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Nature’s forms: inspired by the great outdoors

28 October 2021

We’ve caught up with our Founder, Tom, to discuss how nature has influenced our latest homeware launches, his most memorable product design journeys and the landscapes that creatively inspire his work.
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It’s obvious that you care a lot about the environment and prioritise sustainability as a business – can you tell us a bit about how your natural environment inspires your work? 

TR: "It’s no secret that I love Cornwall and the beauty of the landscapes, and that I use this inspiration to forge my designs. My inspiration is often drawn from both urban surroundings and seascapes, which as you can imagine, offers very different results. I find structure fascinating and spending time in Cornwall’s coastal towns reminds me how interesting architecture is – the lines and repeated shapes can be a good starting point for developing new designs. On the flip side, I also spend a lot of time amongst the trees on woodland walks and hikes, the quiet and still environment contrast to that of a town bustling with people and traffic. I'm lucky to be surrounded by such wonderful, varying scenery, but I like to believe beauty can be found everywhere – nature adapts and always finds a way to resonate.

Working with WWF has been very eye opening and given us more passion to continue driving our sustainable message. The habits and patterns we create in our life now, will progress onto future generations – making it vital that each decision is a positive one and affects the planet with kindness."

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Are you more drawn to woodland or seascapes?

TR: "Just like the change of seasons, my inspiration shifts each time I leave my home! I love finding similarities in all types of scenery that are found on my doorstep, whilst also appreciating their distinct differences. Woodland is peaceful, full of new discovery and vibrancy. Organic lines and angles build to create structure and the altering light levels as the sun moves through the gaps in the trees is mesmerising – I could sit and watch it for hours!

Seascapes can often be a bit more brutal, especially in the winter, due to the harsh and bracing waves. These moments fill me with excitement and show how powerful nature can truly be. This is contrasted in the summer when our lovely Cornish beaches are a beacon of calm and relaxation with gentle sea swims and water droplets."

Talk us through your designs that link to Cornish settings and what it means to you… 

TR: "Where do I begin…I instantly think of the iconic waves that barrel towards the shore - this is where the Comber Range was born. Looping upon themselves, and disappearing into the design, the winding timber lengths represent how seamless and strong the motions of the sea can be." 

Tom Raffield Drift Pendant
Creating a tranquil atmosphere, the Drift Pendant illuminates interiors with a welcoming, warm glow.
Tom Raffield Arame Pendant
Bursting with energy and personality, the Arame Pendant makes a bold focal point within your space whether switched on or off.

"Also discovered on a classic Cornish beach was our iconic Arame design. Danie found a striking piece of seaweed, which had a unique and beautiful structure – a simple, repetitive pattern that really caught our imagination and subsequently inspired the Arame design, which creates a mesmerising display of light and shadow."

Leven Lighting
Inspired by the strong geometry found in the Art Deco movement, the Leven Lighting Range provides structure, through clean lines and bold light.

"Another of our seascape inspired designs would be the new Leven Lighting Range. The range was inspired by studying cliff faces and the formation of rocks – the layer upon layer of stone provided a different perspective and I sought to create a design that mimicked stacking structures."

Scots Pendant
Delicate, yet striking, the Scots Pendant invites the familiar forms of nature to your space.

"Furthermore, the Scots Pendant is another strong representation of how nature inspires my work - the layered form is reminiscent of pinecones found on woodland walks - it’s a joy to see that structure brought indoors."

Do you have any designs that fall outside the “inspired by nature” bracket?

TR: "Naturally, because of the organic materials we use, all of our designs connect to nature, but some less obviously in shape.  Our Ash Accessories for example, are not inherently inspired by the structures found in nature, the shapes are very much functional (with a twist!) but each design showcases the versatility and beauty of ash wood. The attraction of the range is found in the unique colour, grain and texture of each piece. We love to celebrate the beauty found in nature whether that's in organic forms or the material itself. "

"A handful of our lighting designs draw inspiration from industrial minimalism – such as the Archer Table Light and the Wheal Lighting Range. With modern flourishes, these designs combine wood with brass fittings that are intended to suit a wide range of interiors. The aim with all our lighting designs is to craft pieces that create a comforting environment, whilst providing beautiful task lighting. "

How does your steam bending technique allow you to experiment with designing? 

