Ben Barber was born and raised in Vancouver, BC. Trained in sculpture at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. Upon completing his education Ben settled back in Vancouver and began working in a shared woodshop honing in his design philosophy. Blending a minimalist style influenced by his time in New York and an ecoconscious respect for nature garnered through years spent in Vancouver. He began to craft what is now Ben Barber Studio, a furniture/object design studio focused on producing retail-ready products that can be produced locally in collaboration with manufacturers of all mediums.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I run a small furniture/object design studio in Vancouver, BC called Ben Barber Studio. The studio has a collection of furniture ranging from dining tables, daybeds, storage units chairs, bowls and any else I think would be a great fit! When I am not busy working on designs and running the studio, you can find me riding up the local mountains, rock climbing, cycling and fly fishing! (I tend to have too many hobbies)
What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? This time of the year I like to focus on developing new releases for spring. At the moment, I am in the early stages of developing a pool-side collection for the upcoming Offsite show but on by Sight Unseen at NYCxDesign. Apart from that, I am making a big push to get the Bullet Bowls into more and more retailers this year. At the moment we are available locally at Kozai Modern, and online through the shop section of the studio website.
What is one of the bigger challenges you and/or other designers are struggling with these days and how do you see it developing? I feel this has been in discussion for a while, but the biggest struggle these days are keeping your idea’s private long enough for them to be fully realized. With the ever expanding ease to transfer information on a global scale whether it be through social media, free CAD programs like Sketch-up and the invention of the desktop 3D printer people can share ideas at the speed it takes you to click enter on your keyboard or tap the screen of your smartphone. I know I have had to slow myself down at times and make sure a design I am working on is fully flushed out.
How did your interest in design begin? Looking back on it now it probably started from snowboarding and riding mountain bikes at a young age. I always remember getting really excited to see the new releases each season. How there could be so many variations to something as simple as a snowboard. Each company could put their own authorship into a product and truly make it there’s. When I graduated high school, I spent a short time taking courses at Central Saint Martins in London, UK. This opened me up to a whole new world of design. People like Philip Stark were the first designers I began to look up to and realized this was something I really could be passionate about.
How has living in Vancouver affected your design practice? Vancouver has an incredible wealth of light manufacturing businesses who are extremely useful when developing a design. A lot of my design are influenced by who is readily available to build with.
What products or companies are you interested in right now? I am really interested in smaller products like utensils, products that demand such utility and give little room to deviate from its intended design. How can you create a new fork? It’s nearly impossible but it’s worth investigating.
What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? I use a lot of steel, and MDF. Both materials come in standardized sizes and can give you an initial platform to design from. For instance, the Kube-Rick Chair was designed using 1”x1” square tubing. The material dictated so much of that design. If it were built with 1”x3” tubing the outcome would be a completely different piece.
Favorite films? I could not be happier to be asked this question! I love film, I studied as much of it as I could in university and will nerd out on it given the chance. To narrow it down these are the first five that come to mind: Les Mepris by Jean Luc Godard, In Bruges by Martin McDonagh, Possession by Andrzej Zulawski, Suspiria by Dario Argento, and 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick
What artists or designers are you interested in right now? I am really interested in what is coming out of South Korea right now for design. I was looking at the work of Saerom Yoon this morning and it completely blew me away.
Also the work of LLOT LLOV studio from Berlin are always producing fantastic work.
Favorite Vancouver hangouts? Kin Kao thai food is one of my favourites, its very close to where I live and my studio. Not only is the food amazing they also have a great rotating beer list, and there interior was designed by Scott & Scott Architects, a local favourite of mine.
Currently listening to? Currently on heavy rotation are: Malibu – Anderson Paak, Still Brazy – YG (**FDT!**), Emma Jean – Lee Fields & The Expressions, Singles – Future Islands, and Blue & Lonesome – The Rolling Stones
What is your snack/beverage of choice when working in your studio? Coffee, Sushi and cookies! My studio mate and I are always going on mid day cookie runs to the local bakery.
What are you really excited about right now? The studio is two years old now and I am finally beginning to feel like it has some real traction. I am excited to see how the growth will be this year!
Favorite places to shop? Amazon.