Richard Weston’s room is not a typical architect’s office.
It’s missing the obligatory shots of buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright or Mies van der Rohe. But then Richard is not a typical architect.
Take a train up to London, Regent Street, and you’ll find his designs selling in top fashion store Liberty. He is not only an award-winning author in the architecture world but also the man behind the Richard Weston brand, whose scarves sell for over £165.
Instead, in Richard’s room you’ll find a breathtakingly bright canvas covering the wall. Silhouetted twigs criss-cross, creating intricate patterns and ensnaring an aquamarine sky.
“I call it a tree-mesh,” said Richard. “It’s really simple to do, but don’t tell anyone.” The design started with a high resolution scan of corundum, a rock made of aluminum oxide, and a photograph of a tree, turned into a silhouette.
Combining the two on Photoshop creates a unique image, which can be digitally printed on silk, leather or glass.
This final process is the easy part. It took Richard ten years to build up a database of 3,000 images and his perseverance has paid off. Recently architect Patel Tailor used an amethyst scan to create glass walls in four apartments on the London Olympic Park.
But in the beginning everything started by chance, motivated by Richard’s fascination with the natural form. “One of the first things I did was to analyse a leaf,” he said. “Then I bought an ammonite which I saw in a shop window.
“The first scan didn’t work so I bought a much better scanner. I was captivated, I just thought the images were beautiful. Then somebody told me about fabric printing so I looked into that.”
In 2007 Richard worked with fashion students from Newport College on a show aptly named Frocks from Rocks. But his lucky break came in 2010 when he heard Ed Burstell speaking on Radio 4. Burstell had just moved from Bergdorf Goodman, in New York, to become buying director for Liberty. He decided to host an open-day, encouraging British designers to present their products.
“I used to say these designs will be in Liberty one day, I just felt it was the obvious place,” said Richard. “But how you got in was a mystery, it was only through this open call.”
The event was covered the BBC2 series Britain’s Next Big Thing, which tracked Richard’s success on the day. Richard queued up to see Burstell at 9am but it was not until 7.30pm, after several preliminary screenings, he had his chance to meet him.
“Looking back I was very fortunate,” said Richard. “It wouldn’t happen now. My colleagues were saying: why are you spending so much time on this? But I was in no doubt about their potential.”
After the meeting Richard gave Liberty retail exclusivity for his designs. This exclusivity ends in July and he already has plans to sell them in major stores in New York and Tokyo, including Harvey Nichols.
Since Richard’s television appearance he has been contacted by other designers seeking to collaborate. He is working with Judith Mackay-Solanki, a Scottish designer who has turned his images into malachite soaps, and designers ZANZAN who will use them to make sunglasses.
To manage the financial side of things Richard joined forces with his business partner Martin Price. “I haven’t been teaching architecture for 30 years for nothing,” he said. “If I’d wanted to be a businessman I’d have gone and done this from the start.
The team hope to tap into the popularity of personalised goods, for example offering people the opportunity to adopt a mineral. “Nature never repeats,” said Richard. “We’d guarantee never to use the scans anywhere else.
“The industrial revolution was about mass producing the same thing. The digital revolution is about making everything unique again, that’s where we’re headed”.