Liam Hopkins is the founder of Lazerian, a Manchester creative studio established in 2006 in a former hat factory. Some recent Lazerian designs that have caught many eyes are the Mensa Collection of furniture and lighting, as well as the studio's range of jewellery. But a new series of cardboard furniture is soon to be unveiled ... Currently only renderings are available, but the line will be launched at Designersblock at Interiors 2010 in Birmingham this month.
Wasp Nest Sofa
Although Lazerian designs appear to be influenced by the structures and patterns that occur in nature, there is something also very mathematical about them. What are the structures that most motivate the studio?
At present we have been fully absorbed into the structures and patterns of crystals and wasp nests. Although there are many structures/patterns within nature that motivate us, a major one would be the works of Ernst Haeckel with the thousands of species he discovered in the 1800's.
How does Lazerian translate these patterns into functional design?
It always starts with working the material first, finding its strengths, weaknesses, characteristics and then working with these. It usually develops naturally into its own process for a specific material i.e the jewellery has the same process to make all the range. The Mensa collection and lighting has its own process and now the cardboard furniture has evolved into its own process of designing and making. So I'd say the material persuades us to create its own natural structure which will be influenced from many natural structures and patterns.
What sorts of materials are best implemented in these designs? What makes some better than others?
Each material has its own unique properties and, therefore, portrays different methods of form making, so I would say that there is no 'best' material in which to use, it's how you use it. For instance polypropylene is better for making organic flowing shapes as it bends in all directions and doesn't flaw easily, whereas plywood has a great structure and natural quality about it, yet it will only bend in one direction and has a limit to its radius in which it can bend in its natural state. Cardboard has fantastic strength and structure about it when you use the corrugate in the right direction, yet is not fantastic at creating radiuses whereas concrete is only limited to the form in which it's poured into.
Please tell us a bit about your new cardboard furniture project and whether this collection is designed for the long term.
The new cardboard range is what we have been working on for Designersblock to be shown at Interiors 2010. The curators from Designersblock got in touch and asked us if we would consider doing some new designs for the show, in which we would need to collaborate with another company of our choice. We chose Hargreaves Cardboard and Camira Fabrics. We decided to use cardboard as it's so readily available, cheap, sustainable, and has good strength and great characteristics. The fabric that we are using is made from nettles, whose colours and texture complement the cardboard in a very subtle way. The range consists of an armchair, a three-seater sofa, lighting and possibly a table. The range has been designed with a focus on the structures and patterns of wasp nests and crystals as afore mentioned. These structures work rather well with the cardboard; when it's built up in modular sections and nested together, the strength of the cardboard begins to blossom whilst maintaining a light organic feel. There has been great focus on the craftsmanship of the making of the pieces and the attention to detailing with the upholstery, so yes, they are for the long term, not for the mass market and for people to appreciate the quality and true potential of a material which is thrown away by thousands daily.