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Giles Miller Studio

Image courtesy of Giles Miller Studio.

Where this begins has been difficult to figure out. Why? Well, to say that Giles Miller and his team knows materials does not do justice to the diversity of materials, techniques and down right mastery that is produced out of the Giles Miller Studio team. This design leader runs a tight ship and rightly so in the competitive world of surface design. From the outside looking in, his team is prolifically hard-working, tirelessly experimental in their investigating of material processes and resoundingly professional in their roles.

Our interview with Giles Miller re-enforced this impression. This London-based design firm is located in the heart of London's creative concentration on the East end. In the hotbed of the London design scene, the studio's business savvy approach to luxury surface design balancing private and public venues and deftly understanding how to manage not only the creative process but design execution of large-scale installations is mixed into an insatiable cocktail of 007 proportions. Their long list of clients include Stella McCartney, British Airways, Harrods, Selfridges and the Victoria and Albert Museum to politely relay their successes. In fact in communicating with the design studio team and Giles Miller, there is a sense of restrained pride in what is being worked on and achieved.  A refreshing attention to craftsmanship reaffirms the belief that there is a healthy market for surface design firms such as Giles Miller Studio who are inventively blending technology and tradition. For Giles Miller Studio, this is a working formula for success.

This studio owes it's successful aesthetic to exquisite materials that congeal with the studio's methods of production whether by cleverly integrated digital fabrication or by highly specialized hand-work by skillful artisans. There is a deep love and mastery of process reflected in each of their surface designs. The surfaces create a greed not only try to see the how it was made but also to respond to the tactile tease that beckons behind each surface. The language of repetition and pattern effectively creates a sense of energy and character to the surface that is distinctly Giles Miller Studio. The more in-depth the studio has gone into wood, ceramics, leather and very soon felt, the greater the sculptural definition achieved.  The Hemsworth  creates a relief surface in leather with simple cuts and slight displacement of each layer transforming the 2D surface. The subtle details of variation in a surface like Hemsworth where sections are mirrored creating a contrast quietly mentioning itself like a ripple on the surface of water is beautiful. The ceramic surfaces such as those created as the backdrop for the fashion brand Daks London catwalk or the Diamond Columns created for the Dubai Mall among other installations are the counter to the leather and fabric based surfaces. The versatility of finishes applied to the ceramic tiles and their jewel-like quality effectively establish within the Giles Miller Studio surface collection a balance of luxury and simplistic elegance.

It is said that good design transforms the character of a material into a new persona of being. Better yet it calls to mind a famous quote from the great architect Luis Kahn that effectively makes tribute to the design understanding of materials and process seen in the Giles Miller Studio:

"If you think of a Brick, you say to Brick, 'What do you want, Brick?' And Brick says to you, 'I like an Arch.' And if you say to Brick, 'Look, arches are expensive, and I can use a concrete lintel over you. What do you think of that, Brick?' Brick says, 'I like Arch.' And it's important, you see, that you honor the material that you use.[...] You can only do it if you honor the brick and glorify the brick instead of shortchanging it."

Image courtesy of Giles Miller Studio. Pictured above the Hemsworth Leather Surface.

Q: How would you describe the design process at Giles Miller Studio?  For instance, your Hemsworth leather design, how did this surface come about from idea to execution?

A:  Every Friday the studio conducts our RAD (Research and Development) Fridays series, this allows us to explore new avenues in which the studio concept can be developed, such as new material options or exploring exciting new production methods. Design development also informs the final surface aesthetic, this was particularly apparent in the Hemsworth Surface, where we spent considered time experimenting with pixel shapes and sizes.  

Q:  How has the Giles Miller Studio evolved over time?

