Katie Askwith

The MADE NORTH Gallery presents new and experimental work by established and emerging northern designer/makers. We aim to promote a range of northern designer/makers and provide opportunities to find out a little bit more about how they work and their sources of inspiration.

Coffee Table
Oak Wedge Coffee Table

Katie is a product designer who works with process-led design. This approach is fuelled from a keen interest in how things are made, the people behind the machines and what the product designer’s role is within this.

Katie is currently exploring this through developing the Wired Range, which began in her final year at Manchester School of Art. Keen to work with a local manufacturer, she found Modern Air Systems in Manchester and was introduced to their huge cylindrical wire tubes for industrial filtering systems made by a small team in their factory near Ashton-Under-Lyne. Katie was inspired by the accuracy and scale of production and wanted to see if she made a small change to their existing processes, could this produce a different range of products. This led to the Wired collection of interior products, exposing the industrial construction techniques and drawing attention to the skill and materials normally gone unnoticed in their current product range.

Featured Designer/Maker Interview

Coffee Table (3)
Oak Wedge Coffee Table

Who or what inspired you to become a designer/maker?
So many people! Teachers, family and friends that have been there to talk things through, nudge me in the right direction or give me a bit of encouragement. Seeing great design and art, getting recognised in exhibitions and magazines. Meeting successful designers like Ian McIntyre and Claire Norcross who reminded me they are people as well as great designers.

One particular period, which still inspires me was a six month exchange trip to Oslo, Norway. Living away from everything familiar, meeting some amazing designers and friends, made me grow in confidence, re-evaluate my practice and what I want to achieve. Whilst there I was greatly inspired by Scandinavian culture and seeing the strong link between this and their simple, clear design mentality has made me more aware of how culture can influence design, and vice versa.

Today I continue to be inspired by fellow creatives who are succeeding. Seeing others doing well really encourages me to keep pushing and challenging myself to do what I enjoy and believe in.

How would you describe your work?
Cool, calm and considered. I go through quite an intense design process which I eventually pull together into the end product. I like to get hands on with a material and take things apart, really analyse something, get really frustrated, get some tests made and eventually get to a final product that is good quality and functional.

Wired Table Lights (2)

Wired Table Light
Wired Table Light

Where are you based? Please describe your studio.
My base is my bedroom in Manchester. A studio space is on the to-do list because I do not have much space at the moment. Sharing my sleeping space with my working space, is not really a space at all. So, I’m currently working at a small desk on a flatpack cardboard stool I have made, surrounded by prototypes, materials, mugs and mementos from my travels, whilst thinking I should really make smaller work!

What piece of work are you most pleased or proud of, and why?
I am most proud of the Wired Table light because it is the first product I have had batch made. I also enjoy using it as a bedside light and think it has a great little character.

Wired Pendant
Wired Pendants

What is the most satisfying part of the work you do?
The design process is a long one, and often bumpy, so it is satisfying to see a final product. I think the most satisfying part is working with manufacturers and skilled knowledgeable workers because I get to learn so much from them and feed this back into my designs.

What would be your dream project?
Working with a new sustainable or ecological material with a manufacturer like Vitra. I am really interested in how we can introduce these new materials into manufacturing and test their potential.

What are you currently working on?
I am currently finalising some glass vessels to add to the Wired Range. I also have a space in Designersblock’s Milan 2015 exhibition coming up so I am planning and working towards that.

Wired Pendats
Wired Pendants

When you’re not working what do you like to do?
I generally enjoy exploring new places, travelling to new countries, and roaming around Museums and Galleries. I think my latest favourite rediscovery was the Whitworth Art Gallery reopening and seeing Cornelia Parker’s work first hand.

What does the north of England mean to you?
The north of England is my home. I grew up in the hustle and bustle of London but I have found my independence in the North and love it here. I remember the first day I came to Manchester and I fell in love with the towering red bricked buildings and the rich industrial history. This has stuck and I continue to learn and be inspired by this city as well as the beautiful rural landscapes that surround it.

Wired Table Lights
Wired Table Light (detail)

See and buy Katie’s range of work in the MADE FRESH exhibition, you can also find more information here: