INSIDE interviews Henry Forwood of Forwood Design
It is our great pleasure to interview Henry Forwood, the founder of Forwood Design. We will be introducing his beautiful products at INSIDE in Hong Kong and Singapore.
Good morning, Henry and thank you for agreeing to this interview. First of all, can you give us a little bit of history. When did you found the business and what made you get into it?
The calling to make furniture came quite early, I realised when I was about 8 years old that I loved making objects out of wood. I followed this yearning throughout my education completing it with a three year course in Furniture Production and Design. With education out of the way, I started a business making bespoke furniture in London. Work was varied and fun through the mid 80’s, but that changed with ‘Black Monday’ and the stockmarket crash of 1987 and the downturn in property development. I began to think about looking outside the UK for opportunities. Vietnam caught my eye as it was just beginning to open up to the world. After an exploratory trip in 1991 when I saw the skills in carving and carpentry in the country, my mind was made up to move and start producing in Asia. I have been making furniture and accessories there ever since.
Please can you tell us what shagreen is and why faux shagreen?
Shagreen is another name for fish leather. It can be shark or stingray. It is different to normal leathers because it covered in placoid scales making the skin quite rough. When treated and polished the leather has a distinctive and attractive pattern. It has been popular material for making luxury products for centuries. I have always loved the look and feel of this amazing material but never liked the idea of killing animals to use it. Over a few years I developed the skills of mould making. Using this skill combined with a knowledge of chemistry, I was able to produce a pliable sheet of resin shagreen that was realistic enough that I could place it next to the real thing and it was difficult to tell which is real and which is faux. Now I can make furniture with quality faux shagreen without killing any poor fish.
What other materials do you work with?
I love to mix materials in the products I design. I use a lot of metals. Brass, stainless steel, painted steel as well as plated metals which I use in combination with various woods and veneers. I have also worked out a method to make faux silks and linens and other woven fabrics. With all these combinations I have a wide range of colour to work with which makes my job much more fun.
We are very impressed with the quality of your products. How do you achieve such good finishes?
Quality is so important for a business as no customer wants to pay for a faulty product. The quality issue has to be fully understood by everyone in the manufacturing process, from top management to the factory floor. Quality inspections start right at the beginning of the production process with the raw materials arriving at the factory. The products are then checked as they leave each production stage. By doing this we can spot issues before they become problems. To remedy any reoccurring faults regular meetings between the craftsmen, design team and management are essential. We are very proud of our quality record.
Which product was the most challenging to design and make?
Our range of drinks trolleys was an interesting product to design. Looking through wheels available to use with the trolley my heart sank, there was nothing that was practical or attractive and we have all had experiences of trolleys with wobbly wheels. It took a few attempts but finally we came up with a design that was practical and worked in all the situations we tried it on.
Well, I can certainly vouch for that, having ordered one for myself! What is your personal favourite product?
My personal favourite would have to be a backgammon board. I love the luxury colour combinations of veneers, the size and weight of the counters and the clacking sound of the dice as they hit the playing surface. All these factors add up to a great game, especially if you combine it with exotic shagreen.
We are going to be stocking some of these as well. In my view, the box is a decorative object in its own right, and I love the size of the board. And your customers - what is the most popular colour?
Colour is always a difficult decision to make. Fashions change from year to year and people’s tastes are very different. Over time one begins to get an idea of trends and which colours buck them. Charcoal seems to be a constant popular colour throughout the years for a more neutral tone while Teal holds its strength as a splash of colour.
What is the significance of the beetle logo?
I was brought up in the Irish country side so I have always had an interest in nature. Ladybirds, bugs and beetles have always been a fascination as they look so solid and stable, but have the ability to fold back their cases and fly in an instant. A business should also have these qualities.
And finally – tell us about the geese!
Being a country boy, I like animals around. A dog or four is a must, but they can be quite lazy, especially at night. I have known a number of hounds that find it difficult getting up in the morning. Geese, however, are very different creatures. They are only happy when in a group and one of them will be on duty at all times. The geese are therefore our number one line of security.