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

Fine cushions by Fine Cell Work by Tash South

Last month when I was around the Bloomsbury area I came across a pop-up shop next to Pentreath & Hall on Rugby Street. They had the most striking collection of needlework cushions in the window, so I went in to explore further and got talking to the sales assistant, and I found out that these were no ordinary cushions…

The brilliantly named Fine Cell Work is a social enterprise that trains prisoners in skilled creative needlework to foster hope, discipline and self-esteem.

The detailed cushions and quilts produced by Fine Cell Work

I was seriously impressed by the craftsmanship, the work is of a superb quality because the prisoners are taught by volunteers from the Embroiderers and Quilters Guild. The pop-up shop was there to showcase the new collection commissioned by Pentreath & Hall - ‘Falling Cubes’ and ‘Tetrahedron’, the dynamic results of fusing traditional needlework techniques with graphic, contemporary designs.

The Tetrahedron Cushion for Pentreath & Hall

The Falling Cubes Cushion for Pentreath & Hall (Front)

The enterprise is actively supported by some big names in the interiors industry. Designers like Jasper Conran, Cath Kidston and Kit Kemp have all commissioned works.

The prisoners are paid for their work, which includes cushions, quilts and bags. They learn new skills and help support their families with the money they earn. These can then be sold around the world. Some pieces are commissions, and others are heritage pieces, for organisations like the V&A and Tate Modern.

Clutch by Fine Cell Work

Fine Cell Work’s vision is to become more embedded in the prison system and to guide prisoners towards formal work training and qualifications and to match them up with organisations that can provide support or employment on release.

Craftwork in prison can help prisoners discover a more constructive and reflective side to themselves. Fine Cell Work aims to broaden horizons beyond the prison walls, helping inmates to make a contribution by connecting them to wider society and giving them a brighter outlook on their future.

"I am learning a new skill which I did not think possible. I also know that people do care about me and what I do because otherwise why would people take an interest in my fine cell work! I now believe what others think about me makes a real difference to how I conduct myself.”
Steve, HMP Wandsworth


Fine Cell Work was founded by philanthropist, Lady Anne Tree you can read her interesting story here.