Q & A with Neil Fennell of Blue Bridge Design
Here at designist we have incredible Irish designers & makers supplying us with their amazing products. We thought we would get to know them and their processes with a little Q & A!
In the first of our series we meet Neil Fennell of Blue Bridge Designs. Neil is based in Co. Laois and began his company during his architectural studies. We stock Neil’s range of clocks which you can check out here
So what is working for yourself like?
Working for yourself is the best. The freedom to pursue what you enjoy doing is the best feeling. I set my own deadlines and targets and I only have myself to blame if I don’t meet them.
Did you always want to be a designer/ maker?
I was always making things. From a young age I always sold pieces to my mams friends. It wasn’t designing back then, just making. I didn’t realise that making things slightly different/better each time was my way of designing. My way of improving and developing through the process of making.
I don’t always sit down and design from scratch. Sometimes it’s an idea that evolves from making and doing repeats with lots of variations.
How long does it take to make one of your clocks?
They all vary depending on how detailed each clock is. For the most part, I will sand a lot of pieces together and prepare them at once. When painting the segments for the citrus clocks I paint the surface, wait for it to dry-sand the clock face and repaint the wood to get into the grain of the wood. This takes time but its worth it when the grain shows through and catches your eye. So to answer the question…from start to finish it probably takes a few hours per clock.
It’s still evolving! I have two variations of the same design for my citrus clock. One is sort of like the negative space of the other. One is more minimal, appealing to people who like a simpler visual. When I was testing the product, there were variations in size and material type and most importantly was the shades of colour used. I must have driven friends and family mad, asking them to choose between different shades of green.
There are lots of spinning plates, what do you find to be the most challenging part of being a designer/maker & promoter/seller of your products?
I find that it’s important to stay relevant and relate your work to current trends - that does not mean that they have to fit into the trend, but you should be aware of what’s going on and have a reaction to it. Staying relevant is important for sales and marketing, but staying relevant to your brand and design premise is more important. Switching styles so you can sell more is not the way to build a good design reputation. Staying true to design principles can be difficult with so much happening.
When you're not designing what do you like to do?
I like to cook and eat what I’ve cooked (haha). I cook the same way I design- by testing, sampling and adjusting until I'm happy with the end result. This does mean lots of trial cakes and first-attempt curries etc. I like to listen to music and when I get the chance I like to read for fun and for work.
Is there anything next in the pipeline?
I am currently working on new designs for homewares that focus on FORM. Influenced by landscape and geometry, these new products look at the shape of objects and how they relate to the human hand, but also how they relate to each other. Some new materials and production techniques are being perfected as we speak.
Who is your favourite designer/ influence?
As an architect and designer, Mies van de Rohe. The Barcelona chair is a design classic and still on my wish list. A more contemporary influence would be Grafton Architects. Not any one building, but their approach to design as a solution gives their work much more purpose.
And finally, Barry's or Lyons?
I am more of a coffee person- (I know, don’t shoot me!) But, if you forced me into having a cup of tea, I would be that really awkward person who asks: ‘Do you have any peppermint tea?’