January 27, 2016
“Study the past if you would define the future.” – Confucius
London based designer Richard Brendon, an authority on British bone china, pulls from the past, reinvents the recognizable, in what he describes as an “archaeological” approach to design. Employing the best craftsmen, in the region of Stoke-on-Trent England, Richard is surrounded in the historic heritage of Josiah Spode developer of the technique of bone china known for its signature crisp white hue.
Meeting Richard Brendon there was a silent collective question – who is this successful “kid” standing in front of us? Accompanying this was the perhaps inappropriate urge of asking which high-end face cream he uses as his youthful appearance defied his eloquent expertise on 300 years of British tea drinking and ceramic manufacturing. The roots of his company started in 2012, are driven by history and it could be said are literally a “reflection of the past.” During his final year of university an assignment “add value to disregarded objects” turned fruitful. At the time, Richard, guided by his interest in antiquities, sifted through thrift stores and car boot sales (a car boot sale is similar to U.S. rummage or yard sales only one’s discarded junk another’s treasure are literally sold directly from the trunk of a car). Richard noticed “there are thousands of saucers without cups. So I thought if I could reunite them with cups it would make them useful again.” This interest turned into the Reflect collection; saucers without their mate are given a second life matched with a “bute shape” cup – a reference to Georgian ceramics, gilded with a reflective gold or platinum patina. The cup’s quiet, classic form pays homage to history reflecting the gorgeous artistry of the saucers; Richard’s rummaging has lead him to pieces dating as far back as 1780. This ingenious concept immediately noticed by notable Le Bon Marche paved the path to 9 collections and counting.
Within these collections, historical allusions thrive: Details from Willow pays tribute to tradition – the collection is articulated and executed as a contemporary observation of Willow pattern china, the pure white quality of English bone china is lauded in Blue Band – a collection that effortlessly mixes through the whole R. B. catalogue and similar to Reflect, Speck adds value to disregarded objects by acknowledging with a copper dot cover the natural imperfections (black speck) in the manufacturing process of bone china; ingenuity makes something beautiful out of something flawed. Richard Brendon’s recent addition Diamond branches out both in material and beverage with the welcomed initiation of crystal barware. This elegant collection of mouth blown, streamline shapes are then hand cut with a restrained diamond pattern that emphasizes the beauty of refracted light. Bespoke is Richard Brendon’s latest foray; this customization service offers a 12 color palette applicable to all bone china collections. R B. recognizes discerning consumers desire to be distinctive through bespoke options.
Richard paused from his entrepreneurial diligence for a deserving spotlight; Richard Brendon is on track to be in 12 countries far within a year. With much enthusiasm, we welcome Richard Brendon to San Francisco and JayJeffers – The Store. Please contact us directly for any Richard Brendon inquiries.
1) What are you working on at the moment? Art deco inspired teaware shapes to come into our Arc collection, a cake stand, coasters and trays.
2) What would people be surprised to learn about you? I used to be a ski bum with long hair, in fact I live in Tahoe for a winter.
3) What’s your favorite piece/collection you have created? My favourite bone china collection is Arc, I have a thing for matte black and gold at the moment. I also really like that this collection is hand painted with great precision but you can still see the brush strokes which is really beautiful. The Diamond collection is another of my favourites, I really like whiskey, so the DOF is my glass of choice.
4) What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio? Pencil and sketch book are still the most important tools for me. I still sketch shapes and patterns before moving to the computer. Recently we have started 3D printing new bone china shapes before we move forward with our model maker in Stoke-on-Trent (a town in England famous for making pottery), this is great because you can never be sure exactly how a three dimensional shapes will look when it’s just a drawing.
5) How has your work developed throughout the years As I’ve gained a better understanding of bone china production and the history of the industry I have been able to design increasingly more refined work that really celebrates the heritage of this British industry.
6) How do you know when a work is finished? It’s not easy and it can take months of refining and sampling to get to this point. Usually I know when something is finished because I don’t think any other adjustment or change will improve it.
7) What memorable responses have you had to your work? The first few pieces of significant press I received are very memorable. I had just finished design school and I didn’t really think my work was particularly special, then all of a sudden two of the biggest national newspapers in the UK were writing about my Reflect collection in their glossy weekend magazines. This gave me a huge amount of confidence and really spurred me on to start a business.
8) What wouldn’t you do without? The people around me; my family and colleagues. Without their support none of this would be possible.
9) Why do you do what you do? I never wanted to work for a big corporation, I always wanted to do my own thing and to develop something that was tangible and positive. It just so happened that I fell in love with bone china and the heritage of British ceramics. I’m very passionate about bringing design and craftsmanship together to create outstanding products. I hope by doing this we can regenerate the British bone china industry and bring pleasure to the people that interact with our products.
10) What inspires you? What inspired the Reflect collection ? The Reflect collection came about when I realised there were a lot of orphan saucers because people break teacups more regularly than they do saucers. I started buying all of the orphan saucers that I could find and decided to make a use out of them. I had the idea of creating a reflective cup, which would reflect the pattern on the saucer to reunite the two, and making the antique saucer valuable again. I visited a few potteries in Stoke and one of the decorators told me he though it would be possible to produce my idea if he painted the outside of a teacup all over with gold or platinum; 5 years later and he still decorates these cups!
Today I draw a huge amount of inspiration from antiques and designs from the past.
11) Has being based in London or any travels influenced your aesthetic at all? If so, how? London has influenced my work a great deal. The city is an incredible mix of new and old, nowhere is this more apparent than in the Architecture. I really like the juxtaposition between contemporary and old, I love to play with this in my work. There are a lot of antique shops and markets in London, especially on Portobello Road where I live, and Ienjoy rummage around these looking at beautiful and unusual objects form the past.
12) What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? Make as many mistakes as quickly as possible.