A: The Studio was let up around 4 years ago and has developed rapidly over this short period.  The studio really began when I left the Royal College of Art in 2009 and continued some of the commissions that I had worked on during his Masters.   I had already begun working with Stella McCartney as a regular client for his cardboard work, but went on to show the first collection of surfaces in 2010 and from there the projects began coming in more regularly.   As time has passed we have grown steadily with project scale and studio size, and we now have a studio in Spitalfields, East London with 5 full time employees and many freelance contributors.The studio has not only attained extensive international press coverage but has also created acclaimed work for some of the world’s most prestigious brand-names across a variety of industries. Recent clients include British Airways, Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Westfield, The World Architecture Festival, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Selfridges, Stella McCartney, The Metropolitan Hotel, London Design Museum and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office amongst others.

Image courtesy of the Giles Miller Studio. Pictured above is the Gigi Surface.

Q: The Gigi design transforms fabric into what appears as pixelated imagery of flowers. The surface is hand sewn and uses a pleating technique. This is a surface that requires time intensive work by very skilled hands.  Taking us behind the scenes, for a project such as this that was originally designed for  the Ladybird Bar in Islington, London, what were some of the trials and tribulations behind this project?

A:  It is interesting that you have asked about the Gigi material in particular as this has been a challenging one that has developed over time.   It follows the story that many of our surfaces do, whereby we come up with a new concept especially for a client, and then the surface develops to suit further production.  In fact this surface was had-sewn as you say, but we have struggled to produce larger areas of this surface and so now are working with new suppliers in new materials such a felt to make a newer version that can be more easily available, functional and scale-able for our clients.

Image courtesy of the Giles Miller Studio. Pictured above the Gigi Surface.

Q: From where the studio started to it’s accomplishments now, has technology and digital fabrication played a role? Or better yet, how does tradition and technology marry in the studio process?

A: A key part of the design process for the studio is to use technology to aid and inform visuals and design. Rendering and CAD software allows us to clearly show clients how our designs will look, this is particularly important, as all of our projects are design bespoke to each client. In contract to this, all of our surfaces require an element of hands-on production, we have a talented team of production helpers, who aid us to stick/fold/screw the designs into reality. For us the relationship between tradition and technology has become integral to the studios practice. 

Image courtesy of the Giles Miller Studio. Pictured above the Timber Alexander Tile.

Q: Who is part of the Giles Miller Studio team?

A: The Studio is formed of a close knit team who come from mixed design backgrounds ranging from textiles to interior design. The teams shared love of design creates an exciting environment to work, even outside of the studio, were we are constantly sharing discoveries and exhibitions that thrill us.   It is the shared attitude and interest within the broad world of design that gives us the ability as a team to work in depth on our subject of interest - innovative surface development.

Q: Are there some upcoming projects that you can share with us?

A: We generally have to keep most of our projects fairly close to our chests, but we certainly have lots of ongoing work around the world currently, particularly in the UAE and Middles Eastern regions.   We will also likely be continuing our ongoing relationships with various clients who are using our surfaces for their brands on a roll-out basis, including Butlers Chocolates and British Airways, who are using our surfaces in all their new Business Club lounges internationally.

Image Courtesy of Giles Miller Studio . Pictured above the Miranda Surface.

Q: London has a robust design community that represents many leading trends and innovations in surface design. Do you feel there is a connection between the location of the Giles Miller Studio and it’s creative community?

A: We very much feel that our location influences our designs practise, Giles Miller Studio is located in Spitalfields, in the heart of London’s creative East end. The surrounding area is full of design studios, galleries and creative Universities, which combine to create a vibrant creative hub.

Q: For emerging surface designers who are just starting out, what advise would you have? What were some of the invaluable decisions that helped Giles Miller Studio get to where it is today?

A: There was a moment in the development for this studio in the early days when I stopped aspiring to the work and brands of some of the super-designers out there.  I had previously been fixated on establishing a brand and pushing my name out there, but suddenly I realized that the natural development of the work itself was going to set out our path, and not my personal aim to be like any other designer.   Our surfaces concept came about from playing with materials and being true to my own interest in design, and from there the story of our studio has following natural developments of those materials with the collaboration of unexpected clients etc.   I think it's very important to be true to your own interest and abilities.