12th January 2017: Creative individuals have always had an interesting past. Their creativity derives inspiration from their legacy’s background. Carol Wilson-Frith is one such creative individual. Her passion to design furniture in fine rich textures with highly skilled craftsmanship has fetched her the award for ‘Best Innovative Cabinet Range’ at the Design Interiors Event – NEC, Birmingham, considered to be one of the prestigious UK furniture awards.
Model with Swaye Bombai
Carol Wilson-Frith’s company Carmen Constantine Interiors Ltd., is a London-based design practice, which designs hand-crafted cabinets for lifestyle luxurious clients all across the world. The company is named after her parents’ first names. Carol’s mother Carmen Veronica was a respected embroiderer and seamstress in her hometown in West Indies. Father Constantine Wilson was a gold-plating engineer in London during the early 60s’, and was trained as a traditional joiner and skilled in West Indies. Carol has kept her legacy by naming her firm by joining the first names of her parents.
Carmen Constantine’s furniture brand’s niche lies in their signature hand-finished and hand-stitching innovative furniture to reflect luxurious beauty and super craftsmanship. The Belgravia, Carmen, Forte, Frith, Male and Swaye Cabinet Series are some of her latest designs, which have become very popular with her esteemed clients. Carmen Constantine is inspired by the marriage of traditional mid-century modern aesthetics, contemporary technology and the development and evolution of its design practice over time.
Johnny D talks to Carol Wilson-Frith about her award-winning cabinet series and various aspects of furniture designing.
Johnny D: Please enlighten our esteemed readers about Carmen Constantine Interiors Ltd.
Carol Wilson-Frith: Carmen Constantine Interiors Ltd. is a London-based award-winning British furniture design brand. We design to create furniture cabinets for luxurious and lifestyle clients across the world. We specialize in innovative cabinetry and are very passionate about the work we do. Our cabinet series are stunning as a unique art and sculpture piece, elegantly shaped and designed construction with storage practicality enduring popular industrial aesthetic.
Half-opened Frith Mark
JD: Please share about your journey in the field of designing.
CWF: From a young age, I have always identified that my inner and outer creativity is a direct God-given gift. A unique expression and connection and I feel honoured by that. I have had many twists and turns carrying this design dream on my shoulders. My creative journey has not been a straight road. However, I am sure many a designer has experienced that too along the way. That is what makes it so special! Very early in life, I discovered that I was gifted in many art and design disciplines. My creative journey transitioned from one dimensional (Art, Poetry, Song-writing and Creative Writing) to a two-dimensional (Garment Construction) to finally the three-dimensional (Furniture Design and Craftsmanship). This is where I truly found my resting place and passion.
Residential Project – I
You can see the challenge I have had. Being a true creative requires you to embrace who you are, trust what you have to offer, listen attentively and humbly to the inner voice to process concepts and construct from its initial seed to fruition. The moment I visualize and work out how to do a design process, from constructing a drawer or cabinet differently, it is an enthralling moment. The older I become, I realize how much value, contribution and knowledge I enjoy bringing to the field of design. As a creative, you are constantly tapping into the metacognitive side of yourself, which produces that ongoing stream of ideas and the journey of constructing those ideas. It is so very important to keep exploring our creative ideas. What I love the most is that although we are all interconnected, as individuals, we all have something entirely unique to offer to the world and when it comes directly from that raw, ever-thought building, undefiled, creative storehouse within us, our designs seem to remain new and timeless, not bound by time or space.
Detailing – I
JD: What really goes in the mind while designing a new product, furniture or a collection, as a designer? Please explain the branding process from a designer’s point of view.
CWF: I believe our mind is truly a gift – Incredible, fun and infinite. It always feels like I am about to board a train to embark on a creative journey of adventure! It is important to find a moment of stillness, even when there is noise all around to get the best out of the process, self and to preserve your brand. However, we all get inspiration in completely different ways. It works for me. I believe our personal design choice is an extension of the environment we live in, an outward visible and tangible manifestation of our actual thought process; how we view things and want things ultimately to be. We are kind of breathing out into the atmosphere what we choose to have around us. From personal style to colours we choose, position of furniture to what we wear, eat or places we go and people we connect are all like windows to our soul, our unique DNA.
Detailing – II
Designing and constructing in a metacognitive and technical way make my ideas become tangible. This prevents designer-block moments and is always my starting point of my branding process. I tend to get the full idea right in my mind before picking up a pencil to sketch, so that I relay the correct vision onto a paper the very first time. I seem to get stuck, if I do it the other way around. It is a wonderful thing because from thousand thoughts and ideas reoccurring, bouncing, floating, swirling and flashing through our minds, we can grab a single creative thought, observe, visualise, dissect, extract, construct and create it to make it into a single beautiful furniture piece or collection of pieces.
