Home-Grown Furniture Designer Gabriel Tan On His Influences, Inspirations And Upcoming Collabs

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We sat down with the talented Singaporean maker to find out what got him interested in furniture-making and how he came up with his installation at this year’s SingaPlural, taking place from 5 to 8 March at the National Design Centre.

What got you interested in furniture design?
I went to the Milan Furniture Fair as a student in 2006 and that was the catalyst. I also did my exchange studies at the ECAL in Switzerland during that year, and that gave me added exposure as the program was more focused on furniture design and homewares.

Home-grown designer Gabriel Tan enjoys collaborating with international furniture brands, like Ariake from Japan.

Home-grown designer Gabriel Tan enjoys collaborating with international furniture brands, like Ariake from Japan.

What influences your work?
I like looking at historical archetypes, as well as visiting factories to understand their skills and knowledge.

How would you describe your aesthetic?
I would say most of them have a clarity of form or sculptural quality, but also a subtle provocation to challenge conventional aesthetics and details.

Most of Gabriel’s works boast simple silhouettes and minimal embellishments.

Most of Gabriel’s works boast simple silhouettes and minimal embellishments.

Who are some of your design heroes then and now?
I appreciate very much the work of the late Hans Wegner.

Now that it’s more than a decade since you first exhibited at Milan Furniture Fair, what would you say are some insights that you have gained?
In Milan, there are literally thousands of exhibitions and to stand out as a designer, one really needs to do something special. For one, I would not go to an international tradeshow unless if I have really good products to show. And the second thing is that, if I have a space at one of the international design weeks like Milan, Paris or Stockholm, be it by invitation or if I have rented a venue, I would work my socks off to make sure that the work is the best I could possibly do.

How important is collaborating with international brands and designers?
For me, it is very important because this exchange of ideas and energy is something that keeps each other rejuvenated.

Gabriel enjoys sharing ideas with other creatives

Gabriel sees working with other likeminded creatives as an avenue to stay inspired.

What materials do you most enjoy working with?
I enjoy working with natural materials like wood, stone and also leather.

The Stove chairs are made with one of the designer’s favourite materials – wood

The Stove chairs are made with one of the designer’s favourite materials – wood

If you could pick a favourite piece of furniture design, what would it be and why?
I would say the CH23 chair by Hans Wegner is one of my favorites as it has many details to uncover. The paper braid seat, the sculptural aprons between the legs as well as the exposed joinery details of the backrest, are immaculate and go so harmoniously well together.

What is one thing you have yet to design that you would like to work on next?
I would love to design a series of glassware.

Tell us more about your involvement at Singapore Design Week this year. What can we expect from your studio?
We will be collaborating with our good friends at The Ewins Home and designing a light installation at SingaPlural 2018 (the anchor event of Singapore Design Week) using their Alba material, which is a special acrylic, which comes in amazing tints and is scratch resistant and antibacterial.

Look out of Gabriel's installation at this year's SingaPlural.

Look out of Gabriel’s light installation at this year’s SingaPlural.

This was adapted from an article originally published in the March 2018 issue of SquareRooms. 

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