Last week we met up with Ronan of Design Onion based in County Tyrone. Design Onion is a young, energetic furniture design and manufacture studio formed in 2007 by Ronan Lowery. Working mainly to commission for both private and corporate clients, we create unique and innovative pieces of bespoke furniture fusing contemporary design with traditional woodworking techniques and modern materials.
What makes your product unique?
Design Onion specialise in the creation of bespoke fitted and free standing furniture. We strive to fuse contemporary design and modern manufacturing processes with a firmly seated background in traditional woodworking where high quality materials and traditional techniques take precedence. We work with private individuals, specifiers, commercial clients, public sector organisations as well as other creatives. We believe we are unique in the marketplace in that we are solution finders – we don’t like to say no! Previous projects have ranged from spaceship-like en-suite pods for forest domes and wooden engagement rings to sliding kitchen island worktops in vintage oak.
What inspires you as an artist/maker?
I draw my inspiration from a variety of sources. I think looking back at pieces I have created over the years, geometry, mathematics and natural patterns are definitely strong influences, albeit in a subtle way. When I’m designing for a client I always like to include something personal into the piece, whether it’s a material, the form or concept itself. Recently materials have been a starting point for the design of some work. I have been exploring the use of the ancient Japanese technique of Shou Sugi Ban which involves scorching the surface of wood to prtect it. I think there is something intriguing about a destructive process giving a material enhanced qualities. I completed a recent commission where I used it to symbolise how overcoming illness can result in a stronger being.
How did you get started?
Following school, I went to The Furniture College, Letterfrack and studied Furniture Design and Manufacture. I worked during the summers with local furniture designers/manufacturers and gained invaluable experience with them. I graduated in 2007 and I was accepted onto a two-year craft business start-up programme with Craft Northern Ireland called ‘Making it’. The programme allowed me to establish Design Onion through help from technical and business mentoring, exhibition opportunities, network building and structured business training. Subsequent to completing the programme I established an independent workspace in Belleek where we were based for 5 years. Due to continued growth and expansion we recently relocated to larger workshop and studio space where we are looking forward to embarking on the next stage of the Design Onion story.
Why do you think it’s important to keep local?
For me, keeping local means two things, keeping control and being supportive. Whether it’s control of exactly where my food comes from or control of the quality of outsourced processes. For my customers, keeping local means they have input into every process of a commission. All my clients are more than welcome to call to our studio at any time to see their piece taking shape, discuss changes or additions or even just to have some great coffee and a chat! When I expect my customers to keep things local it’s also important for me to support other local businesses both in business and personally.
What motto do you live/work by?
“Don’t trust anyone who has a motto”
Visit designonion.net home to see a full gallery of their work.