Modern Makers Series

MODERN MAKERS SERIES: Creative Duo Kim And Joe Launch Their Unique Skalpel Steak Knife by Tash South

Here on the Modern Makers Series I'm always on the hunt for unique pieces made with skill and care. This time I'm interviewing creatives, Kim Hutcheson and Joe Fitzgerald who have teamed up with maker, Stuart Mitchell, to come up with the unusual idea to create a skalpel-inspired steak knife.

The knife, inspired by a surgeon's scalpel – it's a unique piece of design in the world of steak knives, which on the whole have all looked pretty much the same for years. Kim and Joe didn't just want to make something that looked different, they wanted to make a knife that's genuinely well crafted and works beautifully – not just churned out of a factory. The knives are made to a very specific process in small batches of 100, each one individually finished by hand, which underlines Kim and Joe's ethos of 'doing one thing well'.

I love the clean design and element of dark humour of the product, and I'm not the only one, as they have already smashed their Kickstarter goal way before their deadline. I asked Kim and Joe to tell us more...

Tell us about your background and why you both decided to start producing these knives.
We're a creative team who have been working together for over 13 years. Together we come up with ideas and write adverts for brands. After working so closely, for so long, it was just natural that we started thinking up our own concepts. We've really enjoyed seeing this project develop from idea through to production, and actually having something physical to show for it at the end.

The concept is quite unusual, dark almost, how did you come up with the idea?
We're always bouncing random ideas back and forth, but I think this particular idea came to fruition over lunch - we were eating steak naturally. We both have quite a dark sense of humour, so the slightly macabre nature of the idea is what we loved. What started as a 'wouldn't it be cool if' moment, quickly became something that we decided to make happen.  

When did you launch your brand/Kickstarter campaign?
The Kickstarter campaign launched on the 19th of Feb this year, but there was months of work behind the scenes before that could happen. Having the idea was the quick bit, getting it made was a much lengthier process.

Neither of us actually knew anything about knife making so we spent ages researching it. Luckily the work paid off and it led us to the very talented Stuart Mitchell who has been making knives for over 35 years. He's one of the best in the business, but he's also a lovely bloke who has been the brains, and very skilled hands, behind this whole endeavour. Together we spent months prototyping and refining the design until we were all satisfied it was the perfect marriage of form and function.

How would you explain your creative approach for this project and where did you draw your inspiration from?
Obviously a surgeon's scalpel was the big inspiration for this knife, but we didn't want it to be an exact replica. We took some key features from a standard scalpel so the concept was clear, but we modified a lot so it was fit for purpose. Skalpel is a standard steak knife size which is bigger than a surgeon's scalpel. It's very ergonomic, and weighted so it just feels right in the hand.  
One of the things we love most about it is the fact that it's crafted from a single piece of metal, which is actually pretty unusual (it also makes it stronger than other knives which is a plus too).  The result is a very sleek and modern looking piece of design. We wanted to make something that appealed to both steak lovers, and fans of minimalist design.

Tell us more about how and where the scalpel knives are made.
We knew we didn't just want Skalpel to look great, we wanted it to be produced to the highest standards possible, all here in the UK. By finding a master knife maker in Sheffield, the home of stainless steel, we got just that.  

Portland, Sheffield, the home of stainless steel.

The knives are laser cut from an 8mm piece of SF100 steel, which is the same stuff they use for razor blades. Then, following on from heat treatment, they undergo lengthy grinding, glazing and finishing processes. Then an extensive hand rubbing/finishing takes place. Each Skalpel is handmade by Stuart in his workshop where everything passes through his hands and his hands only.

Because of these multiple processes, and our commitment to the highest standards of quality control, we only make 100 Skalpels a month.

Stuart Mitchell expertly crafts each Skalpel Knife

Stuart perfects The Skalpel Knife on the grinding wheel.

What are your plans for the brand in the next two to three years?
We've successfully been funded on Kickstarter which is great, and we've still got a few weeks left of the campaign so hopefully we'll attract some more backers. So our first priority is fulfilling these orders.  

We'd then like to take the brand into retail. Our dream would be to see Skalpel in a cabinet at Conran, or maybe the Tate Modern shop. We'd also love to work with a restaurant so Skalpel ends up in a big dining space - we think the knives are a real conversation starter at any dinner table, so they would be the perfect piece of dining theatre.

