This week in our Q & A Series we meet Ned Kaar. Ned designs and makes the beautiful Hands Lamp Collection. Rooted in Irish heritage but made of modern materials, Ned uses engineering materials reshaped using traditional techniques to create simple, functional items.
So what is working for yourself like?
It’s great! You pick your own projects and march to your own drum which is the biggest upshot but it’s nerve wrecking at times too; there are plenty of steep learning curves and responsibilities that can’t be shirked when you work for yourself.
Did you always want to be a designer/ maker?
Ever since I knew that it was a thing, which was probably in secondary school. I’ve always been a bit of a people pleaser I guess. I think a lot of people reckon they knew they wanted to make things when they first played with Lego as a kid, but I wasn’t such a little Lego person. I did have a Duplo pirate ship though that floated in the bath, and I can still remember the fun I had with that. Maybe I have been on the path since then.
How long does it take to make one of your Hands Lamps?
It takes a couple of hours from start to finish, including the packaging that I hand make too. I tend to work in batches meaning I never really make just one at a time. I love the process of combining different materials to make functional items so the time tends to fly.
Were there many iterations before you got to the final product?
Yes, yes and yes. I was working with a bunch of different wood qualities, material thicknesses, cable colours and lengths and packaging designs too. Every thing I could change I changed at least once, just to see. I wouldn’t even be able to tell you how many iterations there were. I really wanted to make sure that functionally and, as far as I’m concerned, aesthetically the lamps worked. I really laboured over the details for a long time, but I think that work was well worth it now when I look at the finished lamps.
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?
The marketing and promotion are the most challenging for me. The internet and social media are great for getting products in front of people but everyone is competing for attention and I find it can be overwhelming both as a casual user and a business. I love to be able to put my lamps physically in front of people, however we all window shop on the internet now so building a presence online is something I try to spend time on when I’m not designing and making.
When you're not designing what do you like to do?
I like to hunt out good food and company. Ireland’s such a great place for food so I try to make as much time as possible for eating and cooking. Then just add mates and mix.
Is there anything next in the pipeline?
Yeah, I’m working on a bunch of different things. I think the next thing that will be out in the world are a bunch of hand painted wooden figures that are inspired by market and street sellers around Dublin. I’m calling them totems – something decorative for the dresser or windowsill. There’s this thing happening on the 25th of December too of course...
Who is your favourite designer/ influence?
Such a tough question – I feel like I’ve been influenced by so many people over the years. At a stretch, I’d have to go with the Italian designer Enzo Mari. His Autoprogettazione series from 1974 is a set of instructions for 19 pieces of furniture that can be made from timber (such as those you buy in your local timber yard) and constructed with simply a hammer and nails. The instructions could be requested by sending a letter to the designer and he would post them back to you. It is, in my opinion, the perfect combination of socially and environmentally friendly design created by a true master.
And finally, Barry's or Lyons?
Lyons. By the pot. Please and thanks.