TR: "We often design products through a hands-on and experimental making phase at our Falmouth workshop, this creative process opens us up to experimentation, sometimes designs work out well and sometimes they don’t, and go back to the drawing board – that’s the beauty of using a traditional craft. The unique patterns (or tiger stripes as we sometimes refer to them) that make up the sustainably sourced wood we use, combined with the beautiful results of steam bending, allow for each design to be one of a kind. This experimentation is why I love our craft so much, we are able to create durable, unique pieces, that will be centrepieces in homes for decades to come. "

Tom Raffield workshop team steam bending
The low energy and low waste craft of steam bending is at the heart of what we create.

Do you find lighting or furniture more rewarding to make? 

TR: "With lighting designs, you can see immediate results. When a sculptural, wooden light is placed into a room, a space is transformed into a home. The impact is highlighted even further when the shade is illuminated, and the design yields a welcoming glow.

Making furniture and accessories from solid wood is also incredibly rewarding – I really enjoy creating pieces that have a versatile range of uses. Often the reward comes from seeing these pieces in a customer's home, being used in a way I hadn’t considered before – the Crib Stool as a bedside table or the Log Loop for storing bottles of wine. We're working on some exciting furniture designs at the moment, and I'm so excited to see people enjoying them. "

Tom Raffield team steam bending
Each design is crafted by hand to order, from our workshop in Falmouth, Cornwall.

"The true reward of crafting our heirlooms is knowing they will be creating an impact in interiors for decades, with each design crafted to last a lifetime. This means we can honestly, and openly, pledge ourselves to great companies like WWF and Ecologi, knowing we are doing all we can to protect the planet – just as these wonderful partners do."

“I truly believe that sustainability should be synonymous with good design, much like quality and function are, and that this is the answer to over-consumption and the environmental challenges we face."

- Tom Raffield, Founder.
Tom Raffield Wood Selection
We avoid nasty glues, or chemicals when it comes to our beautiful designs - only sustainably sourced, ethical materials.

Are there materials you’d never work with any why?

TR: "I am open to working with most materials, however my one rule will always be that I won’t use any material that isn’t sustainable. If I have a vision for a design and it requires a new material, we definitely see this as an exciting challenge. Finding a sustainable route to achieve our newest idea is without doubt one of the most enjoyable processes when it comes to the design process.

For example, we don’t use tropical soft woods, as they are not commercially viable or sustainable for our production purposes. We prefer using temperate hardwood such as ash, due to its self-seeding and fast growing, straight grain (that’s ideal for steam bending and producing very little waste)."

Tell us your favourite nature-inspired design you’ve made to-date? 

TR: "This is like asking to pick a favourite child! I feel proud of our curated collection and feel every piece has purpose. The Leven Lighting Range is special to me, as it is so different to past designs. The unique structure, art deco styling married with the coastal inspiration, creates such a unique statement which I hope to continue crafting for years to come. Turns out its fun to experiment with straight lines as well as curves!"

Leven Pendants
Create an impact in your space, no matter the size. With three sizes of the Leven Pendant available, the Leven Pendant Range suits a wide range of interiors.
Tom Raffield New Verso Range
Transforming interiors with sculptural lighting, the Verso Range seemingly defies gravity with swooping layers of sustainably sourced wood.

"Similarly to why the Leven Range is one of my favourites, our new Verso Lighting collection has a unique, distinctive aesthetic that sets it apart – and one I’m particularly fond of. I have always wanted to experiment with asymmetry, and this is our first design to explore this modern look. We went through a lot of prototyping with the Verso Range development, the asymmetrical design ultimately gives the customer creative control – they decide how the light is displayed in their space."

Tom Raffield Urchin Table Light
Well suited for welcoming spaces where a warm glow to embrace guests is needed, the Urchin Table Light is embraced by a range of spaces.

"The Urchin Lighting Range is a timeless classic that I think is synonymous with nature, reminiscent sandcombed shells. Something I think every generation will find familiar and enjoy welcoming into their homes. "

Posted: 28.10.21
Updated: 28.10.21

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