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Jobe BurnsSculptor and Designer

London, UK. January 9th, 2021

Interviewed by Alexei Key

Photographed by Ronan Mckenzie


 

I would describe myself as curious and quite mercurial. There’s a variety of practices that end up being present in what I do, ranging from furniture & homeware to spatial and architectural design. I tend to jump around with ideas until something feels right, usually trying to find the correct sensitivity through materiality.

As a teenager I saw an installation by the artist Chen Zhen, called “Purification Room.” He had created this room out of what appeared to be a mud or clay, and the whole idea around creating an environment like that captured me. Art allows me to create whatever I want; it helps me connect with my intuition.

My journey began as a designer and stylist. Finding my feet has been an exploration of multiple crafts; I’ve landed somewhere between sculpture and architecture. I studied Spatial Design at Chelsea School of Art, in which I spent the majority of my time making sculptures whilst developing large scale spaces. My evolution has really been influenced by a combination of what I feel is important and what makes me feel good. I’ve reached a middle ground between the two. I’m now developing my first building which should be completed by the end of 2021.

Concrete Objects started as an experimental company. I and my partner, Samuel, met up and decided to make some things for ourselves, which naturally grew into us exploring new ideas around objects and living. Our shared desire to create luxury objects manifested into more of a social design route. Interesting to see the pivot towards a human-centered output.

I’m a proponent of sustainable metropolitan living, which I view as a human-focused circular economy. It’s about us closing the degenerative loop, providing a service and system that can feed itself. I’d like to see a point where our living methods are carbon-positive; buildings that provide more energy than they consume etc.

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Projects that are especially meaningful to me include, from a non-personal perspective, Jacque Fresco’s “The Venus Project,” and for work I’ve done myself, the collaboration between Concrete Objects with Nike and Hackney Half. This was my first time experiencing how my designs had impact en masse. Seeing the integration of all people aged from 1 to 70 using our design has influenced me to focus heavier on social design and living. And my current projects of course.

My creative process usually starts with something quite personal: a relationship, a state of mind, an introspective look at society. Once I’ve identified the idea, I’ll think about materiality and begin some research into the subject, and also spend a lot of time thinking—probably too much. From there, I sculpt and model ideas intuitively, exploring with materials and forms. There is usually an array of ideas to choose from at this point, which I then refine.

My work has forced me to be introspective. It’s pushed me to look at the intricacies of the world and the impact that design has had around me. My interests began with homeware, and slowly I’ve realized how impactful design is on every facet of our lives. Generally, I’ve grown to be more compassionate, because this has driven me to put the human at the center of my work, and to be more conscious of my actions and their consequence.

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I’m currently really admiring localized building methods: rammed earth, daub and wattle, mud-brick buildings, etc. My peers are a huge inspiration for me, too; hearing my friends succeed really pushes me forward. The launch of HOME, Ronan Mckenzie’s art gallery in London, has been admirable in spite of everything happening this year.

Artists and designers Theaster Gates, Axel Vervoordt, and Tobia Scarpa have been giving me a lot of life recently as well. The full-circle approach that Theaster embodies in his practice really distills an idea of control within your process. The level of quality and attention to detail that Tobia and Axel offer is masterful; their use of material, texture, space and form is executed to the highest level every time.

Other creatives I’m excited by include musician and film director Wesley Joseph, designer and artist Samuel Ross, producers DameXDame, and artists Aaron Kudi, Dozie Kanu.

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JOBE BURNS


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