Name to know: Phil Cuttance

Working in the composite material Jesmonite, London-based Cuttance casts vases, bowls, lighting and bespoke pieces of furniture moulded from intricate handmade designs

Design maker Phil Cuttance
Phil Cuttance

Tell us how it all started... It was when I moved to London from New Zealand 10 years ago. I exhibited in Milan and realised that Europe is the ‘land of opportunity’ when it comes to furniture and object design.

How would you define your practice? I’m a maker, and it’s a good time to be one: materials and processes have never been more accessible, and with the internet you can make small batches and sell globally.

Describe your work... I create objects with detailed and visually complex forms that contradict the lo-fi processes by which they are produced. They often reveal small imperfections too – a result of their handmade nature.

Pleat mirror by phil cuttance
‘Pleat’ Mirror
Phil Cuttance

What materials do you use? Jesmonite, a plaster-like material that forms detailed castings. It looks like stone or cement and has an infinite colour palette. It’s water-based, so is kinder on the environment than traditional materials.

How do you create your patterns? By experimenting with pleating techniques; they look simple but take a lot of calculations. I’ve just perfected my ‘Pleat’ design (above) with a trompe-l’œil effect that tricks you into seeing ascending and descending steps. It’s my most complex design. My Herringbone pattern (cabinet, below) is also very intricate.


What’s the process? I score lines into a plastic sheet and assemble the three-dimensional shape before pouring or brushing Jesmonite over it. The patterns and moulds can be reused to create unique objects.

Can we get involved? Yes – I host casting workshops regularly in my London studio, the Barbican, and in a little boatshed in Auckland, New Zealand.

herringbone cabinet by phil cuttance
Herringbone cabinet
Phil Cuttance

Why is the hand of the maker so important? Industrial production results in high volumes of identical pieces, and we generally have little affection for them. The handmade is becoming more and more precious. Software exists that could create my patterns, but I am determined to make them myself.

What’s it like running your own business? It doesn’t come naturally to me – I’ve heard of this thing called ‘profit’, but it still seems like an enigma!

Your greatest achievement so far? In 2012, my ‘Faceture’ vases received attention from international design and craft press and were nominated for awards including the 2013 Design Museum’s Designs of the Year. The amount of interest I received really spiked after that.

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration October 2019

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