Sophie Smallhorn answers Despoke’s Questions

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You initially studied furniture design – where did you study and what made you want to study this?
My degree was a course at Brighton which was then called Wood, Metal, Plastics and Ceramics which felt almost like an extended foundation course which I think is why I choose it because it gave me more time to play and experiment without commitment to one discipline. In the end I specialised in wood and made furniture.

Why did you then make the transition to art?
While still at college I started making small abstract colour pieces out of the off cuts left from the bigger furniture projects and these pieces just continued but I wasn’t really sure where they fitted in until I did an exhibition and was taken on by a gallery in 1997.

What would you be if not an artist?
A forensic scientist if I was clever enough.

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Can you explain a little about your work for the Olympic Stadium?
I was commissioned by Populous who designed the stadium to create a spectrum of colours that would work within the architecture of the building. I devised a spectrum of 56 colours that are displayed on the Wrap which encircles the stadium and is then referenced on detailing as you move into the structure.

What was the inspiration behind it?
All my work is about colour but having the freedom to play and apply colour on such an amazing scale and on such an iconic olympic building was very exciting and very inspiring.

You work a lot with architecture – how important is architecture and design to your practice?
Very important. Because I have come from a design background and training my work is very much in formed by a systematic thought process which is led by symmetry, proportion, volume and other such details which I think a designer would consider in their work. The way is which a make decisions is based more in design speak than in art chat and that makes collaborating with designers and architects quite a comfortable place

How do you define good design?
Something that is proportionally ‘right’ and stands the test of time.

What do you think is an example of good design?
An Eames chair

Tell me about your design style at home?
I live with a graphic designer and two small boys so I guess it is the meeting of two fairly similar aesthetics plus obligatory kid mess; A bit of colour, collections of objects, some nice work on the walls, a lot of Lego.

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Which design of yours are you most proud of and why?
Probably the work I have done for the Olympic stadium because it has been such a long, involved project and I am excited to of had the opportunity to realise a piece on such a scale.

Anything in your career you wish you’d done differently?
I wish I hadn’t resisted working on computers for so long and was better at using them now.

Which designers do you most admire?
I think Thomas Heatherwick is quite brilliant

Finally if you could ask yourself one question what would it be ? and what would be the answer ?
Q. Why don’t I have a favourite colour?
A. Because they’re all good.

Website: www.sophiesmallhorn.co.uk/

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