Cristina Esposito Firstly, how did you come up with the name?
Charlie Whinney I thought of it a couple of years ago when I probably should have been doing some college work. We chose it because it is completely different from any other word, and seems to encapsulate some of the holistic way of thinking that we use in our design for sustainability. Also it looks good written down, and offers numerous graphical possibilities for a brand.
Cristina Esposito How did the company start?
Charlie Whinney We met at college, and although we all had strong individual career routes, sustainability was the linking factor. There were no jobs we could apply for because the field was so new, but we all saw the potential of designing with wood and the benefits of ecological responsibility. We have very different styles and we've combined our talents to create something new and exciting.
Cristina Esposito What's so unusual about the process you use to create your furniture?
Tom Raffield We take a plank of wood, say 3.5m long. Then we fashion tools from steel and customise them depending on what shape we want to create. We can't go in to too much detail because it's patent pending. We saw a number of problems with the conventional steam-bending method, so we adapted to make the most complex 3D shapes. It's all about finding new ways.
Cristina Esposito Is anyone doing something similar?
Tom Raffield I suppose Thonet, but it's not the same. We use green unseasoned timber and a very simple process with a high success rate. We want to be ethically and environmentally responsible. The wood is from renewable sources and there are no epoxy resins or sealants and hardly any waste.
Cristina Esposito A lot of designers choose to outsource their manufacturing for financial reasons. How do you feel about that?
Chris Jarratt If we did we wouldn't be able to keep the level of quality control we have now. Right now it's on our own backs. Nothing leaves the studio unless we're 100 per cent happy with it.
Tom Raffield We have our own steam-bending tools and everything done in house from our new premises - a beautiful old grammar school that we've converted into a warehouse and studio. Everything we need is right there for now, but soon we'll be ready to grow.
Cristina Esposito You're about to launch a range of sculptural lampshades. Tell us about them.
Chris Jarratt They combine oak peel, a steam-bent ash spine and oak veneer. The effect of the light coming through the grain creates an amazing ambience.
The natural grain structure of wood is beautiful and this shows it perfectly.
They'll retail for between ú25 and ú75.
Cristina Esposito What are your plans for the next five years?
Charlie Whinney For now we're continuing to do commissions through Hidden Art, and we're doing 100% East and possibly Milan, as well as developing the lampshade range. In five years we'd like to have a large customised workshop and a small, highly skilled workforce. We all have side projects, for example for me it's steel work and for Chris it's 3D illustrations and graphics, but our grounding is in wood, and that's what Sixixis will always be.
Cristina Esposito Your chairs and chaises longues look stunning, but are they comfortable?
Tom Raffield They're so comfortable we've had people fall asleep on them