Meet the Maker: Q&A with Mac Collins from The New Craftsmen

Posted: September 03rd 2021

Meet the Maker: Q&A with Mac Collins from The New Craftsmen

You may have heard about the upcoming exhibition, ‘A Portrait of Place’, which will be held at Holkham Hall from the 9th-13th September. This collection of hand-crafted pieces has been produced by five makers following a residency at Holkham earlier in the year. The New Craftsmen - a platform for genuine and meaningful craft playfully imagined and properly made by artisans of the British Isles – commissioned these makers to interpret Holkham’s rich narratives and spirit into their own pieces of art.

Mac Collins is one of the five makers taking part, and he has answered some of our questions about his design work.

About Mac

Mac is a furniture and object designer focused on producing experimental pieces which celebrate the beauty of his materials while manipulating them too. After graduating from Northumbria University in 2018, Mac has focused on creating pieces combining European standards of furniture making with cultural inspiration from his Caribbean and African heritage. He uses design to explore this lineage; some previous works have responded to issues such as the slave trade and African Diaspora.

Q&A

What one piece of furniture caught your eye the most inside Holkham Hall?

There is an 8-legged dressing table in the dressing room just off the Green State Bedroom. This piece definitely drew my attention for its intricate inlayed and fiery orange-red, polished finish. Though I can appreciate the intricacy of the furniture at Holkham, I would not say that it was the furniture that caught my eye most in the hall. Alternatively, I was drawn more to the numerous artefacts and objects that are carefully positioned around the hall, and to the sentiment and stories carried by them. I was particularly interested in some of the statues and marble carvings, and the delicately bound books.

How long did it take you to come up with a concept for your ‘A Portrait of Place’ piece? Were you inspired during your week’s residency, or did you go away and formulate ideas?

The initial concept was formed during the residency at Holkham Hall. From exploring the location, I had formed the narrative that would influence the physical outcome of the project. I had also observed and sketched the individual components and shapes that may come together to create the final furniture piece. Though I had a silhouette of the piece in mind, the actual form for the object did not emerge until sometime after the residency.

You mention that a lot of your work exists around central characters, with their presence and charisma informing your design decisions. Can you give us an example of another piece of your work and explain which character was behind the design?

For the Portrait of Place exhibition, Jupiter has become the focal character whose imagined presence has informed the design of the piece. Though there is often a central figure to projects, this character is usually nameless – I can visualise their aura, yet there is not always a definitive face or name to accredit this to. However, for a previous project entitled Iklwa, there were a number of figures who became pinitol to the narrative and decision making behind the piece; namely my Grandma and Grandad who had travelled to the UK during the Windrush Generation.

How do you incorporate and celebrate your dual heritage within your designs?

In my opinion, our views concerning form and composition are influenced by our upbringing, culture and experiences. The perspective I have of the world around me will always be informed by my British/Jamaican upbringing. In certain projects, I push this further and respond directly to my position within the African Diaspora. I reflect on stories from my relatives to directly fuel projects and investigations. That being said, this is not a process that was implemented in this project. I built a narrative that was exclusive to this location, and not particularly reflective of my own cultural identity.

What was your favourite room inside Holkham Hall and why?

The Marble Hall is the space that I value most at Holkham Hall. I like the idea that it exists as almost the central and focal point to the entire estate. I am fond of the architectural drama and impact of the space. I appreciate the intricate detail of the celling, with the hidden timber support structure facilitating this elaborate façade. I also appreciate the pantheon of Gods and alabaster pillars, that generate the feeling of entering a space of ancient mythology.

With a background in creating pieces which tell a story, we look forward to seeing how Mac tells Holkham’s narrative. More details about the exhibition can be found here, and tickets to view the pieces are available here.

Click here to read our blog post with Arjan Van Dal, another maker involved in the collaboration.

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