London Design Festival

Hugh Miller

In 2015, I traveled to Japan as a Churchill Research Fellow to find out why the craft and making culture there is so rich. I went, in the truest sense of the phrase, as a ‘Blank Slate’. I actively chose not to read about or research Japanese applied arts theory ahead of my trip, in order that my research would be directed by the artists and craftspeople I met. This was a crucially important decision, and my experience in Japan was life-changing. I returned with a set of design principles: a splice of my training as an architect and the philosophy of making I had uncovered in my research.

Within 6 months, I had developed an entirely new collection, titled ‘The Coffee Ceremony’. The work explored the ceremonies of everyday life in Japan, and drew parallels with the ceremonies that exist in my practice as a maker. The collection was first shown at Collect (Saatchi Gallery, 2017), and has since been exhibited in South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and Italy.

My latest work sees an evolution in my design principles and practice. Japanese calligraphy ink is used to stain British Elm to a matt black tone, and my use of brass becomes forthright and expressive. But most visually arresting is my use of Japanese bamboo, which is left in its natural state and contrasts vividly with the precision of my woodwork and machined brass. The result, titled ‘In Shadows’, is a drinks cabinet like no other. This is a new sort of luxury, embedded with the fingerprints of what inspired it.