The Dwell 24: Mac Collins

The Dwell 24: Mac Collins

Mac Collins is a young designer making a big name for himself through his functional furniture and objects that are rooted in the art of storytelling.

You could say that Mac Collins is a storyteller as much as he is a designer. Though he started at England’s Northumbria University with an idea about studying sculpture, he soon developed an interest in creating functional objects that could become part of the narratives of peoples’ lives. "Making chairs is almost the perfect embodiment of that for me," says Collins, now a designer in residence at his alma mater. 

He infuses his work with complex histories, through both visual aesthetics and how his objects manipulate the body. His breakout project, the Iklwa chair, was an exploration into his Afro-Caribbean heritage. The piece is meant to evoke feelings of power and prestige in its user, serving to protest the oppression of his ancestors. "I want to weave these stories into things," Collins says, "and let the narrative lead the design process."

Read the Q&A with Collins below to learn more about the emerging designer.

Hometown: Nottingham, United Kingdom

Describe what you make in 140 characters. I design and make narrative-driven furniture and objects.

What's the last thing you designed? A lounge chair and accompanying stool for the Discovered project, run by Wallpaper* magazine and The American Hardwoods Export Council (AHEC) for the Design Museum, London.

Do you have a daily creative ritual? Since my activities differ day-to-day, the only consistent ritual I have is to prepare my space for the task that I am about preform. My studio environment is not generally the tidiest, and so before instigating a task I will organize and clean that particular desk space to create a calm environment.

How do you procrastinate? I share a studio with another resident designer called Joe Franc, much of the less productive time in the day is spent chatting and joking with him. That being said, though we're not physically completing tasks, the topic of conversation is often rooted in the principles of design and is likely still time well spent.

What everyday object would you like to redesign? Why? An office/desk chair—firstly, because I need one, the desk chair I currently have was found out the back of a doctors practice. Though it is still fit for purpose, it is one of those recognizable cheap blue ones and it is ugly. So, from a self-indulgent perspective, it would be great to design one specifically for myself. Secondly, modern desk chairs are often so high-tech looking—I would be interested in designing one that still functioned well but was more sleek and striking.

Who are your heroes (in design, in life, in both)? Maya Angelou for the ability she had to articulate complex ideas so clearly. In design, I would have to say Enzo Mari and Sergio Rodriguestwo figures whose work particularly appealed to me right at the beginning of my education in design. Hella Jongerius, for her unique perspective of the world and approach to creating work.

What skill would you most like to learn? Though I make furniture, I had always had a feeling that I would have been good at designing and making garments. If the opportunity ever arose, I would be keen to develop an understanding of fashion design and pattern cutting.

What is your most treasured possession? A vintage Omega Seamaster watch that was left to me by a close family friend. The object is treasured for numerous reasons. The sentimental stories and history that the object carries. The appreciation I have for the design—the composition of shapes and the interlocking links of silver and gold. The seamless functionality of the object, and the appreciation for the intricate interworks that I have never seen but know are there.

What's your earliest memory of an encounter with design? There used to be a Muji in Nottingham when I was younger. I was an avid drawer and when I was perhaps 8 years old I was given an aluminum propelling pencil from Muji. I treasured this pencil. I could appreciate that this was more effective and more enjoyable to use than any other pencil I had used before. I could appreciate how it felt in my hand, found the clicking action satisfying, and loved the hidden rubber at the end. I still use these pencils in the workshop some 15 years later.

What contemporary design trend do you despise? Corny transformation furniture.

Finish this statement: All design should... Exist for a reason that is beyond financial gain.

What's in your dream house? A Chieftain Chair by Finn Juhl, 005 Coffee Table by Soft Baroque for Vaarnii and an original painting by Chris Ofili. An iteration of the Soap Table by Sabine Marcelis as my office desk, and a side table by Simone Brewster.

How can the design world be more inclusive? Many groups are excluded from accessing and using certain types of design. Similarly, there are areas of the design sector that are not yet open to designers from all communities, which limits the pool of experiences influencing the design of objects around us. The greater diversity in experiences feeding into the industry, the more sensitive the industry will be to a wider range of individuals.

What do you wish non-designers understood about the design industry? The process of coming to the right conclusion in a project is longer than some people expect. Design is a game of decision making—the contemplation to make the right decisions takes time.

You can learn more about Collins by visiting his website or on Instagram

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