Q&A: Adam Nathaniel Furman

One of this year’s Designers in Residence at the Design Museum talks about juggling jobs, academia and Maiolica

How did you marry the residency with the career?

It’s open to people who graduated up to five years ago and was the last year I could have applied. It was just at the right time. A month earlier my own firm, Studio Madam, had just finished a two-year long flat remodelling in a Grade II* listed Georgian terrace in Clifton, which meant I had time to work on it. I’m doing my part 3 at Ron Arad’s office, which really encouraged me and gave me a month off and every Friday for the project. It still meant 6am starts and late nights!

 

When we first looked at your blog we couldn’t work out if you were an architect or ceramicist

 

When I was at the AA I wanted to become a connoisseur in some area of art, purely for the joy of it. All I could afford was ceramics – it’s the only discipline where you can still buy a piece of incredible artistic value for a relatively small outlay. My diploma work might have looked like it was formed of huge, playful porcelain skyscrapers, but I’ve always been incredibly serious about what I do. If my work’s ironic, it is only in an artistic sense; I reject Umberto Eco’s claim that all post modernism has to be ‘ironic’. Take Luigi Moretti’s Girasole in Rome – it’s incredibly sophisticated.

 

 

What’s the theme of your three-month residency?

The narrative of the show is a ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ – all produced by a mad fictional blogger and designer who exists in a fever of thought and production. Beside the ceramics, the blog is as much part of the creative process and explains how the 40-odd objects came about. Initially the ‘designer’ has a critical standpoint about random things, like ancient Rome and 3D scanning, or the link of formal ornamentation and hyperanxiety, and all the objects arise from his fictional dialogue.  

 

How did you create the pieces?

In the UK I work with George Lee of Lee3d who’d make the 3D positives of my ‘totems’, which I’d blister my hands sanding. You make a plaster mould, do slip casting and end up with the completed porcelain totem. To get them painted I contacted everyone from the RCA whose stuff I’d ever liked and two graduates who’d done amazing work got back and helped out. 

 

So what’s the favourite piece in your collection?

A tiny bowl by 19th century Bologna firm Fabrica Minghetti, the master of Maiolica production until WWI. Its form and sprezzatura of colouring say a lot about the things I feel most passionate about- a little piece of architecture in its own right.