What are some of the ways you look for inspiration when designing a product?
There are so many ways to be inspired and, personally speaking, most often the inspiration is not an immediate connection to an object or a place – but perhaps an emotional stimulation from forms and shapes in nature, the tactility of our environment or iconic designs that improve our daily life. I have noticed that I am usually inspired when in a full state of awareness and in the moment – and our latest collection, Organicus, was a result of this. The collection, which was the outcome of a wonderful trip to Mexico’s east coast, is a blend of black accents from Mexico’s ‘black clay’ with neutral tones, creating peaceful, elegant and earthy settings. Through this collection, we applied our studio’s ‘bespoke and customisation’ identity to our design process, where the collections offer flexibility in form and materials, and I believe this is both [the] inspiration and functionality.
What are the processes involved in manufacturing products in the region? What are some of the key materials used for the same?
The process of manufacturing is very similar to other international practices, with a few variations. The starting line is a conceptualised design which has been developed and drawn out in detail. We use raw materials in our practice most often, and in the UAE this is imported – which requires sourcing and market research if the material is not commonly used. For example, the solid wood used in our Organicus collection requires dry wood material to avoid moist and cracks appearing in the furniture with time; the extreme humidity in our region can cause problem in our work at a later stage if the wood has not been air-dried for a long period of time. So, it’s very important for us to work with known and trusted suppliers – and if we are exploring a new material such as natural stones, or a new veneered wood, it’s key to conduct quality checks and make prototypes to test the material and make sure it is suited to its function.
The manufacturing and production of our designs is probably one of the toughest phases of the process as it relies heavily on the level of craftsmanship. We have learned through years of experience in this field to invite more dialogue and open discussions with our in-house production team, and to offer more time when required, as each piece of furniture is almost handmade and it’s important to give time for trial and error. Whether it’s a piece of furniture or a collection, we have come to understand that no design reaches its final destination from the designer’s perspective; we always feel the need to tweak, improve and make adjustments for a better result. This is why mid-process assembly and prototyping is a crucial part of the manufacturing process, and we are pleased to offer this to our clients.
What are the sustainable aspects of producing locally?
Producing locally of course offers many advantages that contribute to environmental benefits and, at the same time, support the growth of the local economy in the region. The outcome of this should not be a short-term goal but a long-term vision. This process supports small businesses which results in creative growth, innovation and originality, which will not only attract a wider audience to our region but [also] reduce dependency on international markets – which we are already seeing more and more in the UAE. There are also other benefits when we produce locally, as it naturally involves a shorter supply chain, minimal transportation and subsequently a lower emission contribution.
When it comes to furniture and the wide range of architectural styles we see today in villas and apartments here in the UAE, producing locally has directly benefited TAM Studio’s clientele, as we can offer customisation services based on their preferences and involve them in the material and design process – allowing the user to have a design that is made to their individual taste and needs, and at the same time producing more efficiently and reducing the risk of over-production and waste. Moreover, at TAM Studio we are keen on, and in the progress of researching and exploring, cultural practices and new materials – such as date wastage that is suitable for furniture-making – and we are taking steps towards working with local artisans to not only produce locally but to also use locally developed materials to preserve cultural heritage and craftsmanship.
Could you expand a little bit more on your Organicus collection that debuted at Dubai Design Week?
Behind the initial concept – which inspired us with the materiality and the use of earthy tones and black accents, as bespoke designers working on furniture customisation very often – we were keen and passionate to offer a flexible range to our client, where they could customise not only the materials and size, but also have the flexibility to play with assorted forms to create the perfect composition that matches their home and interior design. With that mission in mind, our clients become the designer and are given the freedom to play and use their creativity and personal style to create a versatile piece of furniture. The materiality of this range also adds another layer to the modular collection. Made from natural materials such as raw unpolished travertine, stained solid pine wood and metal, there’s a chance to be playful with solid and tactile materials to create an expression.
What are your goals for the region’s design industry and how is Studio Tam working towards those?
To see the growth of TAM Studio in the fast-growing design industry of Dubai, and the UAE, is absolutely exciting for us.
We are also opening our doors for the first time to the public, who can visit our new Design Studio and Furniture Showroom based in Al Quoz 1 (close to Alserkal Avenue), where passionate designers and public can visit and enjoy our latest project: ‘SIGNATURES’, a furniture collection ‘made by designers and makers for you’. We are thrilled for this launch and the opening of our showroom, as it marks the very first furniture store in the UAE, showcasing locally made, original pieces.