Jennifer Newman started out as an artist, her minimalist paintings building on her innate instinct for colour and love of materials. These passions continue to inform furniture designs that are simple, rigorously balanced and timeless.
Jennifer Newman Studio was born of her long-standing desire to build a house. She homed in on Wiltshire, ‘because of the underlying white of the earth’, and raised an old chicken shed to the ground to make way for a modern property. Not able to find the right outdoor furniture and disillusioned by the rusting screws and loose connections of ranges she saw, she designed her own.
That was how her first products, the Groove table and accompanying Cube stools, came about. Made from a single sheet of aluminium, the table takes its name from a central groove that gives the top more strength, but in Jennifer’s painter’s eye without the groove ‘the canvas was too plain’. The whole set is durable in all weathers.
The shift to furniture in 2006 marked a ‘tipping point’ for Jennifer. She was a successful artist, fascinated by the layering of paint. But it was time to change course. ‘I’d reached a natural ending with my painting,’ she says. ‘I had gone as far as I could and was open to a new challenge.’
Now she is considered by some to be a sculptor because of the form and detail of her designs and her fascination with materials and fabrication. But her sculptural approach is tempered by a deep concern with the practical – as with Groove and Cube.
Next came the Angle bench and stools. This was an exercise in reduction, which Jennifer sees as ‘a minimalist painting stripped back to the basics’. But it was Utility – launched at London’s Truman Brewery in 2009, alongside Groove and Angle – that flipped her into commercial work, now her main business. Telecoms giant Nokia wanted a more domestic, flexible look for its offices and found it in her designs.
Jennifer moved from the West Country to West London before taking a unit in Clerkenwell Workshops in 2012. Now she runs her own studio and showroom on Clerkenwell Green, creating indoor and outdoor furniture, and is a key player in events such as Clerkenwell Design Week.
A raft of new designs will extend the studio’s repertoire to embrace both home and contract markets. These and new overseas ventures mean Jennifer is again at a ‘tipping point’ as her business enters another new phase.