James Duncan Lowley

Sep 18, 2018Julia Kahrs

The eating utensils of James Duncan Lowley spring from a larger project entitled 'Edited Aesthetics of Taste'. He became interested in how the materiality of utensils can affect our perception and enjoyment of food, and with Lento wants us to slow down the pace during the meal.

What kind of work do you create?
I use slow, sensory and social design principles to develop everyday objects with stories that focus on the present moment. I am very interested in the relationship between the hand and the head and work with different materials to produce unique single objects or limited edition series.

What is your earliest memory related to art, or to creating something?
I went on a school trip to St Ives when I was about 12 and visited Barbara Hepworth's house and garden. I wish I had followed better.

What did you want to be as a child?
Presumably an astronaut.

Did you grow up in a creative environment?
My grandfather was a carpenter and I spent a lot of time with him in his home workshop when I was younger. He retired before I was old enough to have any real memories of it, but he continued to make furniture for family and friends. My dad rebuilds vintage cars and always talked about parts, history and tools. He still does.

When in life did you first learn about your field of work? What brought you there?
When I finished school I had preferred art and science, and from there I continued with a foundation course at an art college to work with materials. It was there that I became interested in design and making objects.

What is the best advice you have received?
'Keep it simple and do it well'. It was a catchphrase my college teacher used to say. I think it is as good advice in general as it is for design.

What does success mean to you?
To be able to give shape to abstract ideas and be relatively satisfied with the results.

What is your relationship with your material?
The wood I used for these products grew in a forest behind the workshop I used in Sørlandet. Therefore, it fit with the themes related to food that I wanted to present in the project, such as farm-to-table and locally produced food. The kitchen utensils were developed in response to the material and we spent a lot of time together over several months on prototypes and testing.

Tell us a little about your workplace!
We are just setting up our studio, so currently we have a home office and use the workshop in Stine's parents' house. It was built in 1856 in Havna Allé and has a wonderful atmosphere. It is also quite nice to be surrounded by so many of Arne Korsmo's villas.

Which object is your favorite among all that you have made?
I'm not sure if I have a favorite, but what catches most people's attention is the tool with a round shape at the end. This is perhaps the most unusual eating utensil and evokes a playfulness that goes against what we are told as children - 'not to play with food'. This is the one I have used the most myself.

What is the most challenging thing about being your own boss?
We are not quite there yet, but from experience it is finding the right balance between work and sleep.

Do you have any tricks or techniques that never fail if you need inspiration or to break out of routines?
It depends on the project. I think writing can help reflect on the process and redefine ideas, but the answers are usually in the materials, so I try to just keep going.

What is your relationship with Norway Designs?
This is the first time I have presented work here. It's great to have a platform that shows work from new designers side by side with the more established ones.

What expectations do you have for Norway Designs NÅ Vol. 5?
I hope to receive feedback that can be useful for future projects.

Tell us a little about the items you are exhibiting in this year's exhibition.
Lento dining utensils are one of several results from a research project called 'Edited Aesthetics of Taste'. I became interested in how the materiality of objects used while eating can influence our perception and enjoyment of food. Cutlery in particular hasn't really changed in design in over two hundred years, apart from a shift from silver to stainless steel, and I was working on the idea of ​​alternatives that would be more demanding to use and slow down the pace. I borrowed quite a lot from Juhani Pallasmaa and his texts about senses and pace, both in terms of the design process and user experience.

Which identity do material and technique help to express?
The birch creates a sense of recognition with associations with older, Scandinavian eating utensils such as porridge spoons and butter knives. On the other hand, the tools are inspired by ideas about the imperfect and incomplete that we find in Japanese aesthetics through rituals such as tea ceremonies and the arrangement and selection of objects, not to mention the long craft traditions. The lack of a knife at the table is intended to encourage users to prepare food with the utensils in mind and therefore create a challenge that requires some creativity. It is in the space between the familiar and the unknown that you hopefully awaken new thoughts, new habits and new relationships with different ingredients.

Is there one or more identities that are reflected through your work?
The fact that the Lento cutlery is handmade is intended to reflect the work of the chefs and the fact that much of their knowledge lies in their hands. Through research, I found that plates are often inspired by objects, and this can eventually affect everyday meals. The project is rooted in sustainability by aiming to spark new conversations about overeating and food waste, which can happen if we eat too fast. In a broader spectrum, the project is an attempt to create a starting point for sharing ideas related to sensory experiences, temporality and respect for natural materials. Food is a great platform for exploration.

Read more about the process behind Lento here.

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