Q&A: Very Good & Proper

Q&A: Very Good & Proper

Very Good & Proper manufacture carefully considered, practical and beautiful products. They use only the highest-quality, sustainable materials and fine craftsmanship to make products that are built to last a lifetime. As well as developing their own range, VG&P also design, project manage and specify for interior projects.

Very Good & Proper are collaborating with SMP in the creation of our temporary London Design Festival shop in the Shoreditch Design Triangle. We spoke to Ed Carpenter of VG&P ahead of our opening on Tuesday 16 September.

How would you describe what you do?
I'm the owner and creative director of design brand, Very Good & Proper - I'm a designer, maker and manufacturer.

How and where do you make your work? Can you describe your making process?
Making forms an integral part of my design process and I tend to get very hands-on in the early stages of designing a project - making lots of models, prototypes and production jigs. I also like to experiment with finishes and materials, the results of which go on to inform the look and feel of the final piece. I don't really consider myself a pure 'maker' as, once the product is resolved, I like to pass the majority of the making on to one of the highly skilled suppliers that we use. I can then move on to develop new designs and processes which is the part of the process that I really love. Having said that, we do still do a lot of our own assembly in-house and that can sometimes be very hands-on.

What tools and materials do you use in your work? Do you have a favorite material and is there a tool you couldn't do without?
We have a basic set of tools in the studio including a pillar drill, band saw, table saw and chop saw that we use for prototyping and model-making, but the majority of the time we use hands tools. The one I find invaluable is our compact cordless drill/driver - I don't think a day goes by that it's not used in one way or another. But if money were no object I'd invest in a full set of Festool power tools. Once you've used a Festool there is no going back!

Material-wise it's really varied, so we tend to get the appropriate tools in as and when we need them, depending on the project.

What initially sparked your desire to make your work and what drives you today?
I realised that I had all the skills needed to design, produce and sell furniture, so why not give it a go for myself! What drives me today is what has always driven me, and that's the process of designing and creating something new. That feeling of seeing a product come to life for the first time is really special.

Can you remember the first thing you made?
The first proper thing I made was a skateboard deck when I was about 10 or 11. I read a magazine article that showed you how to make your own board using thin layers of plywood, blocks of wood and G-clamps. My parents agreed to get me a set of G-clamps, and the necessary wood and I set up the mould on a Black and Decker workmate in my bedroom. It was a surprisingly sophisticated set-up, I used blocks of wood to form the kick tail, nose and concave on the board and pressed it all together with the clamps and LOTS of glue. After the glue had set I designed the shape, cut it out with a jigsaw, drilled holes for the trucks and away I went! I ended up making quite a few. They worked really well apart from the fact that in England I could only find birch ply, rather than the maple specified in the article, so they didn't quite have the same stiffness.

What do you feel the role of makers and designers is today?
As a designer and maker we celebrate the materials, people and processes that goes into the making of our products, and in that way our customers feel a connection to our products. I feel, generally speaking, that modern society has become disconnected with how, and by whom, products are made. For economic reasons the majority of things we consume are mass produced in factories, by unknown people, in far way places. While I understand the need and desire to make things affordable, I personally think things have gone too far; the true value of products and the materials used to make them has been neglected.

Who in the world would you most like to buy one of your designs?
I went to the Richard Rodgers exhibition at the Royal Academy last year and was blown away by his body of work and general approach to life and design - he'd be a great customer!

Can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
We're launching a few new products at the London Design Festival this year, including an XL version of our Canteen Table Leg and a new range of cabinets by ace designer and general great bloke, Michael Marriott!

Thanks Ed! Come and take a look at VG&P's products and our collaborative shop at at 73 Leonard Street, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 4QS from Tuesday 16 September to Sunday 21 September 2014. Further details here.

Photos by Max Knight

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