Then, who knows... We have a couple of ideas up our sleeves.  We have had an idea for another steak knife design, or we might design a complimentary fork.

Where do you call home? Tell us a little bit more about your own homes and interior style.
My flat in Hackney (which was featured in this blog!) is currently doubling up as our office. It's an open plan space that's nice and bright, so it suits us. At the moment you'll normally find us sitting at my Unto This Last dining table emailing journalists, answering questions on Kickstarter or on the phone to Stuart. We're both into interior design, so in the process of creating Skalpel we've spent many a happy hour 'researching' at places like twentytwentyone, Aria, SCP and Conran. Hopefully Skalpel will be a huge success and we can afford to fill our homes with some of the lovely pieces we've seen!

Kim's modern kitchen in her Hackney home

Lastly, what is your favourite thing about London?
We both love Hackney; there's just so many brilliant pubs, restaurants and unusual shops. The flat/office is one road from Wilton Way which has everything you'd ever want. We often go across to the Spurstowe for a drink at the end of the day, or pick up a bottle from Borough Wines.
We love the shop J. Glinert which has some beautiful stationary (we're both big fans of pen and paper). If we need to get out the flat you'll often find us in Footnote, or if it's a special occasion dinner at Pidgin.  

Pidgin Restaurant, Hackney

Best of luck to Kim and Joe, I'm sure the Skalpel Knife will be a huge success and I look forward to seeing it in a cabinet at Conran soon!

If you'd like to back their Kickstarter campaign, you can do that here before the 21st March 2018.



Image Credits:
Stills: Tal Silverman
Moving image: Tal Silverman
Editor: Crispin Devrill
Post Production: The Forge
VO: Rick Romero
10. Open Table

MODERN MAKERS SERIES: Meeting the Emerald Faerie who's taking upcycling to the next level by Tash South

A couple of weeks ago I headed over to East London, Bow to be precise, to interview the very talented maker Fiona Gall at her Bow Lane studio. Fiona started her business Emerald Faerie and has been making inspired pieces out of recycled materials for many years. And to channel just about every single politician right now, 'let's be clear' –  this is not your average upcycling scenario. This lady knows how to take something old and turn it into something AMAZING, and as if that isn’t enough, she certainly knows how to handle a blowtorch too.

I sat down with the utterly delightful Fiona to find out more…

Tell us more about your background and how you became a maker.
I've always drawn and painted from a very young age. I completed a degree in Design Craft in Hereford - which was very focussed on making. When I was there I worked on a project which I centered on broken glass, being by the river, I collected bits of broken glass and used wire to join them together into what I called ‘Families’. This project and process led on to the Triffid lamps that I still produce now. My chandeliers started when I worked on a collaboration with famous shoe designer Terry De Havilland on a project called Cinderella's Revenge, it was a 8ft high, highly polished brass chandelier with spikes - all inspired by the materials Terry uses for his shoes.

And where is Cinderella's revenge now?
The chandelier (which Fiona affectionately calls ‘she’) is quite well travelled.. She started off in Terry De Havilland’s store, then was displayed in Liberty for a while and following that made an appearance in Lily Allen's pop-up store, Lucy in Disguise.

Cinderella's Revenge

Cinderella's Revenge

When did you launch your brand?
I never really launched my brand, it's been more of a natural progression, I started making when I left college in 1998 and it's just evolved through my creativity. After my collaboration with Terry De Havilland, I started to make bigger pieces, and I just developed from that over the years. I've always aimed to inspire and lift people's spirits and to make beautiful things – that's driven me.

The 'Gathering Goddess' in a luxury vintage clothing boutique in London. Photo: Giles Angel

The 'Gathering Goddess' in a luxury vintage clothing boutique in London. Photo: Giles Angel

How would you explain your creative approach and where do you draw your inspiration from?
My inspiration is nature – overgrown places and the Art Deco period is a constant source of inspiration for me. Some pieces that I find at car boot sales and antiques markets inspire me to make something I would not have thought about making. The materials and the objects that I find can be very informative of what I make. For example I'll find cheesy '70s vases in colourful glass and those would inspire a Triffid lamp. The birds of paradise wings on my chandeliers are originally from an antique ornament I found, I cut it up and made wax moulds of the wings and sent those to a foundry to have the bronzes made.

