Monday 14 June 2010

Introducing... People Will Always Need Plates

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of... plates (and tea towels)! Thank goodness then, for the existence of design duo, People Will Always Need Plates. Famous for their witty, thoughtful and stylish products depicting iconic landmarks, we recently discovered that their passion for concrete holds no bounds!

Tell us a bit about yourself...
Who are you both and what do you do?

We are Hannah and Robin. Hannah's background is ceramics - an MA in 'pots and bottles' from the RCA. Robin studied industrial design at Brunel, and then went off to play in the glamorous world of branding and exhibition design for many years before being led to the dark side of batch production and collaboration with Hannah. All that consultancy work combined with freelancing has made a good solid ground from which to build People Will...

We set up the company as an antithesis to consultancy work and veer towards exceedingly geeky subject matter that we love, rather than producing design that'll necessarily sell the best. We know this is a luxury and are endlessly appreciative that we've found an audience and customer base as enthusiastic as ourselves.

Which has been your favourite building to work on for People Will Always Need Plates?
Trellick Tower is undoubtedly our bestseller - but also particularly Hannah's favourite. She wrote her dissertation on brutalist architecture as an undergraduate and her enthusiasm for reinforced concrete just keeps on growing. It's an added delight that Trellick is the Marmite of our range - everyone has a strong opinion of it - and we've enjoyed numerous debates with customers about the pros and cons of Trellick and its sister tower in Bow.

You do a lot of bespoke, commissioned PWANP projects for unusual buildings up and down the UK. In the case of Sheffield’s Tinsley Cooling Towers (which have unfortunately since been demolished) do you feel like you’re doing your bit to try and protect and preserve part of England’s heritage (even if it’s only in memory)?
We tend to choose buildings that we love. Unfortunately, these are often much-hated concrete edifices that hold no value in the eyes of the conservator or developer and so they're all too frequently demolished to make way for McMansions and twee mock-Tudor boxes - the English dream. We hope that we raise the profile of brutalist architecture by celebrating it in a similar manner to that of Doulton or Spode's castles and cottages on their Victorian ware.

We've helped Twentieth Century Society by producing ware to be sold by them for fundraising as they actively promote and campaign to save the architecture we most love.

Do you have a favourite architectural style/period? Do you ever find yourself hankering after a bit of Victorian gothic or some medieval masonry?
We do sometimes draw a bit of Victoriana - the V&A nearly sent us blind with all its crenellations and mock-gothic detailing - and Liverpool Cathedral sent Robin slightly mad for a few days! Older architecture does suit our style surprisingly well, it's just that when commissioned it's often modernists that see the value in working with us. As previously mentioned, we're suckers for concrete from the 1960s, though a good dose of Georgian geometry comes in close second.

What other projects are you currently involved with?
We're very busy with commissions for the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice, MARTa in Herford, Germany and new products as part of Hidden Art's Select range this year.

Do you enjoy straying away from your People Will Always Need Plates aesthetic, for example when you worked on products for Habitat?
We still freelance for the big boys now and again. It's refreshing to work on larger scale projects and not have to be wrapped up in the minutiae of production issues and the like. There are lots of other considerations when working for clients and it keeps us firmly grounded and disciplined in what is traditionally the job of the designer. Our current project is top secret for a super dooper client... but until it's launched in Heal's in August we have to keep schtum.

If you weren’t both designers, what do you think you would be doing instead?
Hannah - architect or grubby potter. I cannot let go of my craft-led roots.
Robin - definitely making something in a workshop with big machinery, or international motor racing star.

Town or Country (or seaside)?
Hannah - seaside. Ideally someplace warm enough to take a dip most of the year - and with mountains nearby. Did someone say Big Sur??
Robin - Yeah, San Francisco during the week, somewhere in Cow Hollow maybe, then Big Sur for the weekend.

And, almost relating to the question above, fancy restaurant or Sunday pub lunch (or fish and chips)?
Hannah - fancy restaurant to ensure good tableware. People will always need... a good table setting.
Robin - all of the above, I've never met a food I didn't like.

And finally, who does the washing up in your household (and do they dry the dishes with your tea towels)?
Hannah washes (mostly) and drying up is a shared chore - we have lots of Unity Peg tea towels in varying states of decay. We're hankering after some Lush Designs’ Foxes next though as they're a super hit on the mugs in our house with the wee'un.

You should head on over to the People Will Always Need Plates online headquarters, as they are currently having a brutal(ist) 50% off sale on all their remaining Ain't Concrete Great? plates.


  1. These are great, I love the Liverpool cathedral one especially. My home town!

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