deVOL Folk: Huw’s Story
9th February 2018
Have you ever been to work drinks and you get chatting with someone who you don’t usually speak to, or maybe you’ve emailed once or twice, and all of a sudden you are completely fascinated by all the cool things they’ve done or are getting up to? Well, these blogs are my attempt at recreating this so that you can get to know the wonderful and super interesting folk who make deVOL so special. First up for 2018 is our brilliant Creative Design Manager, Huw…
Huw with his saxaphone in a promotional photo for a group exhibition in Rugby called ‘Ali’s Octopus Ensemble’, 2014
H U W J A N E S
C R E A T I V E D E S I G N M A N A G E R
The more you get to know Huw, the more he surprises you with his incredible list of talents. A true creative, Huw is a dab hand at design, art and music amongst so many other things. Joining deVOL in 2015, he quickly worked his way up to become Creative Design Manager where he oversees all of our graphic design but this is just one of the many projects Huw is involved with here at deVOL. From designing new products to hand-painting amazing trompe-l’oeil around our St. John’s Square showroom, Huw is always up for a challenge and seems to excel in everything he puts his mind to. He’s such a huge asset to deVOL and we feel pretty lucky to have found such a talented and cool guy.
Painting the deVOL sign for our St. John’s Square showroom on a very cold winter evening with a little help from our MD, Robin
You head up the rapidly expanding graphic design team, are there any exciting projects in the pipeline?
We have so many different projects on at the moment that it’s getting hard to keep track of them all. There are all the essential never-ending jobs; making regular changes to our website, producing adverts for magazines, updating and reprinting all of our kitchen brochures – it’s a lot of work for our little team. But there’s also plenty of irregular odd jobs that come along too. We’ve just finished designing a handy pocket map to help guide people between our two London showrooms. The relatively scenic route takes only nine minutes to walk, plus we’ve highlighted some of our favourite places in Clerkenwell to visit along the way. This has all been brought to life with some brilliantly quirky illustrations by Mol, one of our newest additions to the graphic design team. Coming up next, we’ve just started work on a new brochure which will focus on our ever-growing range of award-winning furniture items and accessories!
A sneak peek at the new map we have been working on to show the route between our two London showrooms
You’re also involved in a lot of product and furniture design projects at deVOL, can you tell us a little bit about what it was like to be involved with creating our award winning Bum Stool and Chair range?
Yes, this is the part of my job that really knocks my socks off. It has been so satisfying, so rewarding and so much fun to have been involved in the design of these amazing products. I can’t really believe that I’ve ended up doing this!
The award winning Bum Stool by deVOL
Up until just before I began working for deVOL, I hadn’t really given much thought to what I wanted to do for a living. I’ve always been confident creatively and kind of obsessively committed to whatever it is that I’m working on, so I sort of assumed that after I graduated I would just keep on painting and making music and everything would probably just work itself out. You’re often told (well I was anyway) that a Fine Art degree doesn’t really lead to a particularly secure career, but looking back, I think that it’s actually put me in a great position. The course is so open that it allows you to pick up skills in a lot of different areas; whether that’s a craft, an understanding of materials or knowledge about other creative areas, other cultures, science, politics and important social issues etc. Most of all, the lack of direction really forces you to think and work for yourself – there are no projects, exams or briefs, just a white cube, your imagination and personal drive.
Our presentation for the Design Guild Mark at the Furniture Makers Hall in London
With that said, I didn’t learn how to design furniture during my degree (and I still don’t really know what I’m doing). It’s the incredibly fluid, and somewhat sporadic, creative environment at deVOL that has given me these new skills; learning about materials, manufacturing, digital modelling and rendering – even speaking in front of an audience! My proudest moment so far has definitely got to be winning the Design Guild Mark for the Bum Stool and Chair. Michael and I had to give a presentation about the range to a panel of prominent figures in the British design industry at the Furniture Makers Hall in London. It was pretty nerve wracking and I’ve always been rubbish at this sort of thing but somehow we managed to pull it off and they gave us the award!
Michael and I at the Design Guild Mark presentation at Clerkenwell Design Week 2017
Are there any other cool product design projects you’re working on?
I’ve really enjoyed working on the deVOL Carrara Marble Sinks that have just been installed in the new Millhouse kitchen. It’s one of those projects that has been bubbling under the surface for months; for every couple of steps forward you have to take one back because of some unforeseen issue with the design, material or manufacturing process. To see it all finally come together in the last few weeks has been great. I love how simple and elegant they look – effortlessly stylish and also seriously badass! We’re also in the early stages of producing some new traditional ceramic sinks, so keep an eye out for them too.
The deVOL Carrara Marble Sink in our new Millhouse showroom
Outside of deVOL you produce your own artwork, can you tell us a little bit more about these pieces?
