We speak to furniture maker and Hothouse17 participant Juan Junca
Juan trained in traditional cabinet making techniques. He focusses in freestanding solid wood furniture, making his own designs as well as bespoke commissions.
Juan has been selected for Hothouse, the Crafts Council's Talent Development Programme for emerging makers. Find out more about Hothouse
What first got you interested in making?
About four years ago I was working independently as a musician/producer and had a day job as a handyman for a property refurbishing company. I found I was enjoying doing something practical and specially working with wood, so I decided to train as a furniture maker. The Fine Woodwork course at The Building Crafts College was a perfect choice.
What in particular drew you to wood?
There is its appeal to our senses, which I feel intensely, but also, with the material come the tools, techniques and things you make with it and those will suit different people. Wood, for example, not only feels entirely different to metal but it is also worked differently. Heating up a piece of metal in the forge and hammering it is quite a different thing to taking shavings of wood with a spokeshave. So I am drawn to the material by its properties and by how it is worked.
Where have you shown / sold your work so far?
I was at New Designers 2015, as part of the graduation show with The Building Crafts College, last year at 100% Design as a nominee for the Wood Awards, and at New London Architecture’s WRK/LDN exhibition together with Building BloQs . I sell my work online and do commission work for clients in London mostly.
Which project are you most proud of so far and why?
I’m proud of different projects for different reasons. From a technical and aesthetic point of view my Milena chair is the obvious choice. The joints in a chair are very complex and achieving a strong structure with a delicate look is a difficult task. I also taught myself how to weave for this project.
I’m very proud of my RLP chair as well but for a reason that isn’t so evident when you look at it. It was a design challenge with time and technical constraints. From the moment Building BloQs approached me for the project I had only ten days to design and make it, it was my third design for a chair, and I had to make it in a window display without the chance to prototype it first.
What do you hope to get from Hothouse?
I would like to gain knowledge on how to develop a creative business. This is an entirely different set of skills to those that we learn as makers and both are essential in order to run a successful business. I would also like get new opportunities to show my work and help me establish my brand.
The designs first strike me as having a clear and classic aesthetic, who are your inspirations and how does your interest in mid-century furniture translate into your work?
Thank you. I’m mostly inspired by designers and craftsmen from the late 19th century onwards, from William Morris, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Antoni Gaudí to Hans Wegner and Finn Juhl. I like the natural shapes and the hand-craftsmanship of their designs.
You work from open workshop Building BloQs, how important has working in this way been to establishing your business?
It would have been impossible to start up without it. The key is that workshop rent, which is very high in London, isn’t a fixed expense when you have a pay as you go workshop. And you don’t need to make the investment in heavy machinery because it is all there. Equally important is the fact that it is also an invaluable source of shared knowledge, human resources and work as well. The spirit of this space aligns with my view of creative work in terms of reciprocity and collaboration. We are all looking forward to the future expansion into the largest open access workshop in Europe, with the goal to be able to process any material.
How does the process of making self-initiated work differ from a commission? Do you have a preference and why?
I like the freedom of choice I have with self-initiated work, but also find that a brief drives me. It sets limitations upon this freedom of choice by specifying a budget, time scale, the utility of what you are required to make, etc. It becomes more of a problem solving exercise, addressing a client’s specific needs. The ideal situation is those commissions where the client comes because they like my own design aesthetic.
You can see more work from Juan and follow him at the Craft Council Directory