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'BOROUGH LIGHT' Bespoke commission for cashmere brand Kit & Ace Image by James Patmore Studio.
18th August 2017

Water: An Interview with James Patmore

Armed with a hand-held PU-squirting extruder, multidisciplinary designer James Patmore can effectively sketch in three dimensions. Just as water shifts state from liquid to solid, the malleable plastic solidifies as soon as it leaves the machine, allowing James to craft scribble-like forms. The result of these experiments is Cloud, a tempestuous lighting feature on show during London Design Festival as part of H2O-inspired exhibition Water at Peckham’s Copeland Gallery. Inspired by the molecular structure of water, Cloud is a organic form hand-sketched by James, interlaced with tiny LEDs.

Londoner James attributes his love for materials from growing up next to a timber merchant in Hackney. His debut homeware collection, which launched in 2014, aptly featured handmade geometric candle holders and dishes made from ash, beech and oak, alongside the laser-cut aluminium Umbra Table Light, which emitted a fuzzy glow from its moon-like surface.

His material exploration continued with Horizon, an installation of hand-dyed natural ropes that transformed East London coffee shop The Liberty of Norton Folgate into an enclosure of ombré colour. Having worked on high profile projects for the likes of Audi, Veuve Clicquot and the V&A, his interest in materials recently led James to China and Hong Kong to explore production methods there, before returning to concentrate on using installations to tell stories and developing experimental objects like Cloud.

Designer, James Patmore. Photography by Yu-Kuang Chou.

Intended as a statement piece for a residential or hospitality environment, Cloud juxtaposes a very visible human hand (through James’ erratic linework) with state-of-the-art material technology. On a suitably stormy day, we caught up with James to quiz him on the thinking behind Cloud, the challenges of drawing in 3D and how water has inspired his process.

Where did the idea come from to create a product using extruded plastic?

As a child, I would take the magazines out of the Sunday paper and proceed to sketch over them, curating the pages as I went. I would sketch over faces and around the text with cubic exaggeration using geometric and graphical shapes. Turning the pages into a contrasting landscape of cross hatching experiments and dominant lines. I took this habit through school, where I would scrawl graffiti tags across textbooks and lecture notes until I had stopped altogether. Cloud is a further development of this. Using the 3D drawing process I am able to create these sketches and ideas in real time in real space.

Horizon, James Patmore Studio

How does Cloud tie into the water theme?

This piece is a result of many liquid experiments where I've been exploring the use and properties of solidifying liquid materials. I have looked into water’s molecular structure, which enables free movement as well as expansion and compression through changes in temperature. When looking at possible materials for moulds and accompanying processes, I explored material absorption, retention, evaporation and the rejection of water. This lead me to look deeper into the free-formation of liquids to solids through 3D printing and robotic plastic extrusion and, finally, 3D drawing technology. The latter is a process that I find I am able to control in an organic way creatively and practically.

Umbra Table Light, James Patmore Studio

Tell us about some of your initial experiments and how you have evolved the process?

I have explored how water sits within objects, taking their form through complete malleability, and what happens when the restraints of the container are removed. As well as the form, it naturally takes on different surfaces. Initial experiments lead to mould-making, and using resins and other hard-forming liquids so that I can track the material’s free moment before solidification and echo this in my 3D drawing. 

What are the challenges in creating lighting in this way?

Lighting technology at the moment provides such flexibility that the options are abundant. I decided to run micro LEDs throughout the piece, which run on a dimmable circuit so they can transform from a soft lighting feature to a piece capable of projecting geometric shadows across its environment. Although the lighting element was straightforward, the real challenge of the piece was the organic nature of water and how to represent this through an object without the form feeling contrived.


Test for James Patmore's light for Water
Visit Water at Copeland Gallery from 19 – 24 September. For more info visit www.waterexhibition.co.uk

Want more Water? Read interviews with Andy SheenDean BrownFernando Laposse, Unit Lab and Henrik Nieratschker

Horizon, James Patmore Studio
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