Homegirl London pays homage to Max Cairns. He’s the guy who makes charming flora and fauna laser cut wall clocks. That’s not all he creates because he also uses the same technique for a beautiful folding screen room divider and handmade laser cut Xmas decorations and applies his designs to kitchen trivets. Max has a unique style which captures the raw beauty of the British Isles. He distills the intricate forms he finds in nature to create strong graphic silhouettes for his laser cut clocks and other interior products. Expect to see willow trees, rowan shrubs and samphire plants in his work along with birds including the Mistle Thrush, Redshank and Magpies. I caught up with Max Cairns to find out more.
Mistle Thrush Laser Cut Wall Clock
Meet Max Cairns
Max tells me about his background – “I graduated in 3D Design from the University of Brighton in 2011. When my studies ended I worked part time as a technical design assistant in a London college with access to a laser cutter. I loved working with the laser cutter so began setting myself projects and was able to mock up many prototypes. This was great because, financially speaking, it isn’t something I would have been able to do externally, which has invariably led me to where I am now.”
After a while Max became a dab hand at laser cutting, he elaborates – “I initially made my first clock, the Magpie + Willow, for a Christmas present. I was fascinated by the forms of a local Willow tree and the fine detail one could achieve using this machine. It blossomed (excuse the pun) from there and I began to use British flora and fauna as a starting point for my work. Because I was able to create these pieces at very little cost, I started to personally make each clock out of wood and spray paint it. I designed some packaging on the laser and perfected the ‘zip’ opening as to me the packaging was fundamental to the overall aesthetic. I began selling my work at Spitalfields market whilst continuing my other job which enabled me to invest in producing improved versions in metal.”
Samphire Laser Cut Wall Clock and Packaging
Max is located in North London, he explains why – “I was brought up in Crouch End and still live there. It is a hard area to leave! It has a large number of creatives and artists with a consequential impact on the vibe of the place and independent shops. Plus it has lots of great open space and woodland nearby, Hampstead Heath isn’t too far away either. For now I am a one-man-band which is just as well because I am the first to admit that I’m an outrageous perfectionist and I think I’d drive any co-workers around the bend! I would like to grow as a company and expand the range of products and the materials I use which is my goal for the future.”
See the Max Cairns Collection
Max makes interior products and his collection is called ‘Britain, naturally’ which is inspired by British flora and fauna. He elaborates – “This collection is a reflection of the raw beauty found throughout the British Isles, in essence it aims to distill some of the intricate forms found in nature into strong graphic profiles. The style is a contemporary approach to what can sometimes be a more traditional or kitsch subject matter, incorporating modern colours and geometric elements. My focus is on slightly unconventional interior products as more mainstream objects from high street retailers are too difficult to compete with economically.”
Samphire Folding Screen Room Divider
Max tells me about his design style – “It is quite clean and graphic. For my ‘Britain, naturally’ range I have produced silhouettes of what can sometimes be quite complex patterns. I have tried to translate the detail into accessible shapes, for example simplifying the birds into linear forms without losing key information. Once I have found a subject matter I like I collect samples of the flora and document it photographically. I then trace over the photos, adding or subtracting bits I like until I have a diagrammatic image of the flora. The Samphire Folding Screen Room Divider, for example, has over 40 different pieces of samphire tessellated manually and isn’t a repeat or pattern”
Rowan Laser Cut Wall Clock
The ‘Britain, naturally’ Collection is adorable. Max tells me more about it – “This range features wildlife which has connotations with Britain. The Bird Clocks partner the bird with its associated flora. The colours chosen are then inspired by these elements, for example the Redshank + Samphire Clock has a very coastal theme and is where these species can be found so the turquoise and blue is then a reflection of that environment. All the designs have to have similar origins.”
Redshank and Samphire Laser Cut Wall Clock
Behind the scenes Max undertakes extensive research to ensure his work is the best it can be. He explains – “My inspiration comes from our natural surroundings and it is essential I immerse myself in it, I always have a camera on me for walks in the countryside. However, after I have done the physical side I need to do quite a lot of desk research on the subject to find its viability. The chosen subject matter has to tick quite a few boxes, obviously firstly in shape and complexity to cut but also name and heritage. I have this great big book on plants which is fantastic to look through for inspiration. There are so many beautiful forms out there and tropical plants seem particularly in vogue at the moment, it’s just a shame a lot of them are not indigenous. Maybe I should start a Barbados range, I could go out there for a few months research!”
Willow Laser Cut Wall Clock
It’s only right that a collection showcasing Britain should be manufactured in Britain. Max says – “All my manufacturing is done on our shores and to me it’s important that my products are wholly British both in conception and production. My range of clocks, which are all made in Greater London, are laser cut from steel then powder coated. I have also tried to attempt some more unusual techniques such as my new Samphire Trivet which is screen printed vitreous enamel, essentially powdered glass. It attempts to unite craft in the enamelling with a modern utilitarian aesthetic.”
Samphire Kitchen Trivet
Max tells me about the people and companies he admires – “I am a massive fan of Hay and its collaborators. I love their use of colour and subtlety such as the Bouroullec brothers beautiful Copenhague chair. The Sebastian Wrong and Richard Woods collaboration was pretty spectacular too. William Morris and his use of pattern is also very inspirational for me.”
Buy the Max Cairns Products
You can buy these beautiful products from www.maxcairns.co.uk which can also be shipped overseas. Laser Cut Wall Clocks start at £100. The Samphire Kitchen Trivet is £65. The Folding Screen Room Divider is made to order and available in a range of colours. You can buy the laser cut Xmas decorations (baubles) for £26 for a pack of three, which are a perfect Christmas gift. Max can make bespoke commissions or special colours so if you have something in mind please contact him via the website.
Author: Homegirl London. Photographs: Courtesy of Max. Thanks: Max.