Interview: Max Lamb, self-employed product designer

Max Lamb, 28, graduated with a Masters from the Royal College of Arts

Friday 23 November 2007 01:00

I'm from Cornwall originally. I was always outdoors doing things with my parents, going to the beach and creating sandcastles. I was passionate about Lego! It really influences what I'm doing now.

I worked for a year in between my degree and my Masters, and during that time I was lucky enough to be offered a job with an interior design company in London: the Ou Baholyodhin Studio. It was my first introduction to London and also the professional design world. While I was working there, I was still pursuing my own work outside office hours and I did a number of different exhibitions – I even exhibited in Milan with a friend. I was always more passionate about my own work so I decided to go back to education. I applied to the Royal College of Arts (RCA), where I did a Masters in design products.

The famous designer Tom Dixon was one of my tutors at the RCA, which was a useful introduction. After my first year I asked if there were any internship opportunities for the summer. It was quite late but he said, "We'd love you to carry on working here, so why don't we pay you?"

It was minimum wage but for me it was great because I was getting a little bit of pocket money. I worked for three months and got introduced to the studio and the way it worked.

A couple of months before I graduated I asked Tom whether there were any job opportunities. His words were: "We've got the best job in the world for you." I was made the designer in a new part of the company; we worked on all the one-off pieces and private commissions. It was all very experimental, with larger budgets compared to the production side of the business.

Now [in my own business] I have complete freedom – I don't have to be sitting down working by 9am every morning. I don't have a typical day – it really depends what stage I'm at. There's a huge amount of travelling in the build-up to exhibitions: getting projects finished and visiting companies, manufacturers and suppliers.

I've just started doing some work with a gallery in New York. I'm going there soon, so there's a lot to organise for the bronze pieces I'm doing. They are hand-carved in polystyrene; I then bury them in sand and molten metal is poured in. The polystyrene evaporates and the metal consumes the cavity. The cast pieces then look like they're polystyrene but are actually solid bronze.

My advice to prospective designers is to not simply read design magazines, because if you do you're going to be inspired by things that already exist. Look elsewhere, at things such as National Geographic magazine, for example. Designers become so engrossed in design: you're looking at all these chairs and before long you start knocking off other people's chairs – completely unintentionally, of course! As a result, it's really important to have a broad outlook and a range of interests, which make your work new and exciting.

Visit Max's website at

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