Gwendoline Porte graduated from Interior Design Graduate Diploma at Chelsea College of Arts in 2015. Her final project, which won her the Dean’s Award, was RAILS which are ‘functional sculptures’. The original inspiration for them came from a project to renovate Fulham Broadway Station, and their shape is inspired by the railway lines. RAILS are officially launching at the upcoming Clerkenwell Design Week, so we spoke to Gwendoline to find out more about what she was up to before she came to Chelsea, and her playful project!
What did you do before you came to Chelsea?
I studied communication in Paris and started my career as a PR agent in fashion. Then, I worked for advertising festivals, an art school, a TV channel. Quickly, I became excited by all the noughties emerging start-ups that were launching disruptive approaches to the classical world and so I moved to the tech world and digital marketing. After the family moved to London, I set up a TV production company with my husband, but I could feel that something else was vibrating inside me.
Considering ‘everything is possible’ in London, I thought “why not going back to college at 40?”. I first started Interior Design with a BETC diploma level 2 that allowed me to present a portfolio to the Chelsea College of Arts for a Graduate Diploma with my talented friend Astrid Desveaux. We felt stronger together.
Why did you choose to study at Chelsea?
I was looking for a high standard university to get into the real world of design. This became even more concrete when I visited the amazing professional facilities, libraries and workshops. I could feel the creative excitement and worldwide network with students from a wide range of countries, curriculum and tutors’ level of excellence and the access to the different sites.
What is your fondest memory of Chelsea?
I took this investment very seriously. There was no way I could fail. Hard work day and night, dealing with the family, especially my children, at the same time. I felt like a 20-year-old student again, starting from scratch but with the determination of an experienced adult to realise a dream and to succeed.
Healing from the fear of failing. Healing so deeply from inside, questioning myself on the transformation and acceptance of becoming a designer.
I built up strong friendships and amazing encounters with talented international students.
What was your inspiration behind RAILS?
RAILS is the result of a student’s project at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL. The idea was to renovate and redesign the former Fulham Broadway Station ticket hall as a ‘urban lobby’ reflecting on a new way of living in the city where one can find an urban, collective space, within a 10 minute walk from home, just like the London Tube station system was designed for the city.
The inspiration came from the idea of fluidity and movement. In this digital age, we spend a lot of time working, while wireless technology enables us to move around more freely. RAILS match that flexibility with a collection of timeless modules that suit the way we live and work now, whether in contemporary office spaces, hotel lobbies or home living areas. The simple yet ingenious shape of these stackable objects speaks to our primitive need to let the human body express itself.
Only imagination can limit the ways in which the modules can be used. Like a giant Lego or Tetris game, the pieces are fluid and adaptable, shaping their environment with a one-off look whatever their composition.
They are functional sculptures, playful, graphic and ergonomic. Each hollow structure is made from plywood and built like a boat hull, resulting in a surprisingly lightweight (less than 10kg), easy-to-handle feel. They can be stacked on top of one another to form a column, multiplied to form a hexagonal, or separated to become a stool, chair, coffee table or side table. The pieces can lie horizontally or vertically or multiplied to create a bench, wall or a landscape or used simply as a striking standalone art piece within a room.
The first limited edition is available in a range of colours, while finishes include metal brass, lacquer and wood. The patented modules are available in three sizes at standard seating heights: 450, 550 and 750mm. They can be bought individually or in multiples.
Every piece is handcrafted with care in Italy, by specialist metal and wood artisans who blend traditional techniques and innovative technology. Unlacquered, brass pieces are designed to reveal a gentle patina over time. This first collection is designed for indoor use.
How did you get involved with Clerkenwell Design Week?
I am very familiar with CDW as a visitor. First, when you are a student living in the world capital of design you can’t miss this rendezvous. The design vibration is palpable. I always looked at all the exhibitors with fascination and want to be part of it.
RAILS is an amazing project that drives me to so many encounters, places, experiences. When I met recently with a famous design organisation, they were really interested in having the RAILS in their shop and asked me to come back to them once I’d be ready. I had to give a professional approach to every detail from the design to the production and transport. They gave me the wings to get out of my comfort zone and to push the project out, to exhibit at CDW.
What is your proudest achievement?
Definitely being part of CDW; meeting with other designers and passionate people will be one of the biggest achievements of my short career. But I have to say that the journey through the RAILS’ development is also an unbelievable experience and I enjoy every minute of it. The Rails allow me to go wherever I always dreamed of. Travelling around the world in the UK, France, Morocco, Portugal, Italy and the USA. Meeting with craftsmen, artists like Marc-Antoine Goulard who is creating a unique piece to which will be put up for sale during CDW to support a charity, prestigious art galleries, technical engineers exploring the large scale 3D print, exchange and work with family members, web-designers, video designers, photographers, marketing specialists, project managers, CFOs, graphic designer or journalists,... RAILS is the result of a strong community who believed in me and the design.
What is next for you?
With the launch at CDW in May, RAILS is a full-time project at the moment. It’s an energetic lifestyle piece which can become a design leitmotif for many things in the future. But for now, I will focus on the outdoor collection and others sustainable materials like 100% recycled paper material suitable for outdoor use, Jesmonite with moulds created from 3D printing technologies... there are so many possibilities to play with.