MEET THE MAKERS
NOVOCASTRIAN was established in 2014 by Richy Almond. As the first in a long lineage to not have worked in Tyneside’s infamous shipyards, the foundations of NOVOCASTRIAN run through generations of family blood. As the industry declined, Richy’s parents set up a small steel fabrication business where he would often earn pocket money in the workshop during school holidays. Richy’s deep interest in the family’s metalworking tradition and passion for design led him to training as an architect.
Heading to London after graduating in 2008, Richy unexpectedly found work in the world of luxury interiors and spent many years working with a number of high-profile studios. Richy’s comprehensive understanding of the demand for high-quality, bespoke metalwork lead him to an epiphany moment whereby the concept of NOVOCASTRIAN came to life as a way of combining his own passion for design with a proud family heritage in metalworking.
Finchatton has worked with NOVOCASTRIAN on several projects including Twenty Grosvenor Square, Mayfair. We sat down with Richy and discussed the philosophy and inspiration behind the brand and its products.
Did you always know you wanted to be a metalworker?
I am fortunate enough to have a fantastic team around me which includes incredibly talented metalworkers, who I work with daily. My remit is very much the designing of our pieces rather than their making – but my dad taught me basic metalworking skills as a child, so I’ll always possess a good understanding and a deep respect for the craft.
What is your design motto?
I once read a book on Zen Buddhist art, a phrase from which has stuck with me ever since. It talked about the Zen painter, and how he/she should always give the impression of disciplined restraint, of having held something in reserve.
I found this an incredibly powerful notion as a design tool. Design for me is about balance and harmony, it is easy to both under-design and over-design, much more difficult to stop at the right point. Personally, I tend to allow the design to proceed beyond where it’s likely to end up, then look to strip away elements that are not essential.
What does creativity mean to you?
Creativity for me is an outlet and an impulse. Sadly, I only actually spend a fraction of my time being creative in the conventional sense, but I cherish that time. Without being dramatic, creativity for me is an essential component in leading a fulfilling life.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Inspiration is of course found anywhere and everywhere, but a key reference for me is the industrial heritage of our native North-East England. Once the heartland of a now faded industrial boom, it has mined coal, built ships and invented steam trains and electrical lighting. This history is rich with inspiration.
Visual language is hugely important to us, anything with a strong identity is ripe for extracting inspiration. Our Staiths shelving unit is a particularly good example of this, the design is inspired by a huge skeletal wooden Victorian structure which snakes its way into the Tyne. Now redundant and in a state of ruin, it once carried the coal carts of steam trains from the Durham mines to the Keel boats waiting below, ready to ship the cargo to London where it would be used to fuel the industrial revolution. This rhythmic structure, once the largest of its kind in Europe, has been beset by vandalism and arson over the years, something referenced in the design of our shelving unit.
What makes your products so unique and how would you characterise your pieces?
I believe our USP is that almost every piece we make is handmade to order. This offers our clients great flexibility and customisation. It became apparent to me whilst working in the interior design industry that this is a much sought-after offering, and so from the beginning our aim was to develop designs which could by modified, often extensively, without losing their integrity.
From an aesthetic perspective, a myriad of influences have fed into my personal design style. From being immersed in the work of my design hero Charles Rennie Mackintosh whilst studying at the Glasgow School of Art, to spending time working with Anouska Hempel and witnessing her meticulous attention to detailing, it has all fed the ’NOVOCASTRIAN’ style.
Key to me is that our work is exceptionally well crafted whilst possessing humility. It is predominantly understated, it doesn’t shout loud, but the detail, quality and interest is there to see for those who look closely. I don’t like to think of our pieces in isolation, but of how they contribute to an interior.
Our primary material is steel, a simple, inexpensive metal, with which we have an almost symbiotic relationship. I am fascinated by elevating humble materials into something of value (we also work a lot with Cumbrian slate), and hopefully this respect for our materials is evident in the final product. We intentionally avoid aiming for ‘perfection’, we leave a subtle references to the making process in the piece, and never over-finish. More than anything we wish our work to speak honestly about both its materiality, and how it has been made.
Are you working on any exciting projects at the moment?
We’re in discussions over some very interesting bespoke projects at the moment, there’s a particular opportunity to develop a pair of brass maps for a superyacht which we’re excited about. Other than that, we’re beginning to focus on our next range of products, which will offer something very different to our current range, so watch this space.
Explore more about NOVOCASTRIAN’s work here.