Made in Britain: Philip Watts Design

Philip Watts is best known for his highly sculptured door handles.

Philip Watts

The Nottingham-based designer Philip Watts is perhaps best known for his highly sculptured door handles, although he struggles to define his work under one umbrella term. ‘It’s somewhere between a sculptor and a jeweller, but all my sculptures have a function and all the jewellery I make is for doors.’ The scale can often be enormous. ‘One of our most popular handles is 2m [61⁄2ft] long—suitable for a gate or a dramatic front door,’ he adds.

Having started out in 1993 as a small design workshop after Mr Watts graduated from Nottingham Trent University, the business now has a collection of more than 500 products—many of which are handles, but it extends to handrails and furniture—as well as a healthy interior-design arm that fits out bars and restaurants.

Some of the shapes are organic and tactile (the Amoeba and Pebble handles) or playful (his Phone, which is a recast vintage telephone handset), others, including the Branch and Twig door handles, are either inspired by or cast directly from nature. ‘I love the process of sand casting—it’s almost primeval—and work in aluminium, bronze and brass in the main. Bronze is natural and will pop out of the model and take on its own character; aluminium can take on a pseudo hi-tech or futuristic form; and brass is somewhere in between.’

Everything is sourced nearby and the casting—all of which is done by hand—takes place in a local foundry. ‘That’s quite uncommon these days, but we’ve grown the company organically step by step and the market has responded to the fact that products are being handmade here,’ says Mr Watts. ‘It sounds daft, but we’ve only just cottoned onto this and have started putting a discreet Union Flag in black and white on each of our packaging boxes.’

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