Making furniture out of the V&A's old packing crates for homeless people to take with them into temporary accommodation is just one of furniture maker and designer Moe Redish's award-winning solutions. Moe has worked closely with Joined+Jointed, Help Refugees and 999club as well as undertaking private commission work and launching his own products. He studied for a Furniture degree (now Furniture and Product Design BA) at the Uni, where his passion for locally sourced materials began. Awards and nominations include the Evening Standard’s Progress 1000 list: 25 future faces 25 and under, and being shortlisted for the Young Furniture Makers Award in 2018 and 2019.
We caught up with Moe at his north London workshop which he shares with two other designer-maker graduates from The Cass.
Which piece of furniture are you most proud of and why?
Recently I’ve begun working a lot with willow which is traditionally used to weave baskets. You soak it in water first to soften it so you can manipulate it. I use burr willow as it doesn't take so long to soak – I soften mine in old drainpipes as it saves space! Willow is fast-growing and is coppiced, which is a really environmentally friendly practice. I'm combining the willow with ash for my latest project and it's great to be using natural, locally sourced and sustainable materials.
While this is still an ongoing project I can confidently say that it is the project I have enjoyed the most and I am looking forward to developing it further.
Has it been difficult to establish your own business?
It’s definitely not been easy. My degree taught me some essentials of setting up and running a business. Partnered with trial and error, I’ve slowly made my way closer to successfully keeping everything in check. After I graduated, I did a Quickstart course at Accelerator (London Met's business incubator) which really helped with techniques like how to set up a small business and how to use social media to help you.
How did your partnerships with the big companies come about – and what were the highlights?
My final project at The Cass was a brief set by a graduate of the University, designer and business owner Samuel Chan. The project was to design a workstation for his contemporary furniture brand Joined+Jointed, in which my design, a desk called Slide was chosen to be the winner and put into production with the company. I made up the prototype using poplar (a relatively cheap wood) but now the real thing can be bought either in walnut or oak.
Further partnerships, such as my work with the V&A came around through open calls and briefs set by the companies to design and make items for a specific purpose. For the V&A I designed some furniture for homeless people out of the V&A's old packing crates that ship artwork all over the world. The final show was inside the Exhibition Road museum tunnel and there was an amazing food waste feast made by People's Kitchen which was served on our upcycled furniture.
The lecturers at The Cass really helped us find these opportunities and put us in touch with the right people.
Why did you choose to study at The Cass in particular, and what were the highlights?
I liked the idea of moving to London and after visiting The Cass and meeting some of the tutors I felt it would be the right fit for my working style. The facilities available to the students were also an enormous selling point.
I really loved the permanent studio space you had as a student – and also working alongside my peers, whether in the workshop making or the studio discussing ideas with my peers – I really missed that student community when I graduated.
That’s why it’s so nice now to be working as part of a collective. Two are also London Met furniture graduates – Julian Leedham, who graduated a couple of years earlier than me, and now works on bespoke commissions, and Chelsea Vivash, who specialises in contemporary marquetry. There are lots of other benefits to a collective too, like the shared equipment, less materials waste and the ideas and different learning techniques you pick up from working alongside each other.
How did you find the lecturers at London Met?
My experiences with the tutors, technicians and lecturers at the University was great. We received so much individual support – they were enthusiastic, knowledgeable and always willing to give up their time for you – and were really helpful with the networks of people they could put you in touch with. The creativity around the projects and briefs never failed to hold my attention.
A special credit I would say is owed to the technicians who would often offer tuition on machining, timber species and endless other making techniques, despite them not strictly being tutors. They still help us out now.
What was your favourite piece of equipment for your course or favourite space and why?
Definitely the wood workshop/mill. I quickly realised that the hands-on making side of the course was my favourite and spent as much time in the wood mill and workshops as I could.
What’s your favourite thing to do on a weekend?
London is a great city to live in when pursuing a creative career like mine. There are constantly exhibitions and events that are great for inspiration and motivation.
On the weekends I’m often found in my workshop, developing new ideas, prototyping furniture or creating something one off.
What’s next for your career?
The Cass helped me realise the direction of my career which was a very important part of my time there.
Next for me is to continue looking for projects, briefs, commissions and opportunities within my field, the more I can get involved with the better.
Any advice for anyone considering an arts qualification at The Cass?
Go in open minded and if possible, explore areas outside of your discipline. I found myself in the jewellery and ceramic departments regularly throughout my time at The Cass.
What were the most challenging and the most rewarding parts of your course?
The most challenging part of the course for me would have to have been learning to be patient. It’s very easy to want to create a beautiful piece of furniture in a matter of days, but it often takes weeks to finish one item.
The slow process of creating furniture would also be the most rewarding part of the course. There is nothing more satisfying in my eyes.