About making beautiful things

Since 2004 PINCH have made enduring furniture and lighting designs that celebrate simple forms and excellent craftsmanship. What follows is an intimate insight into how Russell Pinch and Oona Bannon work and the things that inspire them.

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A commitment made

It was 2004 when we launched the first PINCH products: a collection of storage furniture; armoires, credenzas, cupboards. They were a statement of intent. Each had been beautifully made, they were generous, forgiving, emphatic; products to live a lifetime with. We took our first order and have been making ever since.

At Pinch we believe in many things; in an emotional connection to the materials around us, that there are no short cuts when it comes to making something well, in the enduring beauty and appeal of a pure form. We live in a cluttered world and understand that any furniture or product must work hard to win its place.

How we make has always been incredibly important. There is a clear relationship between us, our lives, our design studio, the people we work with, and Pinch products.

Our commitment is to work in the best way we can.

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Put creativity first

In the beginning our home was our workshop, a studio and a showroom. Everything was for sale. One morning we were woken by a Norwegian couple standing on our doorstep with suitcases at their feet, they had come directly from the airport. We showed them armoires; the calling cards of our new design studio, the small sofa designed to fit in the bay of a window, tables, chairs. They were pleased; complimentary of the hard-won finishes and details and they bought most of it, emptying the rooms. We begged them not to buy our dining table.

There is a sense of autobiography to PINCH that was especially obvious in those early works. We were designing for ourselves and how we wanted to live.

On four large sheets of white paper tacked to the wall we wrote:

  • ‘Design that endures’
  • ‘Always put creativity first’
  • ‘Trust in ourselves’
  • ‘Trust in the skills of those around us’

These things became a manifesto for our work.

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Our customers have propelled us forwards. We listen carefully to the people who buy our objects:

the young couple buying their first ‘proper’ piece,

the irrepressible collectors,

the comfort seekers,

the entertainers,

friends and strangers.

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Make it sing

‘Follow the design through’.

This favourite saying reminds us that we are not beholden to any material nor dominated by any particular methodology of making. Our approach has always been more democratic; we react to every product’s individual wants, we try to satisfy its demands: to make it sing.

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We have learnt lessons from history; there are reflections of American Shaker and Scandinavian Modernism in our pieces. And a subtle Britishness influenced by the proportion and rigor of Georgian architecture, the warmth and humanity of Arts & Crafts, the simple beauty of the landscape.

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‘How do we want to live?’ From there we explore object typologies, atmospheres we want to orchestrate and functions we want to fulfil. Inspiration comes to us in no orderly fashion:

  • pages torn from fashion magazines,
  • leaden skies,
  • a material full of possibilities,
  • that Vermeer moment.
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Hand and heart

PINCH furniture is made in a workshop where fine balsa dust permanently hangs in the air.

Our design process begins and ends with the hand: Russell literally feels his way through each object. He imagines, sculpts, carves, amends, fixes. Then comes plenty of communal discussion and gatherings around the workbench where opinions are given frankly. Ideas begin to layer one on top of another. Then back to the tools for more concentrated making; head and heart and eye in concert.

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Model making is an indispensable part of our process. This world in miniature lets us imagine, envision, and feel the works to come.

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Oona distils. She takes in more from the environment than I do. There are times when Oona is the eyes and the ears and I am the hands.

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Play to their skills

We have travelled the road to Dorset many times. In the winter, you can make out the light from a workshop at the very end of a country lane. The people here use well-practiced principles of cabinet-making. They, like us, want to do things once and do them well. We all want to make better products.

PINCH work with gifted craftsmen and women and specialist manufacturers across the country. We seek each out because of their rare talents. Our designs play to their skills and that is the way it should be.

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Visiting our makers is important, we want to witness the manufacturing process that we have initiated.

These trips are always enlightening. Everyone works hard to communicate and to understand each other.

We talk, we negotiate, and we refine, refine, refine.

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The air smells dry and there are mounds of sawdust across the factory floor, like termite mounds.

Working with wood is a perpetual pleasure for us and we never cease to be amazed by the generosity of this enduring material. We have cele- brated its strength, its tactility, warmth and character in many pieces.

We are always respectful of resources, the materials we use and the people we work with.

We have stained glass windows high in the walls of our studio. They are a curiosity in an otherwise industrial space. As the day progresses fragments of coloured light dance delicately across the surface of the walls and floor:

glimmering,

shifting,

never resting,

their path determined by the cycle of the day and season.

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Similarly, we move instinctively through our days; migrating between design, making, communicating, selling. Shifting between the personal and professional, the country and the city.

Each element is essential in making our work what it is, in the pursuit of making beautiful things.

Photography by Samuel Bradley
Concept by Laura Houseley and Robbie Mahoney
Words by Laura Houseley