The specially cast wings of the Birds of Paradise chandeliers

The specially cast wings of the Birds of Paradise chandeliers

Found objects ready to be reused.

Found objects ready to be reused.

How would you describe your style?
I would say it’s eclectic, romantic and whimsical.

A gorgeous chandelier from the The Birds of Paradise range.

A gorgeous chandelier from the The Birds of Paradise range.

I would definitely agree – your pieces are quite magical!
Which is your favourite piece right now?

My favourite is probably the Triffid lamps, I love making the flowers and adding the dome makes them feel quite exquisite. I just kept developing them and over time and they became more and more refined. I also have a new range of called the Swift range, where I've taken vintage handbags and added recycled metal pieces as decoration.

Fi makes each piece individually by hand from carefully selected coloured glass objects.

To date, what has been your highlight since starting Emerald Faerie?
Lane Crawford invited me to Hong Kong for a two-week residency in 2014 and I got to work on their window display. The project was based on recycling and I was allowed to go through their entire warehouse and choose materials to create something new, I found some laser cut flowers and stapled them to a chair in a swirling pattern, I also added spikes, chandelier glass and wire and spray painted it all - that was a great highlight for me!

The collaboration with Lane Crawford

Where do you plan on taking your brand in the two to three years?
I've only ever worked with private clients so I'd like to get some of my work in stores, potentially Liberty and Harrods. I'd love to work more in the hospitality sector as well, to create some big pieces for hotel lobbies for example.

Yes- I can totally see one of your chandeliers in a hotel lobby!
Where do you call home? Tell us a little bit more about your own home and interior style.

My own home is across the road - it's a 1960s flat which is quite light. It's a live work scheme with the Bow Arts Trust. We rent, but they allow us to decorate how we want. I have a different chandelier in every room for inspiration! My interior style is quite similar to my work – an eclectic mishmash of styles. I do have some beautiful romantic wallpapers - I swap work with fellow makers, like Ellie Pop.

Fiona's eclictic flat

The Triffid lamp in Fiona's home.

Can you give us a sneaky insight into something you're working on at the moment?
Yes - I'm developing some new smaller pieces that will be available to buy at the House and Garden Festival. I’ll have small light pendants in a similar style to the larger chandeliers and candle-holders made out of recycled glass bottles.

Fiona showing me her pendants that will be available at the House and Garden Festival

Fiona showing me her pendants that will be available at the House and Garden Festival

Do you have some advice for people looking to follow in your footsteps?
Just do it every day. Treat it like a 9-5 and put the hours in, even if you’re not feeling like it that day.  And if you're able to, find a good intern or assistant to help out - you can contact colleges and find interns who are looking for work experience.

The candle holders that will be available at the House and Garden Festival - in progress.

The candle holders that will be available at the House and Garden Festival - in progress.

Great advice and lastly, what is your favourite thing about London?
My favourite thing about London is that you can do anything! You can decide what you want to do that day and you can probably just go out and do it!

With big thanks to Fiona for her time, and for showing me around her studio.

You may be wondering how Fiona’s intricate, whimsical style fits into a modern interior – this is a modern interiors blog after all! But this is exactly the thing I love about making a modern interior your own by mixing it with your own style. Fiona's pieces would make a stunning statement in a modern interior if you mix it well – her large chandeliers have such texture and drama and I think they would be even more striking in a modern space than in a traditional one.

Taking inspiration from Fiona's love of the Art Deco period, have a look at how I’d style one of her Gathering Goddess chandeliers in a Modern Art Deco style.

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Chandelier: The Gathering Goddess by Emerald Faerie
Chairs: The Lovers Velvet Chairs in Blush Pink by Rockett St George
Wallpaper: Lines wallpaper, Ferm Living
Side Table: Gem cut side table by West Elm
Cushion: Art Deco Midnight by Elisabeth Fredriksson at Society6


Image credits:
Images 1, 2, 5, 6, 12, 13, 14
Images 3, 4. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 Emerald Faerie