Tom Raffield on steam bending
Tom Raffield is a designer and maker who has built a hugely successful business by creating an array of products from wood that have been steam bent into extraordinary shapes, and, subsequently, are sold by the likes of John Lewis and Heals. In doing so, he has effectively brought craft on to the British high street.
Not only that, but he has also designed installations at the Chelsea Flower Show, created steam bent coffee kiosks in London’s Royal Parks and built his own breathtaking house in south Cornwall, that included (inevitably) a steam-bent timber facade and featured on Channel Four’s Grand Designs.
It’s safe to say that wood is a material that completely dominates Tom’s life.
In this episode we talk about: designing through making; the importance of trial and error in his practice; growing up in a garden centre and his fascination with sustainability; how his dyslexia enabled him to see the world differently; falling in love with Cornwall; and his determination to make craft (relatively) affordable.
But most of all we chat about his obsession with wood in general – and steam bending in particular – and how the process has shaped his life and career.
Find out more about Tom Raffield
This is the Arbor armchair, which features a steam bent arm detail.
The designer has a long-held fascination with light and light fittings. Pictured here is the extraordinary Flock Chandelier.
Raffield tends to design while making, rather than drawing his products first.
He finds ways of bringing steam bending into the most unlikely of products. This is the Lundy Shelf. All images courtesy of the designer.