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Meet the Designers from Bert Frank and Kensa Designs

Posted by Mark Godsell-Fletcher on

Every week we feature some amazing products but who are the people behind them?  In this special feature we meet the designers from Bert Frank and Kensa Designs about their work and their inspiration.  I found time to talk to them in Decorex in September about their eye catching and really fascinating pieces. Bert Frank This newly launched high end range has an elegant vintage feel and depicts a striking balance of handsome good looks and functionality.  I managed to get a chance to meet the Founder and Principal Design Robbie Llewellyn. Bert Frank Robbie Llewellyn Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today.  Where did your inspiration come to launch Bert Frank? I have worked in the lighting industry for about 10 years now, mainly designing bespoke lights but initially working for a lighting company that sold a mixture of antiques and their own range. This was a fantastic education for me as the owner had amazing knowledge and taste. I was introduced to and was able to evaluate the best examples of lighting from its very beginning up to the modern day. This is where I started to develop a style and aesthetic of my own that seemed to be made up of elements from all these different influences I was getting. Initially it was the geometric Deco style that grabbed my attention but when I discovered some of the great mid-century lighting designs I was hooked. This has been added to and tweaked over the years and the designs that I am currently producing are a result of that. Shear Pendant Bert Frank You've mentioned that one intention is to design objects that can potentially outlive their owners. I think this desire came from seeing so many amazing antique lights in my career and really appreciating that something designed and manufactured well could still be appreciated and used 100 years later. I think that this is so rare today and I don’t see why it should be. Riddle DoubleArm Table Brass Bert Frank Do you build many prototypes to get to the final solution, or is it a straightforward journey of development from a clear initial idea? I do build quite a few prototypes actually, but it is intentional. I find that even though I do the majority of the design on paper and CAD there are a few things that just need to be seen and touched in the flesh. Reflections on metals, shadows, light distribution/effects and finishes can be planned but really need to be seen and tested. I also find that the process of building prototypes often offers up ideas and even problems that end up in solutions better than my original concept. It is a part of the design process that I value and enjoy very much and I am very lucky that our in house manufacturing expertise is so exceptional. Revolve Table web How important to you is it to have your lights manufactured in the UK, and is that an easy thing to achieve these days? It is crucial and to be honest it is an absolute requirement for us, not only out of choice but also from a control and quality point of view. I genuinely believe that we still have some of the most highly skilled craftsmen and engineers in this country, especially when it comes to high-end luxury items in which this country has such a great history. We don’t make our products in huge quantities and the quality of production is so crucial for our designs that we would not consider looking overseas while we still have the skills in the UK. So I think it is easy at the moment but there is a very real danger that we will lose these skills forever, as they are not being passed on as manufacturing moves abroad.  Riddle SingleArm Table Brass Are you able to tell us what you are working on next? We have another 3 ranges to release in the coming months so we are currently working on the final design and production details for those. The Revolve table lamp is one of our new lines. Once we have released these and they are fully in production it’s back to the drawing board, I fancy doing something really big next!   Kensa Designs Kensa Designs create incredible one off statement pieces from antique furniture brought back to life through works of art.  Sally Ann worked in the city and Ken, a painter decorator so how did they meet and form the company? I spoke to Sally Ann  and asked her how the company was created? The company was created two years ago.  We met by pure coincidence in a DIY store. I employed Ken to come and renovate and restore my house and three years later when we were finishing off doing all the decoration I asked him to paint some artwork onto a piece of furniture as I couldn’t find anything that I wanted that fitted the style that I wanted in the room.  It was immediately obvious that Ken's talent was wasted as a painter decorator and we decided to start a venture together.  I source the furniture and together we discuss the ideas for design ensuring the image is sympathetic to the piece. Goldfish Sideboard Kensa Designs How do you source the furniture? We source from antique dealers and from auction houses, sometimes pieces are selected because we like the shape.  Ken has been wanting to paint a skull for quite a while but we haven’t seen the right piece of furniture, we then saw a Scottish chest.  The 1870's Scottish chest was very masculine a real Gothic piece, we thought this would be perfect.  We might buy a piece simply because it’s a beautiful piece of furniture. Painted Skill on 18th Century Chest Kensa Designs How do you choose the image? Does the piece of furniture talk to you? Inspiration comes from everywhere, my home, magazines, just taking a walk, you see images, you see things.  Take our Tiger piece for example, we sourced this really strong piece of art deco furniture and we know the image needed to represent it.  We couldn't decide on whether it was going to be a tiger or a lion coming through the grass watching its prey. I found an image of a sleeping Tiger, it had such softness that we felt it was a wonderful contrast to the enormous piece of furniture. Kensa Designs What about the finishes? Ken undertakes the restoration, artwork, and the lacquering of the furniture.  The finishing touches we undertake together such as the keys, the locks, the insides, the linings and the mirrors.  We just don't stop until were totally happy that the piece is absolutely perfect. Ballerina Wardrobe Kensa Designs Who would be your typical client? The product is very specific as each piece is totally bespoke, unique and designed to be statement pieces.  Interior Designers have been extremely interested as they create a focal point when you are in a room and of course because they are one of a kind.  Because of the the nature of the design they will suit a specific client. Thank you Thank you to both Bert Frank and Kensa Designs.  Here are my favourite pieces from their collections for where you Eat Sleep Live. Eat Bert Frank Riddle pendants Cocktail Cabinet Kensa Design Sleep Cask Bert Frank Kensa Designs Wardrobe Live Revolve Pendant Bert Frank Peacock in Garden Kensa Designs


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