If there is a conventional route to designing furniture, then Dan Morrison did not take it.
He has a background in engineering design – you will often find that designer makers trained first as engineers or architects – but Dan has also worked in the performing arts, the music business, computer science and software development.
He even did a spell as a funeral director, serving the small community in the south Pennines where he put down his roots. Dan relocated from London for a change of scene, attracted by the industrial heritage and natural beauty of the region. He saw an ad in the local paper:
‘I thought being a funeral director would be an interesting job. My Dad was a vicar and it was a privilege to work with families at a difficult time, helping them in a practical way. I got to know a lot of people. Although I didn’t stay working in the role long term, it was deeply rewarding. I’m sure it contributed to us becoming very settled.’
The move to furniture design
Dan, who lives in the countryside of the Yorkshire/Lancashire borderlands with his wife Hannah, decided to launch BLOTT WORKS when he realised he missed expressing his creative side. He found himself returning to a love of engineering.
As a boy growing up in Shropshire Dan was inspired by local cabinet maker Harold Winlove, in addition to Bill Norton, a family friend and engineer. Last but not least is his Great Auntie Mary Blott, after whom the business is named. He strives to blend industrial heritage with subtler evocations of nature.
‘I hand-engineer pieces drawing from the natural world based on simple, functional design. Passion is the most important thing with any job. But when I decided to move into furniture design I underestimated how much I had to learn.
‘I am largely self-taught, watching YouTube videos and learning from other designer-makers at trade shows. You get to talk to people about veneers and joints.’
From small beginnings Dan has achieved great things, making all his sculptures from raw materials sourced from local suppliers. He designs all the key elements himself and has picked up awards for his work. BLOTT WORKS exhibits around the UK at trade shows and design expos.
Dan finds the shows a welcome relief from the essentially solitary nature of his work. He makes his furniture in a workshop behind the family home overlooking the hills.
‘I enjoy getting out and seeing people at events, where we share news and ideas, then getting back to my workshop.’
The ethos behind BLOTT WORKS is to produce limited-edition, hand-engineered functional sculpture. But there’s often a playfulness and subtle wit in Dan’s designs.
His bird lamps are particularly popular with customers, who often report they have become part of the family.
‘The lamps grew from an idea to design functional pieces that are useful and have a sculptural element. I bring my engineering background into the design process, and have a love of the beauty of machine components.
‘I used to love getting new parts in the post. So my designs frequently start off with the engineering or architectural side of things. I get the basic mechanisms and structure down, and then gravitate towards something with a bit of character.
‘The bird lamps came from observing how an extending beam at a certain angle looks like a bird, when you curve it. Turned upside down, it looks like a garden bird.’
Designs for a Crane desk lamp, Baby Bustard lamp and Hawk desk lamp quickly followed. Many of Dan’s designs feature elements of the natural world.
‘I read up on cranes and discovered they are being reintroduced into this country, so there’s a story behind the lamps, too.’
The lamps led to a new collaboration after a fellow designer saw them and approached Dan, suggesting they make clocks. Using old Soviet Nixie tubes, Dan is working with Paul Parry of Bad Dog Designs to produce an exclusive range of time pieces.
‘It’s good to collaborate,’ Dan says. ‘The first couple of years I kept my head down and got on with things. But I realise more and more that people are collaborating these days. We are fusing Paul’s love of upcycling with my love of design. I take my general inspiration from the curves you find in classic cars and engineering components and build them into the finished product.’
You can view Dan Morrison’s designs at Artisan Alchemy, 85 Caroline Street, Birmingham B3 1UP. Get in touch to ask about the BLOTT WORKS range or learn more about our opening times here. We look forward to hearing from you!
Visit Artisan Alchemy in the Jewellery Quarter
- Artisan Alchemy is a contemporary gallery in the Jewellery Quarter district of Birmingham
- The area boasts the largest community of designer makers in Europe
- The gallery is also host to Artisan Artemy fine jewellery
Artisan Alchemy fuses a long tradition of making with innovative modern design. As a result, it’s the perfect day out for design lovers. It really is an artistic hub.
We are also dedicated to offering an excellent service so you can choose a special piece for yourself or a loved one. Our friendly staff will be happy to help you either in person or by telephone. Visit soon!
The gallery also rents out workshops to local creative businesses.