Q&A with James Shaw

James Shaw portrait - Photo by Crafts Council

James Shaw's design work speaks of sustainability, materiality and squiggly lines. It is funny, but not like ha-ha, comic-sans funny, instead it is funny in the way that engages us more with his objects. Forcing us to ask important questions regarding issues, such as the plastic problem and the role of the maker in our current design climate.  We caught up with him in an interview about his work. 

Wellproven chair by James Shaw - Photograph by Peter Krejci

How would you describe your work?
My work is colourful, sometimes blobby and sometimes polished, sometimes beautiful and sometimes grotesquely intriguing. I follow paths of research, exploring aspects of the material landscapes in a hands on way, to try and make new results. Sometimes this may be exploring the nature of waste plastic or sometimes it's trying to grow plywood using bacteria. 

Extruded Lamp by James Shaw

Describe a regular day at the studio.
Much to the detriment of those who share a space with me, I am a bit of a flitter and so I tend to have about four things on the go at the same time and hover between them. At the studio, this usually consists of a commission I need to finish off in the workshop, something on the computer I need to finish down in the office, a test of some kind without any direct purpose in the workshop/bathroom/outdoors or some kind of fiddling around with food in the kitchen. My studio is becoming pretty well equipped now, which is really good, as it means we can incorporate lots of different materials and processes. 

What or who inspires you the most?
Right now, I am obsessed with a group of people known as the 'Synergians'. They came out of San Fransisco in the nineteen sixties and went on to create some absolutely incredible things through the power of optimism, determination and group effort. Their most famous project is the Biosphere 2, the entirely closed off eco system built in a huge greenhouse in Arizona which supported eight people for two years in the early nineties. There is a recent film about it called 'Spaceship Earth' which is mind blowing. 

Extruded Cutlery by James Shaw

What was the most significant visual moment in your life?
Watching 'Spaceship Earth' a couple of weeks ago.

What needs to change the most in the art and design world?
I think a lot will change inevitably, we are all totally saturated in stuff right now, and figuring out how to navigate that is going to be really interesting. One reaction may be ‘fewer better things’ a la Glen Adamson but I think it's equally likely that people will just reject stuff altogether. It's great that a lot of art institutions have stood up and said that they will make climate change their key focus but I think we need to go much further. 

Lino Table by James Shaw

If you weren't a designer, what would you do?
I would love to live in the woods for a while, ideally with a group of interesting people, building, growing things, and learning with nature. Not sure if that is a job… but I think having a varied, physically engaged work, is really important. I worked as a builder for a little bit and I’ve always thought that's what I would fall back on if the design thing fell through. 

Which has been your favourite project to work on so far?
In 2018 I co-curated and produced an exhibition on waste plastic with Laura Housley at the London Design Festival. It was an enormous project involving many people and crazy amounts of work but it was such a great balance of bringing people together, trying to spread an important message and creating interesting beautiful content. Plus the New York Times named it their 'standout show of LDF' so it's validated!
 Plastic Scene exhibition
Older Post
Newer Post
Close (esc)


Use this popup to embed a mailing list sign up form. Alternatively use it as a simple call to action with a link to a product or a page.

Age verification

By clicking enter you are verifying that you are old enough to consume alcohol.


Main Menu

Shopping Cart

Your cart is currently empty.
Shop now