Photographs courtesy of David Mellor Design
David Mellor Design: in the heart of the Peak District
Last summer, returning from a stay in Yorkshire, we broke our journey in the heart of the Peak District, with a stop at the David Mellor Design Museum and factory. Situated near the stunning Hope Valley, this architectural idyll is far from what you’d imagine a metalwork factory to look like. But when you understand a little more about David Mellor Design, the beautiful working environment begins to make sense.
The ethos of the company is that ‘well designed equipment can improve your life’ and this has run through each one of their products since the company first produced steel cutlery in the 1950s. It has also been applied to the place where they are manufactured. The unusual circular factory building was designed in 1990 by David Mellor’s close friend, the architect Michael Hopkins, and is constructed of a circular stone wall, mirroring an old gas cylinder whose foundations the building sits on. Over the structure sits an ingenious cantilevered roof, which gracefully covers the open-plan space, allowing the circular building to exist without internal walls and partitions. It’s here that we meet the small team of highly skilled metal workers and their immaculate machinery, much of which David Mellor invested in at the start of his career.
David Mellor Design: a mecca for fans of British mid-century
The David Mellor factory is made from local stone that sits quietly in the rural surroundings, near the stone house he built on the site, now home to his son Corin, himself a renowned designer and the person charged with leading the company into the future. The factory shop, Design Museum and café on the site constitute something of a mecca for fans of David Mellor’s work and British mid-century design. The displays illustrate the diversity of David Mellor’s work, covering both industrial and domestic product design. As well as cutlery, some of David Mellor’s earliest designs were one-offs. Two such examples are the silver candelabra that were commissioned by the City of Sheffield and the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths in the early 1960s. These traditional items have been given a contemporary twist that combines both majesty and modernism in a surprisingly striking way.
David Mellor Design: a tradition in candle holders
Although the David Mellor brand is perhaps best known for its cutlery, candle holders are still an important part of the collection. In addition to the stunning silver Embassy candle holder of 1963, still in production today, there are two designs available at a more accessible price point. Corin Mellor’s beautiful Linear Spun candlesticks in stainless steel, and the quirky Serpentine candle holders in cast-iron, which were one of the most popular David Mellor designs from 1972.
Corin outlines the history of the Serpentine candle holders, “They were part of a range of products from the late 1960s and early ’70s that were designed exclusively for the David Mellor Sloane Square shop. They explore organic shapes and were one of a number of items my father designed in cast-iron, a bold choices of material. The iron is cast using the traditional ‘sand-casting’ technique, which gives it a lovely textured finish. I think he experimented with the material because, apart from the visual appeal, it’s ideal for low-volume mass production, with relatively low tooling costs.”
I am intrigued to know why this design remains so popular today and Corin explains, “At the time, they were aimed squarely at the London market of newly design-conscious consumers coming out of the boom of the ‘swinging sixties’. Now I think it’s probably because they’re relatively unusual, and have a rather timeless quality. There’s something deeply appealing about their solidity, weight and texture.”
David Mellor Design: a new era
Corin Mellor became Creative Director of David Mellor Design in 2006, having already dedicated many years to the company. By this time he had established a name for himself in his own right, though he of course acknowledges his father’s influence, “I grew up around his designs and I was involved in creating many of his later pieces. It’s inevitable that my design aesthetic is influenced by his work, although other great designers also inspire me. I feel I’ve developed my own distinct aesthetic in a natural, unforced way, without necessarily trying to be different.”
In 2011 Corin came up with the design for the elegant Linear Spun candlesticks, “Candleholders have recently become increasingly popular again. We wanted a new design that would fit alongside our cast-iron candleholders and silver Embassy candlesticks, but in the material we’re most renowned for: stainless steel”. The name Linear Spun hints at how they’re manufactured. The candleholders are spun from discs of sheet stainless steel on a lathe to create the three dimensional flowing form. They are then hand-polished to a beautiful satin finish.
During our visit to the David Mellor factory, I came to appreciate the full extent to which this man’s work has become an intrinsic pat of our design pedigree in the UK. His designs are aimed at enhancing our lives both practically and aesthetically, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the stalwarts of the David Mellor range, its cutlery and candle holders.
Read our interview with Corin Mellor, Creative Director at David Mellor Design.
Learn more about mid-century tableware design in Still Cutting It: 100 Years of Stainless Steel in Britain, was published in MidCentury Issue 05.
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