We had the good fortune of connecting with Philip Gay and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Philip, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I have always felt the need to create things. As a child I used to take things apart to see how they worked, or would build my own toys from pieces of wood or plastic. I loved technic Lego and making things move. At school I always had a thirst for learning new practical skills, whether it was sewing, cooking, woodwork or design. Even though i was pretty academic I never really considered doing a job that was not hands on. I have always felt most satisfied while creating something, so it seemed an easy choice to go that way with a career. I am excited by the process of taking a raw material, whether that is timber, metal or a piece of paper, and transforming it into something useful or beautiful. Its interesting to think that whatever that object is, it possibly wouldn’t have existed without me.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?

I set up Timber Robot Studio at the end of 2021.  My aim is to produce limited edition furniture and sculpture that people feel drawn to interact with and touch. Pieces that are tactile and intriguing, that you can feel attached to emotionally and want to treasure forever.  I am also designing small batch homeware products and fine timber boxes, all carefully considered to still embody the same ethos. In my opinion, some of the furniture could also be considered sculpture, the design often evolving throughout the process. I am trying to create fresh, interesting forms and material combinations.  I enjoy combining timber with other materials,  such as aluminium, ceramics or fabrics. I enjoy the warmness that wood has next to the more machine-like coldness that metal often carries with it. Currently most of my pieces feature strong bold shapes and clean lines, quite an engineered aesthetic. Combining light and dark timbers or materials to create strong contrast is also currently a big focus, a visual impact is important. For example, my ‘Less is More’ Collectors chest has very textured, black inked legs and drawer fronts. This is a really pleasing and striking contrast to the pale ash body in both the colour tone and the feel of the surface. The drawers are mounted on a push to open mechanism so every use is an interaction with the textured surface. The drawers are leather lined so once open there is another tactile surface to explore.

Timber Robot Studio is a new venture for me, previously I worked for over 10 years as a prop-maker in the UK film industry. My work has also included building window displays for Selfridges, models for architects, sets and models for advertising stills and possibly the most fun was working with toy inventors. Being a model-maker or prop-maker has given me a very diverse range of skills and exposed me to many materials and different jobs but last year i started to feel frustrated. Most of my career had been producing such temporary objects. I had previously considered directing my skills towards furniture making, so this time I enrolled on a fine furniture course and began another twist in my career path. It is exciting to be starting something new, but also daunting, lots of new challenges and things to learn. But I recently took part in the first exhibition of my work which was such an amazing experience and with some great people, I definitely plan to do more soon.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?

I live in west London but there are spots all over I could mention.  I love to watch live music and the Aint Nothing But Blues bar on kingly street has always provided a good time, with music every night. You often get lots of people who are travelling through London and never fail to get into some interesting chats, whilst having a little dance of course. Its in central London around the Carnaby street area where there are some lovely places to eat. I also love watching movies and just off Soho is the Prince Charles cinema. It shows cult classics and screenings of original 90mm film plus some sing-a-longs for the very enthusiastic. Combining those two places usually works pretty well and gives us the chance to be a bit of a tourist in central during the day.  Another music spot for me is the troubadour in Earls Court, it has a gorgeous little garden perfect for a warm summer evening. With some excellent bistro food and a grass roots music bar downstairs where you can watch anyone from a solo folk act to a rowdy punk band. I sometimes combine a night at the troubadour with a daytime visit to the design museum. Its not far away and usually has some excellent exhibitions, its also a pretty cool building inside and sells some inspiring books.

The museums in London are free and the V and A is outstanding, there is so much packed into this place across so many disciplines of art and design. I can spend hours in there and always seem to find something new. For some interesting curiosities the Hunterian museum is a great one, linked to the Royal College of surgeons it holds a great collection of things in jars, a real injection of the bizarre. We would definitely do these on a weekday to avoid the weekend crowds.  On a Saturday, maybe a bit of shopping for vintage clothes and vinyl, with street food and great beer thrown in. Pop Brixton is an open air container village full of independent shops and tasty treats. Followed by drinks and some music in Hootannay or Blues Kitchen. Hootananny has a great festival vibe in the summer and Blues Kitchen mixes a pretty mean Old Fashioned cocktail.  On Sunday we would probably get back to nature in a local Park. I am spoiled with Gunnersbury Park right on my doorstep, It offers a real mix of wild heath land and carefully planted areas, and a lovely food market the last Sunday of the month. Its not as big as crystal palace park and no where near something like Hyde park but it is my place to go locally to unwind and feel like I’m not in the city. The red lion pub in Ealing does absolutely amazing pizza, so that would probably be Sundays dinner.  They have started doing Jazz on Sundays so that’s a bonus in my book, although it depends which friend is visiting. Jazz can definitely divide a crowd.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?

Without a doubt I have to say that I am forever grateful for my parents early encouragement, as cliche as that is. They encouraged and supported me to enrol on a special effects degree in London and this started me on the winding path that has been my career. I actually only completed the first year, but it enabled me to jump into a model design degree. From there I have made models, props and sets for film and designed toys, but without their initial support I would probably have stayed blind to the options out there. My partner, family and friends all deserve a mention here for sure.

In recent years, I have read the Headspace book regarding mindfulness, and found it to be very insightful and relevant for me. It has useful ways to deal with stress, an overactive mind and negative thinking, all of which can hinder us moving forward and trying new things. An inspiring book I read last summer was Fewer Better Things by Glen Adamson.  It really resonated with me at the time, in particular in reference to how we connect to the objects in our life.  Most recently I picked up the Do Design and Do Make books, which are part of a series.  They really succeeded in giving my inspiration a bit of a boost on a slump day.

Website: www.timberrobotstudio.com

Instagram: @timber_robot_studio

Other: propmaking filmography https://www.imdb.com/name/nm3961533/

Image Credits
Simon Eldon Lewis Wilkinson Karl Sebastian Theo Cook

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