To be honest, my paintings have taken a bit of a backseat recently. The trouble with them is that they take so long to design and make that I often end up moving on from a particular idea before I manage to execute it. Each design is related to a specific piece of music; I’ll listen to the track (relentlessly), write out the different parts and think about how to represent them visually using colour and shape. I don’t have a consistent formula for this, I like to treat each composition differently.
Ad Parnassum – painting by famous Bauhaus tutor Paul Klee, 1932
I’m mostly interested in finding ways of overlaying and meshing together flat sections of colour so that they contrast and assimilate at different points (like counterpoint or polyphony in music). One of my favourite examples of this device in a painting is Paul Klee’s ‘Ad Parnassum’, 1932 (compositions by people like Adolf Fleischmann and Yaacov Agam are also well worth checking out). I am still slowly finishing up a few canvases at the moment (very slowly!) but I need to have a general rethink about my whole approach before I start anything new. Feel free to have a look at some of my work here: http://huwjanes.tumblr.com/
At my degree show with my mummy in front of my kinetic painting ‘ Thembi’, 2015
The first time we met you were performing with your band at our deVOL Christmas party. I remember being surprised by just how good you guys were! How did it all start and who are your biggest influences?
Well, I’ve been performing and recording with a band called the Anteloids since 2010. We met in Rugby during our A levels. I’d just moved to the area a few days before school started. A couple of weeks later, I ended up sitting next to some identical twins, Tom and Ben, who had been playing music together for years accompanied by a drum machine. Everything just seemed to click perfectly between us so I replaced the drum machine, along with their friend Paul who joined to play synth, organ and percussion.
The Anteloids, taken at the West Indian Club in Rugby, 2014
My favourite thing about our band is that everything is always changing; it’s just been one long musical journey where our sound is constantly evolving as we find new inspiration. We started with 80s/90s alternative psychedelia like Spacemen 3, Brian Jonestown Massacre, then moved back to the 60s and 70s with early Pink Floyd, Velvet Underground, minimalist composers like Philip Glass, Steve Reich and avant-garde German music from groups like Can, Neu! and Popol Vuh. We started listening to people like Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Nina Simone, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and moved even further back to find a lot of their influences in early folk and blues recordings from the 20s and 30s.
Louis Armstrong with the Hot Sevens, 1927
The unparalleled richness of the music from this period totally blew our minds; Charley Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson, Bessie Smith, Will Shade, Memphis Minnie, Mississippi John Hurt, Bukka White, King Oliver, Blind Willie McTell, Henry Thomas, Skip James, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Dock Boggs, Uncle Dave Macon, the Carter Family, Amédé Ardoin, Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington – I could go on forever… We then moved forward in time and branched out into pretty much any area of music we could find; Cajun, Zydeco, Swing, Bebop, Free Jazz, Funk, Soul, Rock & Roll, Rocksteady, Reggae, Hip Hop and a lot of music from Africa (mostly Ethiopia and Nigeria). Bringing together all of these influences makes it tricky to explain what sort of music we play whenever anyone asks, but it’s usually pretty energetic and groovy!
Here’s a clip of us playing in Kreuzlingen (on the border between Switzerland and Germany) last summer – it was our last gig there so it was a bit of a crazy one. After we played, we went for a midnight/early morning stroll through the city because there happened to be an amazing annual antiques market taking place which lasted all night (on the German side of town anyway).
Besides playing the drums, I also play the washboard and saxophone. I’ve become obsessed with jazz since first delving in about 5 years ago, especially anything by people like Lester Young, John Coltrane, Clifford Jordan, Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders (all tenor saxophonists). So for my 21st birthday, I decided to buy a tenor sax and I’ve struggled to put it down ever since. I haven’t had any lessons yet but I probably should because (as with furniture design) I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing! Here’s a little clip of me playing soprano sax in a church with Ben from the Anteloids. It’s an interpretation of a piece called ‘Camino a Samarkanda’ by Argentinian saxophonist Ara Tokatlian, from 1975.
Last year you wrote a blog about The Pig & Applestock Festival that you organise with your friends, are you planning on holding another festival this year?
Yes, we’ve held the Pig & Applestock Festival every August bank holiday for the last 6 years now and I can’t see us stopping any time soon. We’ve just had our first festival meeting of the year to discuss our ideas and plans to make this one better than ever. I could talk about it for ages but it’s probably best if you just check out the blog I posted about it last year instead (if you’re interested): Click here to have a read
Our Swiss friends, Love Cans, playing at the Pig & Applestock Festival 2017
Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read all this stuff about me and I’m sorry that it’s a bit rambly! I am going to do my best to start posting more of my own blogs so that I can keep you all up to date with the various design projects that we’re working on. Plus I want to share all of the interesting bits of music, cinema, art and design that I come across – so check back soon!
– Discover more about the deVOL Bum Stool and Chair here.
– Or click here if you’d like to meet more of our lovely deVOL Folk.