Lights, Camera, Cornwall: Designer, Tom Raffield, on Keeping his Business Local with Figolux Photography
Renowned for his contemporary furniture and lighting, lovingly handmade from sustainable timber using the age-old art of steam bending, British designer, Tom Raffield, has made quite a name for himself on the world design stage.
Having discovered the technique of steam bending while studying product design at Falmouth College of Arts, the Cornwall-based designer, whose creations can be found in the likes of John Lewis and Heal’s across the UK, has since formulated his own pioneering methods of working with steam that enable him to create freely.
“Steam bending is a very low-tech, very ecological way of working with wood that produces very little waste material,” said Tom, designer and maker at Tom Raffield Ltd.
“We’ve basically taken an age-old process and found a new way of using it for the 21st century to create contemporary designs for people’s homes that are entirely original and completely ageless.
“Understanding the process of steam bending, its limitations and its merits, has led me to develop many new ways of using steam to shape my designs over the years. Steam bending allows our makers to twist and bend wood to create shapes as freely as you would use a pencil for drawing. It is this freedom to create unusual shapes which makes our creations so instantly recognisable as a Tom Raffield piece.
“Everything we make is completely unique, they’re not mass-produced commodities. Each piece is entirely traceable, has been hand-crafted to perfection and is built to last.”
Tom’s career as a designer and maker began shortly after leaving college where he set up his own business in partnership with two fellow designers. However, this wasn’t to last and Tom subsequently left the business to focus on developing his steam bent designs to sell online through sites such as notonthehighstreet.com.
Now employing 30 staff at his woodland workshop in Helston, Cornwall, Tom’s runaway success in recent years has seen him featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs programme and opening pop-up stores in London’s trendy Marylebone, however he will always call Cornwall home.
“The internet is a beautiful thing. With the rise in online retail, designer makers don’t need to be geographically close to their target markets anymore,” Tom said.
“Nature is a big source of inspiration for my work so I love living somewhere beautiful. Cornwall is such a wild, windswept and wet county and the shapes and forms of the landscape feature heavily in my designs. I love Cornwall and I’m determined to stay in Cornwall.”
Tom’s determination to keep his business local initially made it difficult when it came to sourcing a photographer to capture his unique collections, as he struggled to find a studio in Cornwall which could achieve the quality he needed in order to compete on the global design stage alongside much bigger brands.
That was before Tom came to hear about Redruth-based Figolux photography. Established in 2015, Figolux is a purpose-built 5,000 sq ft drive-in studio that specialises in 360-degree, high-definition product and lifestyle photography.
“Discovering Figolux was a revelation,” Tom said.
“There are lots of photographers in Cornwall but not a lot of studios, which often meant having to travel to bigger cities, such as Exeter, or even further afield to commission photography.
“I first heard about Figolux through word of mouth from an industry contact, so I went to do a recce of the studio and I was absolutely blown away by the set up.
“For me, the mark of a really good studio is finding a balance between the quality of the set up and the competency of the photographers and at Figolux, you get the best of both. I feel very lucky to have found a studio offering international quality photography on my doorstep.
“Andy and the team are very professional and go above and beyond to get the results you need. The team are very efficient and understand the importance of getting it right and if you need something done urgently, it’s never a problem.”
Owner and company director at Figolux, Andrew McLean Brown, said:
“We are absolutely delighted to support Tom Raffield with its photography needs.
“We’ve been working with Tom for around 18 months now and within that time, we have done multiple photoshoots for all of his products, from bespoke furniture, to standing lamps and pendants to Christmas decorations!
“It’s fantastic for us to support another growing Cornish business. Cornwall is often regarded as no more than a tourist destination, but there are lots of great businesses here too and it’s great to be able to showcase some of them through our photography.”
Working with clients across the UK from a number of different industry sectors, Figolux provides a wide range of photographic services in addition to its product photography and 360-degree image creation, including high-quality editorial, portrait, property and food photography.