Design Icons: Max Lamb

“You are all different, but you are all made in the same spirit, by the same hands, and can stand alone or live together. Each of you speaks of a time, a place and a moment in our lives.” – Gemma Holt. 

Max Lamb’s book ‘Exercises in Seating’ begins with an ‘Ode to chairs’ by his wife Gemma. A glimpse into the couples’ home, their relationship with Lamb’s pieces and their sense of humour when it comes to his reputation as ‘the chair man.’ Having met at their graduate show, Alice and Max have since crossed paths at varying points throughout their careers. Today she visits him at the ‘quiet brown house’ of multiplying chairs to discuss his materials, his processes and his transient attitude to work. 

design icon | max lamb studio workshop

Max Lamb is a man of materials. Growing up with a father in the Air Force, he moved around a lot as a child, but still considers himself a Cornish native and very much the outdoors type. “There’s a photograph of me at 2 days old in Cornwall on the beach on the pebbles,” he says, “I didn’t need manmade things. A rock, the earth, the mud. I was very happy just to be dirty and outside, eating worms.” This may sound like a typical country upbringing, but so often dirt and a love of nature are exchanged for office blocks and screen time later in life. Lamb however has retained his respect for the ground, the trees and the rocks, choosing to draw upon it at every twist and turn of his design process.

Beginning while he was studying at London’s Royal College or Art, Lamb’s catalogue of chairs shows how, because they can all be sat on, it is the materials and the contrasts of brutal sculptures and measured structures that create the comparisons. They reflect times and places, life stages and approaches. They take on the concept of sitting, one of the most inherent human actions, and tackle it from different cultures, processes and moods.

“Provenance of material is really important,” Lamb adds, “but it’s also context driven so it’s based on where the product is going. I will go abroad if the destiny of that product is abroad. I don’t want to be a woodworker. I don’t want to be a metalworker. It all comes down to curiosity and not wanting to commit to any particular materials.” Whether it’s Portland Limestone, De Lank granite, wool felt or copper, Lamb is able to tell stories through his designs and keep everything very true to the raw material. 

“Because I’m not mass manufacturing, I’m able to keep things very small and close,” Max adds. “I want to be the person who is QCing. If I’m providing designs and someone is making them then I want that relationship and I want to pay their bills. Being very independent and having those intimate, personal relationships with the people that I’m serving, but also the people who are serving me in fabrication and material supply, is the way I want it to be. It’s very close and I like that.”

design icon | max lamb studio

These are values that we share here at Alice Made This. Forming and maintaining close relationships with our factories, as well as learning the strengths and limits of our materials, is the only way that our designs can be truly informed and refined. We learn from our factories, we have the upmost respect for the craftsmen that we work with and our materials dictate the direction that a collection will take. We pride ourselves on our openness and honesty when it comes to our ways of working and our suppliers. Everyone that we work with has been chosen for their expertise and willingness to push the boundaries of their respective industries, tools and techniques. 

In the same way that we are never quite sure where a material sample or a piece of architectural inspiration will lead us, Lamb enjoys “being in a constant flux and never knowing what’s next.”

“The reason why one day I’m working with a tree, and then pewter or polystyrene the next, is not a bravado thing,” he continues. “It’s because I can. I am curious. I want to try something new. I hate dwelling in a single place for too long. The element of permanence in my life is my beautiful wife Gemma and we have a beautiful house that we’ve worked hard for, but everything around it can change and that’s what I make sure that I do.”

“Maybe that’s what it’s all about,” he continues, “it’s about being relaxed and not committing to something. Let’s just have fun with it and let’s try something new. Let’s not say I’m going to be a woodworker or this is going to be my home forever. It’s nice to have elements of consistency, but everything else remains open.”

For Lamb his consistencies are his personal life, nature, materials and storytelling. For Alice Made This they are a dedication to British industrial processes and a clean, refined aesthetic. Within those parameters, we can explore any number of industries, materials or approaches. Although our core foundations remain solid, our inspirations and methods can transcend around them. Like Lamb, we are not made for standing still. We’re always looking for the next way to sit down.

Learn more about Max Lamb's work here.