Aston Lark Executive Director Lisa Smith was one of Sir Terence Conran’s greatest admirers and shares her memories alongside a conversation with him that was published in the first issue of Aston Lark’s LARKlife magazine.
Sir Terence Conran probably had more impact than any other designer of his generation on everyday life in contemporary Britain and in November 2016 the Aston Lark team was privileged to witness him cut the ribbon at the opening of architect John Pawson’s magnificent new Design Museum in Kensington High Street.
Members from Aston Lark’s designated charity SmartWorks, which helps women get back into the workplace, were also there to take part in the day.
It was a wonderful occasion and we were all thrilled to be in the presence of such a visionary who actually revolutionised home living as we know it today. He was truly inspirational and into his 80s he explained his continual drive. He said: “When you are involved in things you are passionate about energy comes naturally.”
In 2015, he granted me an interview for LARKlife magazine in which he revealed it was his mother’s influence that sent him on a creative path. We offer our heartfelt condolences to Sir Terence’s family and would like to re-share the story we were privileged to work on with him.
Here is the story:
I can’t really remember a time when design wasn’t a serious part of my life. As a small child my favourite present was a bag of wooden offcuts and nails with a pretty basic tool kit.
After much pestering, my mother gave me a space for a small workshop and allowed me to set up a wood-fired pottery kiln. There is no doubt this was the point where I began to develop the curious mind of a designer.
My mother was a terrific influence on my sister, Priscilla, and I from a very early age. She always encouraged us to express ourselves and provided us with the means to do so and if she had grown up in a more progressive era she would certainly have been an artist or a designer.
She made sure that creatively we never wanted for anything, whether that was materials, opportunities or guidance. We really do owe her so much for setting us on a creative path.
But I also like to think I also always had an entrepreneurial side. I remember exchanging a wooden battleship I had made for a potter’s lathe and being extremely proud with my side of the deal.
I’ve always had that spirit in me and it was no different when the opportunity came to make a little bit of money and sell some of my own designs – it’s a strong instinct I have that drives much of what I do. I have ideas, passion and want to make things happen.
My lifetime in design has been the most fantastic journey I could have ever imagined and continues to give me immense pleasure. I began my career as a textile designer with aspirations to become a product designer in a very grey and austere Britain in the 1950s.
Since then our design group has designed everything from skyscrapers to cottages and interiors for anything from airport terminals and department stores to small shops and cafes. We have designed cars and teaspoons, iPod docks, lights, furniture, homeware, lighting, aircraft and boat interiors.
We have also opened and operated our own shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs and hotels so I really do know how very lucky I am that my long career has offered me such a rewarding, diverse and exciting style of life.