Homegirl London pays homage to Obe & Co Design Limited. A business set up by Graham Marjanovic in 2011 making wooden lighting, furniture and home accessories. His English design and manufacturing studio combines natural materials sourced in a sustainable way with inventive functionality. The combination of detail, quality and a dash of curiosity give the products a playful edge. It’s all about flowing forms with sculptural shapes made from beautiful wood. I caught up with Graham to find out more …
Q: Tell me about your design background.
A: No official qualifications so am 95% self-taught from books and also YouTube which has been my source for a lot of information. I also did a lot of toy breaking as a kid to see how the toys were made and have always been interested in inventing and making.
Obe & Co Design Limited, Cherry Spotty Lamp
Q: Why set up your business?
A: I wanted to escape from the newspaper printing industry which is where I had worked since the age of 17. I dreamed of becoming a wood turner, did a few day courses and couldn’t get the notion out my head. I’ve been blessed with timing and as I was thinking about selling my home, maybe living on a boat and using the capital to start my own venture – redundancies were announced and they were looking for volunteers.
Q: Why call the company Obe & Co Design Limited?
A: One of my early designs was an illuminated obelisk; the love of the shape came from Asterix and Obelix comics. A client commissioned an Obe-lit but called it an ‘Obe’ and others have as well. The ‘& Co’ part refers to future designs and hopefully collaborations.
Q: Where are you based and why?
A: I’m based in Lingfield, a village in the countryside which is a 10-minute drive heading away from the M25, south of London. I have a purpose built studio at the end of the garden, which has made it possible to train and learn without rental overheads. It’s small but very well equipped. I’ve started to look into an alternative and would love a studio and shop with people passing by so they could pop in for a coffee and watch the products being made.
Obe & Co Design Limited, Coat Hooks
Q: How many people work at your company?
A: One person helping me part-time plus my girlfriend Felicia. I’m beginning to outsource parts of the process to people we like. The idea is to continue to build up the network of like-minded people and companies and be ready to expand and outsource as the work comes in. It would be nice to also begin to outsource the marketing and selling to people who have the skills.
Obe & Co Design Limited, Oak Spotty Lamp
Q: Describe your design style.
A: I guess it’s a blend of modern manufacture with hand crafting. Flowing forms that are sculptural or artistic. My work wouldn’t be possible just with a computer and CNC cutting but also wouldn’t look good and feel good without the soul it gets from the hands of craftsmen and craftswomen from the UK.
Obe & Co Design Limited, Wall Coat Hooks
Q: Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?
A: I honestly feel that I am blessed with the ability to easily see a shape or concept in my mind’s eye, straight away with no sketching or explanations. I’m naturally inventive and have ideas all the time. I like to improve things and make them better. My experiences with actually making and not working to a concept means I can design from a practical view so I instantly know if something is going to work or not.
Graham Marjanovic at work
Q: Tell me about your products.
A: Obe-lit: These are made to commission although we have plans to re-introduce them as smaller table top and pendant versions. Layered plywood and polycarbonate form with a light source that shines out through the rings.
Spotty: This is a handmade 3 in 1 lamp with a diffuser to protect and hide the bulb. It’s smooth and lovely to hold with a happy face disposition.
Obe & Co Design Limited, Spotty Lamp
The Cube: Contemporary textured Oak lamp with sandblasted sides to give texture and depth with a dark walnut stain for contrast to the lightness of the Oak. Hidden bulb like the Spotty.
Obe & Co Design Limited, The Cube Lamp
FabLamp: Oak top and bottom with a diffuser plate. The body of the lamp is rigid and covered with fabric which was designed to be something that people could customise to suit the application.
Obe & Co Design Limited, FabLamp
Free Style Hooks: These can be dotted around a wall to make useful wall art hanging installations – Obe shaped and Smooth.
Obe & Co Design Limited, Free Style Hooks
Berry Illuminated Coffee Table: Smooth flowing shape combining art and design. Amazing to gather round in the evening, as it’s a nod towards the comfort a campfire brings.
Solid Wood Stools: Made to commission and in a variety of shapes. Turned on a wood lathe as green timber (wet) then dried to allow the random splitting that happens to wood in the round which is then sanded and oiled.
Q: What’s your fascination with making objects from wood?
A: It’s organic, sustainable and beautiful. There aren’t many people in the world that wouldn’t reach out and touch a nicely shaped and sanded table, stool lamp or any item, which is made from wood. It’s like an instinct and it’s a joy to work with, revealing hidden swirls of grains that are suddenly shown when the finish is applied. The finish is important too, we don’t go with a heavy varnish that blocks that touch but opt for a finish that sinks into the wood so that we can still feel it or even no finish but sanded super smooth.
Q: Tell me about your bespoke service.
A: Berry and Obe are made to commission. We can tailor the colours and sizes of the designs to suit the client’s taste.
Q: Which creative person / company do you admire and why?
A: Nicola Tesla. He was a genius inventor who I admire and feel sorry for as his ideas were cherry picked for the ones that would make money and ignored for the ones that wouldn’t. We all benefited by his ideas and ability and continue to do so.
Q: What’s the best thing about owning your own business?
A: Not commuting and getting to make nice things that I know people will use and enjoy.
Q: What one piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to set up their own business?
A: Stop talking it over with people who say you can’t do it, try to find people who are likeminded and are doing it.
Q: What new and exciting projects have you got planned?
A: It’s not in the bag officially but the Spotty should be available in a well-known high street store in the new year. I have a new lamp to make that uses green hardwoods from the countryside around me. It will have the diffuser plate like the other lamps but it will have the random cracking, a splitting that logs have when they dry out – it’s going to be great.
In terms of prices, well they are a bargain especially when you consider the quality of the materials and the build, plus they are handmade in England. Prices range from £30 for a 4 pack of Free Style Hooks up to around the £250 mark for a Spotty Lamp so hopefully something for everyone’s budget. To find out more about Obe & Co Design Limited and to buy their products do take a look at the website Obe and Co. There is also a shop notonthehighstreet.com.
Credits: text by Homegirl London, images courtesy of Obe & Co Design Limited, special thanks to Graham. Disclosure: This feature includes the following affiliate partners – notonthehighstreet.com (if you click through from my website and purchase items from the affiliates I will earn a small commission).