Nick Ross is a designer who spends as much time buried in historical manuscripts as he does in the studio. He is also currently ÅBEN's designer in residence.
Born in Inverness to a Swedish mother and a Scottish father, Nick studied at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen before taking a Masters in Interior Architecture and Furniture at Konstfack in Stockholm. He graduated in 2013 and by 2014 had set up his own studio. Nick feels at home in both Scotland and Sweden: “My design is somewhere in-between Scottish and Scandinavian, the formal language is coming from the Swedish side and the story-telling is from the Scottish side.”
Nick’s mother was an Architectural Technician for Historic Scotland and, with her, Nick visited countless ruins, castles and archaeological digs as a child. In Stockholm he now haunts the archives of the Swedish History Museum. Like all ÅBEN’s Founding Designers, Nick is seeking to tell a story through his work. But for Nick the story is always the starting point and often dictates the form of resulting objects: “The most interesting thing, the most important thing about the work, is explaining the context of everything.”
Nick regards this as an aspect of design that is often overlooked. Extensive research ensures he truly understands what it is he is trying to convey, before the practicalities of the design process have even begun.
Design is a vessel for delivering his stories.
“I like the Sci-Fi approach, they create sets by looking back, it’s
the easiest way to look forward.”
The tales he has spun range from indigenous Scottish tribes through the eyes of their Roman colonisers; an examination of what constitutes classic beauty and taste in Greco-Roman marble and an investigation into our relationship with our own reflection that footnotes the Stone Age period. Historical truths and myths are woven through everyday objects:
“They are objects we relate to. People are less able to relate to sculpture in a museum than they are to a coffee table in their house” As Nick’s aim is not to replicate, rather to create new objects he enjoys a freedom of expression. History is not binding, it is a source of inspiration: “That’s the power of design as a tool, that you can take something that a museum or a historian is trying to tell you, and you can tell it in your way, it becomes more believable.”
In his ‘White Lies’, Nick researched until the right object to begin the collection appeared: “I found this beautiful image from an archaeological dig of these pillars that had been decapitated, they looked like small tables.” Language is a vital part of Nick’s design process. His thesis was presented as a work of fiction, the central character a designer hired by a museum to work in the archives. A bound copy echoing his fascinating design processes.
Nick likens his work to performing a magic trick, the beauty of his design masking a sleight of hand, conveying hidden messages. The whole process counters mindless creating which, in turn, discourages thoughtless purchasing. The epitome of thoughtful design, Nick Ross is the perfect Designer in Residence for the launch of ÅBEN.
“I’m trying to create this tension between the other-worldliness that comes from ancient references, and the archetypes of certain furniture and objects.”