Ben Barber is a Vancouver B.C. based Furniture designer.
Ben's work explores the character of shape, emotional resonance in color, and their unique interplay with the chosen materiality. The pairings he creates seem effortless and simple.
His Ellipse Dinning Table, and Pluto table are perfect examples of a very rare design achievement. They are fun and playful while still being luxurious and refined. Very few furniture makers skirt this line successfully, likely because of the difficulty and challenges presented. Both of these tables are very simple in form, but complicated in that they command a room and inspire conversation.
10 questions w/ Vancouver B.C. designer Ben Barber
MO: What is Ben Barber Studio and what do you do?
BB: We are a furniture based design studio focused on an evolving product line of tables, mirrors, objects, and anything that strikes my interest!
MO: Why did you become a furniture designer and if your younger self saw you now what would he think?
BB: To be honest my younger self would look at what I’m doing now and know that I am doing exactly what I should be. I’ve always loved to create. Plain and simple. When I was younger I wanted to be an architect, and was always building things. Then I went on to study sculpture. Now fast forward and here I am working within a happy medium of furniture which blends all my interests in construction, design and sculptural forms.
MO: What skill or process has best served you in your work and what do you see as your biggest hurdle?
BB: My best skill would be my ability to self-critique my own work. It’s a crucial skill I use every day when developing new work. As for hurdles my biggest weakness is the financial side of it all (anyone who knows me reading this will laugh and node their head). Pursuing a creative practice while trying to stay grounded in maintaining a businesses finances is one crazy juggling act.
MO: Do you set aside a time to design/create or do you wait for an idea to come to you? Can you describe your process?
BB: I don’t necessarily set aside time, I try to keep it very organic and let things flow in and out. When I do start to hone into an idea though I can get fairly obsessed with working it out.
Sometimes I’ll do a quick sketch on paper. But most of the time I go straight to the computer and will draw it out on a 3D-Modeling program. For me the form takes the ultimate hierarchy over material. Being able to rapidly draw something in a virtual three dimensional space allows me to get a sense of scale and get a feel for how light will move across the surface. Once I have the form locked in you have the freedom to look at it in an infinite amount of materials/coolers with the click of your mouse.
Once that’s done comes the logistics of bringing the idea to production. How is it going to be fabricated, which vendors can cover each step, what’s the general cost, etc…
When going through this process I like to remind myself of this quote
“design has to work art does not” - Donald Judd
MO: What elements would you say define the Ben Barber style?
BB: Minimal pure forms, with little narrative to the hand at work.
MO: If you had unlimited resources what would you be doing or designing?
BB: My two biggest limiters are material logistics, and production size. I would love the opportunity to work with larger producers/galleries to commission a body of work I otherwise would not be able to do myself through my small studio.
MO: Who do you design for?
BB: I would like to think I design for anyone. If my work resonates with you in any way, then it is for you.
MO: What forms, materials and colors inspire you the most right now and even more so who?
BB: At the moment I’ve been really interested in working with stone. It lends itself well to the types of forms I like to explore and is directly tied to a lot of the materials I already use just on a more raw form (ie, glass, steel, aluminum, etc). I have also been really inspired by Japanese Gardens, the large scale projects have such a calming purity to them I resonate well with. It’s nature, but controlled and formed.
MO: What has been the biggest factor (besides your work/talent) in the growth of your company (i.e. trade shows, editorial, etc)
BB: Trade shows have been super helpful in my growth. It’s helped me get editorial coverage, be placed in front of the right eyes and given me the chance to meet a lot of people within the industry.
MO: What is your least favorite design trend and why?
BB: I really try to not get caught up in the idea of trends. Every design is part of a cyclical ball progressing forward. By the time something is labeled a trend it’s already on the back burner and the next wave of communication is coming up.
With that said there is a trend of larger producers hawking on smaller studios and ripping off their work. That shits not cool and is always disheartening to see.