Q&A with Tricia Harris Designs
In this edition, we speak to furniture designer Tricia Harris, who has her own studio in the heart of the capital. With a first class honours degree in Furniture Design and Manufacture, Tricia decided to take up a lecturing post in Griffith College Dublin, and went on to complete a masters’ degree in Technology and Learning in Trinity College.
Having built up a portfolio of designs, she began to think about starting her own business and established ‘Tricia Harris Designs’ in 2012.
As part of Irish Design 2015(#ID2015), Tricia was selected for CREATE 2015 at Brown Thomas (#BTCREATE), a special installation celebrating the best in Irish design and craft, which runs in store until Aug 16th 2015.
Her work can also be seen in the Niland Gallery (Galway) in a collective exhibition entitled: ‘Irish Design Works’, which runs until Aug 2nd.
How did it all start for Tricia Harris Designs?
I have always been interested in creating things, even as a kid I was constantly building and making stuff.
After graduating from The Furniture College in Letterfrack in 2005, I worked in various short term roles before going down a route I had never planned or even thought about before – teaching.
Lecturing part-time allowed me to build on my own portfolio of work and during the summer of 2012, I felt it was time to take the leap and start the process of setting up my own furniture design business.
Tell us more about your range?
I have focused a lot on cabinets and boxes in the last couple of years. I think I like the intricacy of them and the way a simple cabinet can be transformed into something beautiful while still serving its function as a storage unit.
The range of cabinets include the Autumn Leaf cabinet, which has a selection of mixed decorative veneered doors and drawers, with a quirky peel-back design feature on the main door.
The Audrey is a tall shelved cabinet - a ‘tallgirl’ - with quilted maple veneer door and marquetry detailing.The Swirl drinks cabinet, which is the first to go into small batch production, is a curved rosewood cabinet with maple interior.
The Jack-in-the-Box Lamp - a solid cherry dovetail box which opens to reveal a light - is receiving a great reaction and is currently stocked in Brown Thomas.
What were the initial challenges when setting up the business?
As a sole trader, the biggest challenge is managing all the various aspects of the business, especially at start up stage.
You realise that when you set up our own design business, the time available for design is nowhere near what you would like! There are so many elements required to run a successful business that you just have to get used to wearing different hats all the time!
How are you marking ID2015 (Irish Design 2015)?
This year has been great for design and I have been lucky to be part of various ID2015 activities.
I was involved in organising an ID2015 supported event in The Chocolate Factory, where my studio is based. We hosted a weekend furniture and interiors exhibition showcasing the work of the resident designers and invited guests, along with a pop up shop, talks and workshops.
I was proud to be among a small selection of furniture makers featured in PORTFOLIO @ Solomon, a furniture exhibition in the Solomon Gallery, supported by DCCOI and ID2015.
How did the partnership with Brown Thomas come about?
I was met with the Brown Thomas buying team and presented the Swirl and Jack-in-the-Box lamp. They chose to include both in the CREATE 2015 event so they are available to buy in Brown Thomas Dublin during July and August.
They are also running a ‘Meet the Makers’ series where designers and makers will be in-store for demos and meet and greet. I recently enjoyed setting up my workshop for a day on the 3rd Floor of Brown Thomas.
Which Irish designers inspire you the most?
In terms of Irish design, I would have to say Joseph Walsh was a huge inspiration for me when I was in college, and still is. I admire the way he completely pushes the boundaries of wood as a material and has changed people’s perception of furniture.
I am always inspired by companies like Foxford Woollen Mills and Molloy & Sons for example; companies which have been around for a long time and concentrate on doing one thing, but doing it really well.
What Irish-based entrepreneurs do you admire most and why?
I admire social innovators like James Whelton of CoderDojo. As a teenager, he started with an idea for after school classes teaching classmates about computers and how to code and went on the become co-founder of CoderDojo, which is now known nationally and internationally.
I love the idea of kids wanting to learn and in such a fun and rewarding atmosphere. The philosophy of teaching each other and earning badges is wonderful.
I enjoy working with Go4It Summer Camps myself and find it refreshing to see the creativity that exists at this young age.
How has the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) Dublin City supported your business?
The priming grant I received from LEO Dublin City last year allowed me to invest in the production set up for the Swirl drinks cabinet. The LEO funding helped me get initial production up and running and the first batch produced.
Along with accessing funding from LEO Dublin City, I was assigned a mentor and the advice I gained was extremely valuable.
This helped me immensely by getting me to really investigate the market potential of my business, setting business goals, and other really helpful strategies that a start-up should undertake.
What advice would you give to other designers, who may be thinking of starting up their own business?
I would definitely recommend becoming part of a collective space / creative hub. It’s great to have an individual studio space while at the same time benefitting from the social interaction and collaborative opportunities that come with being part of a group.
Another piece of advice would be to explore the supports that are available to start-ups - there is great assistance out there!
Even the process of applying for funding, helps you focus on creating a proper business plan and to think about your business idea in a realistic and practical way.
Even as a sole trader, you don’t need to do it alone! Go to talks, advice days, meet like-minded business people, and make the most of the opportunities available.
Our thanks to Tricia Harris for taking part in this interview.
For more information on Tricia and her designs, please visit www.triciaharrisdesigns.com; find her on Facebook at /triciaharrisdesigns, on Twitter at@_TriciaHarris
To find out more about Irish Design 2015, please visit www.irishdesign2015.ie