Artichoke’s Bruce Hodgson: ‘The mind and the eye have an emotional connection that can never be achieved in the digital world’

Bruce Hodgson, founder of Artichoke, explains why exquisite furniture is not only the result of craftsmanship and high-quality materials, but also of time.

How important is time when creating a piece that is completely bespoke?

Before time is invested in making a piece, it has to be channelled into understanding the needs of a client and marrying them with the possibilities of a space. Every bespoke design starts with a blank sheet of paper. Visualising an idea and bringing it to life takes time. Because there is no pre-existing pattern, the possibilities are, quite literally, infinite. For any designer, this is where the excitement lies.

What impact does time have on the design process?

For us, it is a great privilege to work with clients that afford us the time necessary to create Artichoke quality. As Sir Edwin Lutyens said, ‘there will never be great architects or great architecture without great patrons’. The mood of family life can be affected by the organisation, beauty, practicality, and comfort of what Artichoke brings to every project. Such benefits only come with time to consider, conceive and collaborate with others.

At Artichoke, we are both designers and makers. We merge our expertise in making with design knowledge of aesthetics and proportions to achieve a sense of balance and elegance. This combination of skills is rare, allowing us to respond to a brief in a unique way, with entirely different results. At the start of the process, our preference is for using a pencil.

The mind and the eye have an emotional connection that can never be achieved in the digital world. However time consuming, it offers a creative approach that is vital at the conceptual stage, allowing both collaboration and flexibility in the initial stages of the design process. As the design takes shape, drawing on a computer means one can generate incredibly lifelike images; it has an important part to play in adding detail and aiding communication. This is another part of the evolution of a design that requires the investment of time.

How do antiques influence your work?

At Artichoke, we have a fascination with antiques and previous generations of artisans and designers. These pieces survive from a time when there was a very different approach to making things.

However, we are also conscious that we are making the antiques of the future. I love William Morris’s observation that ‘the past is not dead, it is living in us, and will be alive in the future, which we are now helping to make’. Our mission is to create furniture and interiors of such high quality they will be treasured by future generations. We are designing and making Britain’s future heritage.

How does time influence the way that a piece of furniture is made?

Fast and efficient are two very different things. Time creates space for the important business of strategising, researching details that might be appropriate to the architecture, teasing out plausible, subtle details to delight and live with for a long time.

It allows one to anticipate problems and creates the opportunity to ensure that furniture is made to the highest possible standards. Efficiency is important, too, but it needs to benefit the design rather than the designer.

Do you feel that too much furniture is designed for the convenience and efficiency of the manufacturing process?

It is human nature to seek efficiency in how you make things, but that rarely creates the best outcomes. At Artichoke, we have always invested in technology so that time can be saved on mundane tasks better suited to the accuracy, uniformity and precision offered by machines. Advances in technology support and enhance our work.

Not only can it benefit many aspects of the design and making process, it also creates time that can be invested on other aspects of the process with transformative effect. It’s a delicate balancing act. If you spend all your time on design and not on finishing, the result will not have integrity.

At Artichoke, we are in a privileged position of being able to devote time to what matters most, whether conceiving, designing or making. We hope the results speak for themselves.

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