Currently exhibiting at Haunch of Venison and designers of the 2012 Olympic Torch, dynamic duo BarberOsgerby are having a moment.
Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby met at the Royal Academy in the mid 90s. After graduating they took an office in the brutalist Trellick Tower (its austere curves were echoed in their breakthrough piece, the Loop Table), and set about cannoning to the top of the design world with commissions from Vitra, Venini, Sony and Flos, professorships, two more studios – Universal Design and Map – and a book. Exhibited at the V&A and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, their work is vigorous and fluid with strong lines and vivid colours, ranging from buildings to furniture to tableware. Their current exhibit at Haunch of Venison shows eight new pieces inspired by the structures and engineered forms of moving craft, or in their words “hidden design”.
i-D online caught up with Edward and Jay in Prague, where they were promoting their Tip Ton chair at the design exhibition Designblok. They talk at once, in oppostite directions, and cohabit sentences. This is a scrubbed record of our discussion…
How did it all start?
Edward: We met in class.
Jay: We sat next to each other. The course was pretty slow and boring so we started doing projects on the side.
Edward: We were studying architecture and making lots of cardboard models, and so most of our early stuff folded and curved like card.
You often use technology that’s still developing. Are you ever frustrated by the limitations?
Edward: You need the limitations – the more the better. It’s like being backed into a corner and fighting your way out. It’s a puzzle…
Jay: …A jigsaw. The worst is when someone says “We love your work, we want you to do a project for us, do whatever you want.” Now we just say no – we’ve learnt to recognise a blind alley.
Is there a BarberOsgerby style?
Edward: I hope not! I think it’s lame when someone has a style and adapts the work to fit it.
Jay: A lot of designers’ stuff is recognisable as soon as you see it. Their work is their branding.
Your profile has skyrocketed in the last year…
Edward: Being a designer is like fishing and the line is your product. You drop it in and you don’t know what will happen. Who knows why people go fishing, sitting there all day not catching anything. That’s what it was like with us for a long time. Then we realised it was a reservoir so there were no fish.
What was the reservoir called?
Jay: The ‘90s.
Why is your work so diverse?
Jay: We’re curious.
Text: Natalia O’Hara