Staying Creative with Jake Martin and Dom Johnson
We chat to London based multi-disciplinary designers and woodworkers Jake Martin (left) and Dom Johnson (Right) about creative challenges and the 'Controlled Chaos' of our 2020 Redchurch Street shop build.
Jake and Dom are motivated by simplicity and functionality. Their simple yet elevated taste of materials combines with respect for tradition and a sense of sarcasm in their work, which spans from tool making and homeware to furniture design to larger scale interior fitting.
In 2020 we commissioned the pair to design and build the interior of our flagship store on Redchurch Street, and we recently caught up with them on the inspirations and use of materials, as well as their other ongoing projects and plans to work together in the future.
Cheers for all your hard work boys, can you talk us through some aspects of the build?
Thanks! We enjoyed working on it. Due to the scale and nature of the project, we wanted to create a system which followed a set of formal principles. As the build was almost entirely made up of display units - which needed to both hang and store the garments - we designed a scalable framework that could be applied to the spec and requirements of each unit. This ensured all elements of the build remained consistent, and allowed us to design and make smaller and unplanned components in situ without obtrusion.
Like the SCRT team we are motivated by functionality and materiality, and hoped to design a system that celebrated the stock as well as the materials with which it was displayed. Drawing influence from Japanese and Scandinavian design principles, as well as Enzo Mari’s Autoprogetazzione, the system was made up of perpendicular timber beams at 90 degrees, using hidden dowel joins to give a sense of reach that mirrored the length of the store’s footprint.
How was it that you got into both carpentry and design?
Drawing, tinkering, buying tools at car boot sales, making pallet furniture as students; generally being curious about materials and processes. We met on the art foundation at Kingston in 2015, and both went on to study design at uni. We’ve been making objects and building structures together since then, but it’s in the last two or three years that we’ve been fortunate to work on bigger and more ambitious projects together.
Can you talk us through any cool uses of material in the shop build?
Throughout the shop we established a limited material language. The framework of display units were made in European Redwood; a strong and lightweight form of pine which lent itself to the sleek yet load-bearing grid structures. Planed all round at 33mm x 33mm, there was an elegant geometry to the redwood which we tried to celebrate in the designed system. Multiple slats of parallel lengths became a consistent visual language across the project, employed within the window display and standing screen as a structural and visual device. Keen to foreground the clothes on display, we kept the pallete of the display units light and neutral: redwood has a soft pale grain, and birch plywood made up the shelves and drawers.
To offset this minimal language we introduced waxed cork and ink-stained black timber. These heavier, denser materials became visual features of the project, appearing across the till, wall columns and occasionally punctuating the display units. Cork was considered for its sustainable, acoustic and thermal qualities, but mostly we loved its polished industrial finish; working in rolls allowed us to wrap large structures and give the sense of a solid block of cork. The phrase we kept coming back to with this language, particularly with the till, was ‘controlled chaos’. Layering up these chunky materials flush with one another, as to suggest a neatly sliced cross-section, was something we found visually very satisfying.
Any favourite/frustrating parts of the job?
To both questions, the sheer scale. Working as a pair we got to see the project through from conception to realisation, which was rewarding on an immediate and long term basis. Sweeping up after a long day with a beer to some music is something we’ll both look back on particularly fondly.
One testing moment during the project came about in securing a display unit to a breezeblock wall after a 13hr build, partly thanks to the age of the site. Every surface is slightly off from level, which proved challenging with the geometric ambition of the display units.
Throughout the project we both had a number of wobbly moments, but there’s a joy in working on something like this with a close friend; we pulled each other through at these points.
What do you think the essentials are for a happy and functional woodworking team?
For the build - communication, perseverance, similar music taste (Our SCRT project playlist is available here.
Patience and rigour are key onsite, but from the start the most crucial overlap is the vision. We get excited about the same things about a brief, so from the conception of an idea we can be on the same page. We might tackle the practical in different ways (which is great, and helps with problem solving no end), but we’re really lucky to instinctively share an eye and an ear for the same details.
Any other projects have you guys been involved with recently?
A long and varied list! We have our respective practices involving teaching and set-building, as well as working as independent designer/makers. Recent projects include a series of chopping boards, a brush from foraged oak and pine needles and lots of lockdown home improvements. We’ve both found making to be a welcome and necessary distraction from the woes of the pandemic.
All time weirdest piece you’ve made?
A pub table made only big enough for a single pint (Jake), and a curtained hat for eating on public transport (Dom).
Any dream clients?
Guinness, or maybe a festival. Or a Guinness festival!
What's next for you guys?
We have a couple of jobs that have been covid-postponed which we’re excited to pick up, as well as developing a couple of our own objects as a range. The next big step we’re hoping for is establishing our own workshop space, and formally launching as the visionary partnership, Lonely Hearts. Stay tuned!