Nell Beale became a member of Design-Nation in February of this year. In her rural studio, just outside Bath, she designs beautiful contemporary long-lasting furniture and every piece is made to order using modern manufacturing techniques alongside traditional cabinet making skills. Clever use of colour can be seen throughout her entire collection: combining colours with black and timber could be seen as CoucouManou’s signature style.
Design-Nation asked Nell about her practice and the experience of showing with us at Decorex in September 2017.
Design-Nation: Who has been your most influential teacher or mentor?
Nell Beale: I think my Mum really instilled the work ethic in me and showed me that as a woman, you’re not limited by your gender. When we were young in the 70s she studied full time on a degree course whilst looking after three of us and she was also a force in later life, organising festivals and events.
DN: What inspires you?
NB: I always find this question really difficult. In terms of design ideas, it really is anything from the way a shadow is cast to the way something joins something else. What excites me is pattern and colour.
DN: If you weren’t a designer what would you be?
NB: An aid worker, working with kids.
DN: Do you work hard on your PR or do you work with others on marketing?
NB: I undertake all tasks in my business but I am considering an assistant to help with the making side. Doing everything from designing, research and development, manufacturing, admin, marketing, social media etc can be tricky but also rewarding but I need to delegate some tasks to make the business run more efficiently.
DN: Can you tell us a bit about the collaborative aspect of your new work for Decorex?
NB: I exhibited the new black-sided Loop cabinets at Decorex and the Emerald Loop Cabinets. I work closely with a local CNC company to achieve the intricate design on the Loop doors, made in Valchromat, a specialist product which gives the work its signature colours. I design very much with CNC manufacturing in mind. Once I’ve designed a new product, I will discuss with the CNC company the best way to achieve the look I’m after.
DN: What are the main challenges in your practice?
NB: I would like to collaborate and design more for manufacturers so, currently my main challenge is getting in front of these people. I’m getting there though! Another challenge is finding the time to design a new collection.
DN: Where would you like your practice to be in ten years?
NB: OK, this is where I see myself. I will be living in France (this is quite likely as my partner is French): I will be designing and licensing my furniture designs to manufacturers; and I will also be manufacturing smaller products and exhibiting at leading international trade show Maison et Objet. After 25 years of making furniture I would like to change and to make something not so heavy!
DN: If you could collaborate with someone who would you like that to be?
NB: I’ve always thought the Loop design would look beautiful as a wallpaper and I would love to collaborate with a wallpaper manufacturer such as Thevenon or Cole & Son.
DN: What’s next, now Decorex is over?
NB: After the show, I’m back in the workshop getting on with orders from Decorex and before. I made some interesting contacts at Decorex and have a meeting with one of them in November to discuss collaborating, which is exciting. I have another meeting soon in Stoke on Trent with a ceramics company to see if we can work together and I am also waiting to hear from a high street retailer regarding licensing one of my designs to them.I would really like to bring out a new collection soon and have had an idea for a new design so I’m working on that when I can and I hope to enter it for a Design Guild Mark next year.
Interview by Laura Jacometti.