, it is however part of my character that drives and motivates me. Moving forward, this trait has certainly contributed to the successful furniture design business I now run.

Escaping the Maze:
A few designers stumble upon brilliant ideas, but most need to work very hard at it. However, those that do stumble upon a brilliant idea early on can often struggle to surpass their initial success. I believe there is a fundamental reason for this: that perhaps they didn’t fully understand how and why they got there first time around. Rather than being a single lightbulb moment, good design is very much an ongoing process. It is something that takes time, effort and hard work if you are to fully explore your ideas. It is rather like escaping from a maze: you start with a basic idea, an idea that is either self-generated or given to you by others – perhaps teachers or clients? You then explore different routes and paths in search of a solution to your problem. You will often come to a dead end and need to turn back, but with determination, belief and an open mind you’ll eventually find a solution that works. But don’t just be content with that solution, as it could probably still be improved!

I have been running my furniture design and manufacturing business for 10 years, and I now employ staff to help me with the daily routine and rigours, from marketing to cabinet making. I’ve always considered the making aspect to be part of the design process, and I’ve come to use the craftsmanship element and my technical making knowledge as the unique selling point that sets me apart as a designer. Through successes and failures, I understand how timber works – how it bends, how it shapes, how it shrinks and expands. It is this knowledge and knowhow that enables me to produce my concept-led designs, whilst pushing the limits of my materials. Looking back, I feel I have achieved a decent amount through my work and career thus far. However, I still feel there is so much more exploring, fun, experimentation and head scratching ahead of me.

My work is largely experimental and inventive, and I like to find my own path and techniques to create unique pieces. Two examples of this would be my Ripples Collection and my Murano Collection, where I have worked hard to find inventive ways to achieve these results.

My Ripples Collection was inspired by the action of a stone dropping into water. My concept was to give the illusion of the ripples engulfing the entire form, bringing movement, life and softness to the surfaces. I spent many hours prototyping, perfecting and refining this technique to enable the successful crafting of this unique effect. A real breakthrough moment!

My Murano Collection was inspired by a visit to the island of Murano, where Venetian master craftsmen have been producing glassware for centuries, by floating layers of different coloured glass through one another to produce exquisite patterns.

I have developed this technique by layering different combinations of timber together to produce wavy, radial and straight designs. The various patterns result in carefully matched sweeping lines and curves that engulf the entire surface of the furniture. The circular and semi-circular designs are reminiscent of the growth rings of a tree.

Diagram showing Edward Johnson's Family Free concept, that is reminiscent of the growth rings of a tree trunk.
Edward’s Family Tree concept.

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