Detailing – III
JD: What inspired you to create the designs of the award-winning collection?
CWF: My desire to produce timeless handcrafted pieces is what initially inspired my award-winning collection. My ideas are always visualized from within and may occasionally be a mixture of processes or inspiration I have observed elsewhere. I also tend to think what my customers would want and is missing in their desired space. How I can fill that space with a beautifully-crafted furniture piece. My desire was to produce a signature hand-finished wood-stitched collection, which would reinforce Carmen Constantine as a groundbreaking furniture brand. – a brand synonymous with luxury, beauty, innovation and high-craftsmanship. The ‘Swaye’ Series received the award and is the evidence of my belief.
JD: What were the major challenges faced by your team while executing the designs from paper to the actual product?
CWF: Surviving as an independent furniture company in a changing climate can indeed be challenging as furniture makers are reliant on a wide range of external factors. Many high-end companies I started out with folded for various reasons and the words, ‘facing adversity’ or ‘Help, I am really struggling’, are very hush-hush in the luxury brand industry, so many great designers just disappear. I would say the most challenging thing designers face while executing their design concept to actual finalized product stage, is to survive and weather the business storm.
My sole objective is to consistently deliver high quality products to each customer. Manufacturing processes within the furniture industry are very costly and until you get the right balance with production and manufacture costs, breathing space to create, as well as, working with the right fit for your company, seeing the end product can be challenging. It took a short while to get the right fit for us, but the formula we have had for many years now is just perfect!
Male Series – I
JD: Please tell our esteemed readers about the price range of your products.
CWF: Our cabinets range from £2,995 – £3,580 at present. We are producing new collections for 2017, which will be priced similarly, as well as, slightly a higher. I am really excited about the new collections! We are coming out with special collaborations with two designers, whom I respect in the Netherlands and London, UK.
Male Series – II
JD: Describe the feeling when your design won the award?
CWF: It was an enthralling moment! My team and I met with the judges at The ‘Design Interiors Event’, NEC, Birmingham, UK, several days leading up to the award. They looked at our cabinets and marvelled at the wood-stitched detailing, textures and craftsmanship of each cabinet. As I had several collections on display, the series they focussed on was the ‘Swaye Bombai’ cabinet, which essentially won the award. It is always humbling and motivating to hear how others feel about your work, especially key influencers in the industry, as well as, beating off hundreds of new and established international brands to get this prestigious award. Winning the ‘Best Innovative Cabinet Range, (living/home office/bedroom) category; organised by Cabinet Maker Magazine, was good recognition and exposure for my business.
Pièce de Résistance
JD: What is the most important aspect of furniture designing as a designer?
CWF: The most important aspect for me is creative craftsmanship – The jewel in the crown of a Carmen Constantine cabinet resides in this fact. Exploring my own creative thought process and bringing those ideas into reality. Each cabinet is finished by hand, with skills passed down through generations. Needless to say, whether a particular process ensures the flawless appearance of the furniture piece for years to come or is purely aesthetic, hand-finishing of any kind calls for honed knowledge of centuries-old technique. Hand-finishing expertise is part and parcel of the stunning range of rare handcrafts produced by Carmen Constantine. This artistry is employed to craft exquisite cabinets, future collections, designed to perfection – featuring fine wire wood-stitching, steam-bending, veneering and dovetailing. It is often carried out on one of nature’s finest organic, raw materials that have the insatiable ability to continually transform through unique, natural movement into beautiful, timeless objects of desire. I want my company to be known for its integrity, craftsmanship and luxury with an edge.
JD: How would you describe Carol Wilson-Frith as a professional and a person?
CWF: As a professional, I would say I am very self-driven, focussed and determined individual. I find I can easily work by myself, as well as, alongside other creative or manufacturers to achieve my desired objectives. I strive to continually evolve and am totally allergic to the mundane. My brain is just wired that way.
Swaye and Belgravia
As a person, I would say I am relatively very private, observant and thoughtful but very easygoing really. I do not talk just for the sake of talking. However, I am sure my husband would say otherwise! I am quite warm person by nature. It is important to make quality emotional connections wherever possible, share ideas and aspirations, as well as, pull out the treasure in self and others for self-confidence, value and contribution towards whatever we feel passionate about.IMAGE COURTESY: The Designer
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