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An Interview with Jamie Elliot, Founder of Jailmake 3D Design Studio & Workshop

Jailmake is a 3D Design Studio and Workshop. Founder, Jamie Elliot and his talented team, make anything and everything, from beautiful tables for Liberty’s fabric department and hundreds of wooden dolls for Burberry’s Christmas window display to redesigning entire houses.

Can you describe your set up to us please?
We are a design and fabrication studio occupying an old coach house which we’ve transformed into an open plan studio space for desk work with our easy access library of materials. Equipped with a full kitchen/dining area. Adjoining the studio is our carpentry and metal workshops, with dedicated CNC room. We are a team of skilled makers, thinkers, creators and organisers. We come from a variety of backgrounds and work together to realise clients concepts through to completion.

What was the inspiration behind Jailmake?
Jailmake is set up on the principles of designing through making. Material and process knowledge is linked directly to concept and design, being able to work with materials straight away and develop ideas.

Why did you choose this area to set up in?
I have lived, worked and studied around SE15 for over ten years, and it seemed logical to start a business here. We were originally in Deptford but moved here after 2 years.

How do you find the creatives that make up your studio, or do they find you?
It’s a mix of advertising on our instagram, word of mouth, or online, and some have just turned up at the door.

Do you all get involved in a project?
It depends on the scale of the project but most of the time we all get involved in some way together. Starting with the initial enquiry, discussions about materials/processes/budgets, then once we have sign off this is scheduled into our production for technical drawings to be done and then onto fabrication in our workshop.

Tell me a little about the design concept behind Kirkwood house in Peckham?
Kirkwood house was a great project to work on, the wide timber frame nature of the mid 60s property meant that the layout could be changed with general ease. The brief was to adapt the whole layout to suit the modern functionality of a family in London It was really important to us to deal with the logistics of daily life first and foremost, places to dry laundry and store bikes etc, once you have all these elements organised it allows for greater freedom for the rest of the space without compromise. This then lead to creating a sizeable ground floor extension which has drastically changed the way the house feels and operates. The property is also home to a few bespoke features, including the Radius wall lamp, designed specifically for a dining table under a large skylight.

Human interaction and ‘hygge’ seems to be a key element in all that you do, from your liasing with clients to having communal lunches together, how important is this in the Jailmake set up?
It is very important to us and very close to the way I feel comfortable running a company. Everyone is different and it’s always important to consider that. Providing a space where people can put forward their opinion on a level playing field and be engaged in a wide aspect of the company is key. It is also important to make our workspace as open and an equal atmosphere as possible, as it is where we spend most of our day. We try and help all our clients from a very individual perspective and it’s always good for them to see us and our studio and understand who is behind the design and production of what we create.

Tell me more about the regular communal lunches, why you take it in turns, enjoy a civilised lunch altogether?
We all feel it’s important to have a break from work, to sit down together and eat a great meal. Taking turns to make lunch began from the very start of Jailmake and gives people an opportunity to share what they love to eat and enjoy a good hearty meal everyday away from our workbench or desk. It also gives us time to get to know each other and share ideas or hobbies. Given more and more people were involved in the lunches, we enlisted our web developer friends Tableflip to create a tally app, that logs all meals made and eaten, portion to portion. This way we have a leaderboard of who is next up to cook, and also a food diary of the past 6 years!

Your remit is to ‘strengthen the connections between nature, people and place’, how do you achieve this in urban areas like SE15? And how much importance does the nature element hold?
Nature doesn’t just have to come in the form of flora and fauna, but also in the daily cycles and systems we live by. A natural balanced lifestyle is surely more enjoyable than a continuous attack of bad functionality and lack of integration. It is very important to understand how people really operate and not just supply designs based on style. Some of our projects have played more on a commentary of this discussion, including the ‘Seismotable’, that brings real time seismic activity into your home through an intelligent table. Using a resource of real time global data and integrated technology, it disrupts the owner’s daily routine and points to humans susceptibility to nature’s greater forces.

In what way do you combine traditional crafts with cutting edge technology?
We have a range of equipment in the workshop including a variety of hand tools and modern CNC machinery, however there is no particular push in any one direction. The CNC process is equal to that of the hand tool, all be it different, the excitement is being able to combine these new and old processes. The use of CNC technology has definitely enabled us to work and produce faster but without the experience and ability with the traditional techniques there can be a limit as to how you engage with the technology.

What is the most exciting project you’ve had to date?
The current playground In E1 is a sure favourite; one of our longest running and most ambitious projects. It incorporates so many new and challenging processes including; digital modelling, 3D CNC machining, sand casting aluminium, structural engineering , concrete casting, site work and all to create an amazing playground that provides an exciting environment for children for many years to come. Each part has been designed to be part of a child’s adventure or imaginative play without showing any of the normal un-engaging substructure. The materials are high quality and highly tactile in order to try and spark early interest in materiality and function.

Jailmake also invest time in people. Tell us about the SE15 Postcode project? Do you run regular courses with students in mind to bridge the gap between education and hands on technology?
I was invited by Goldsmiths to run the SE15 program for the technical studies on the Design BA. The course is really designed to open their eyes to the local creative environment and also show them how to actually take on real world jobs. I try and hand over as much of the first 3 years of running a business as I can in 4 days. Teaching them about sourcing material, finding suppliers and subcontractors, arranging logistics, payments and business along with maintaining creativity and developing as a designer.

What can we expect to experience at Jailmake at Dulwich Festival’s AOH?
We will be exhibiting some product design from across the past few years along with some samples and processes of a range of contemporary projects. The workshop and studio will be open so people can see the range of our interests and abilities.

Artists’ Open House – Venue 55
Please note: Saturday 11th May & Saturday 18th May Only

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