1. Nafisi Studio
Who are they?
British-Persian duo design and make luxury art furniture and sculpture, through one-off handmade commissions for the home, garden, workplace and public spaces. Fusing progressive & heritage craftsmanship, a Nafisi piece can be passed on to the next generation.
What are their values?
Respect for traditional craftsmanship
Uncompromising quality of work
Provenance of material
See Our Values to learn more.
Why are they different?
Breadth of inspiration - From Abdollah’s six years travelling the Iranian desert with nomadic tribes to Kate’s ten years of immersion in the world of design and tech, they actively expose themselves to as wide a variety of cultural inputs as possible. From Voysey’s architecture to Persian rugs the breadth of their inspiration is eclectic.
Space for spontaneity - Choosing to keep elements of their design and production process fluid allows for a youthful freedom that enhances the finished product, they aim to leave at least 30% of the process to improvisation.
Sustainability - The workshop's heating and lighting is supplied by 100% renewable energy due to the farm's biomass boiler system and solar panels on the roof of the workshop. They use local timber yards for their FSC wood stock as well as regularly purchase off-cuts instead of new timbers
Farm Lifestyle - Kate and Abdollah live and work on their farm, taking daily walks in the forest, cycling the hilly trails of Sussex, cooking food on an open fire and playing music with friends at regular gatherings. Community and the outdoors is at the heart of their way of life.
The illustrated dovetail symbol used within their logo comes from an ancient woodworking joint that has origins at least as far back as the Egyptian first dynasty in 3000 BC. This strong signature joint is used a lot in their work, whether internally or externally.
Abdollah Nafisi is a designer craftsman at Nafisi Studio, with over 15 years experience in woodworking. He has created luxury furnishings and artwork for the home as well as sculptural works for the outdoors. As a Freeman member of the Worshipful Company of Furniture makers and a TV star from the BBC TWO series ‘The Victorian House of Arts & Crafts’, Abdollah likes to contribute to the craft industry and inspire others.
Originally from Iran where he ran his own woodworking workshop for 4 years, he relocated to the UK in 2011, in 2013 he set up his workshop in Horsham to produce bespoke commissioned pieces. Abdollah is passionate about raising the quality bar of each of his pieces as well as in his field to make the British handmade luxury industry proud.
He also teaches woodworking courses and lectures in design, often offering local businesses and charities pro bono work.
Kate is a designer and maker at Nafisi Studio, coming from 10 years in software design and 4 years as an art & design talk series curator. Kate started out in Interactive art, leading her to experimental touch screen user experiences and finally to UI/UX design for commercial digital products.
Her passion for human interaction and early attraction to participatory art, make art furniture design a natural extension of her skill set. When Kate designs she assesses the user experience first and foremost, paying great attention to ergonomics and function ensuring every piece satisfies the clients needs. Kate’s passion is the provenance of materials as well as the ethical, social and local implications sourcing has on the environment.
As well as designing, Kate does sanding and oiling of the pieces. She manages the studio’s communications, apprentices and marketing operations. She also runs steam bending woodworking workshops.
SAMPLE of work
Nafisi Studio Social Networks
2. The Victorian woodworker
Abdollah Nafisi stars in a brand new four part BBC2 TV series ‘The Victorian House of Arts and Crafts’ Friday’s @9pm starting 11th January. He travelled back in time as a woodworker to live and work in the 1800’s with 6 other crafters, without electricity for a whole month. See the BBC Press Pack for further details and hear about the 6 crafters in the house.
Who is he?
A hand-trained woodworker in the 1800’s.
Works with hand tools, natural light and next to the fire.
Sources his materials from local woodlands, chopping the tree down and preparing it for furniture making.
Makes his tools such as the reciprocating wood lathe, mallet and draw knife.
Works outdoors in a green woodworking workshop under a canopy exposed to the open air.
Lives in traditionally durable garments made of wools, tweeds and animal skins topped off with a sturdy woollen hat.
What does he care about?
The complete process start to end, from chopping the trees to finishing the furniture.
Keeping warm in and out of the elements during long working days. Getting up at 5:30am and working till the light goes or till ~8pm by the fire light.
Ensuring his tools retain a sharp edge.
Staying in tune with the natural light at all times of year as this determines his schedule.
Keeping clean, hand washing his clothes regularly due to messy nature of his work.
Being able to nourish himself and his fellow craftsmen appropriately for the work ahead is no easy task when all the food has to be made from scratch.
How did he get here?
Applied for the role through a tweet posted on Twitter.
Attended in person interviews with ~100 other people, selected from over ~3000 applications.
Test 1 - Solo exercise to ‘make a vessel in 1 hr’, he hand-carved an unusual wooden drinking saucer.
Test 2 - Solo 20 minute interview with the show Directors.
Test 3 - Group exercise to rank 20 famous designers in 15 minutes and provide justification for their conclusions and criteria.
Waited 2 weeks - Got accepted as one of the six finalists over the phone.
Set off to Wales to live in a old Arts and Crafts farm house for 1 month.
Victorian vs Modern-day
A comparison of the different worlds experienced by a woodworker in the modern day versus the life of their Victorian counterpart, who was better off?
A Victorian WoodWorker
Free from the loud sounds of modern power tools makes for a more romantic and peaceful working environment.
Living and working with beautifully made quality hand tools.
Removing the distractions of mobile phone usage allows a certain freedom, more spontaneity and a purer vision.
Working alongside great craftspeople allows for a wonderfully collaborative community in a way that modern day furniture makers rarely, if ever, get to enjoy.
A lack of exposure to other people’s work across the world can help can remove peer pressure and enable the development of a more authentic style.
Simplicity of life, their only purpose is to be a woodworker. They feel good enough with the skills they have so don’t need to push themselves to any extreme.
A Modern-Day WoodWorker
Having access to electricity enables so many benefits from light and heat to a vast array of time-saving power tools.
Lumber yards provide a wide variety of milled, kiln dried woods ready to work on.
Endless exposure to global design inspiration gives opportunity for the creation of truly innovative work.
The ability to promote oneself through social media, whilst it can be stressful is a huge game changer as far as the way craftspeople can now interact directly with clients.
The convenience of modern day personal life, from washing machines to fast food, has a huge impact on the ability to free up more time for other endeavours.
Free online resources such as business advice, youtube videos and access to the international craft community, provide great support.
Summary Victorian Images
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