Edward Slater was in his second year at Brunel University’s product design program when he realized it wasn’t for him. “My personality type and design interests did not match the course,” he says. “Since then, I haven’t re-entered the education system or worked as a designer.” Rather, Slater works as a cameraman and editor at a London media startup. In his free time, though, he retreats to the shed behind his house and makes stuff, crafting beautiful chairs and tables that look like the work of a longtime carpenter (with a flair for the conceptual).
The shed is tiny—probably eight feet deep—but it holds a remarkable numbers of tools. Inside, Slater builds things like Wooden Cushion, a solid wood chair whose seat is marked by a raised “X.” It looks incredibly uncomfortable, but it’s actually spring-loaded, so it depresses when you sit. Most of his pieces have some embedded punchline—for example, Tail For Balance, a tripod stool where one leg is a curving, animal-like tail. The lavender tail becomes part of the anatomy of whomever sits on it. The Bedside Stronghold is a nightstand with moats, walls, and a drawbridge. “[It was] designed to help distinguish prized possessions from those which are less important,” says Slater. “The user knows instinctively to put a phone and wallet within the walls, and loose change and receipts in the surrounding moat.”
Apart from the visual humor of his work, Slater seems like an incredibly talented woodworker, proof that an education and technical talent aren’t necessarily synonymous. Will he eventually design full-time? He hopes to. In fact, he calls his furniture collection Shed Test, in reference to his career ambitions. “Design remains my career aspiration,” he explains to Co.Design. “The shed work is a project to prove my passion for three-dimensional design and to hopefully improve my chances of being able to work as a designer.” In other words, it’s his ad hoc senior thesis—no degree required.