Renowned artist and designer, Freyja Sewell has a unique approach of unifying nature, technology and humans. For each project her goal is to make a biophilic ethical environment for all to exist, nurturing a more positive future. Her fascination for nature has steered her from an early age, leading her to explore preservation through design as she grew and throughout her design studies both in the UK (Brighton University & RCA) and Japan (Nagoya University of Arts) Her impressive and diverse education, married with her nature-first ethos, has given her a revered platform to explore her unique Bioscifi style across the world of design, including VR/AR, art performance, interior design, costume and UX+I.
At The Collective, we are proud to partner with Freyja for the Avon collection. Read how the collaboration came to be, the inspiration behind it, and the commitment to responsibility.
I have been obsessed with felt for over a decade now since I brought the first fully closable felt pod HUSH out onto the market in 2011. My material exploration led me to EchoPanel® by Woven Image, a product that is really something special. Working with hundreds of felt samples over the last ten years, EchoPanel® truly stands apart. It has so much warmth and tactility but can be cut with extreme precision. This creates a powerful combination to work with - the possibilities are endless.
Felts vary wildly, often even within the same batch, but EchoPanel® is consistently high quality, having been rigorously developed for the commercial market and its reduced environmental impact. Felts's non-woven structure is the perfect material for mixed-source PET. What’s more, is that its compatibility with wall panels and furniture structures is an ideal application for recycled plastic, in comparison to clothing, which tends to shed and cause micro-plastics to wash into waterways.
I have been a serious fan of EchoPanel® for many years. The felt has a rich matte surface that beautifully interacts with light and shadow, fully drawing out the softness of the gradients the interactions can create. Combining it with the precise details achievable with the cutting process has been immensely satisfying.
Woven Image has a rainbow of 33 colour choices available, it really is a designer's dream. As the pioneer of recycled PET EchoPanel® is continually improving and evolving their colour range, collections, environmental credibilities and certifications. This hard-wearing and incredibly durable product offers longevity and reliability, an essential component for a sustainable product.
So many spaces do not consider acoustics, which is understandable; photographing and sharing are hard. However, when we take care to address the noise pollution encountered in open-plan spaces, we transform the quality of experience within them. The positive impact is palpable when you walk into an insulated, hushed environment from a noisy city. In addition, numerous studies have shown the benefits of neuro-diversity and general productivity in an environment where sound has been considered.
With regard to sound, the forest remains a huge reference for me. It provides a rich texture of sounds, as does an office, but the forest also has a peaceful hushed layer across which this texture plays. Leaves, trees, waterways, mosses and more insulate the sounds from echoing, disorienting and overwhelming us, which is what open-plan spaces often do not have. Considered and engaging sound insulation can help us bring the peace and quiet of the forest into the shared environment.
As a designer, I am passionate about finding commercially grounded ways to bring the biophilic harmony of my childhood in Cornwall, into shared spaces. I explore this through visual language, of course, but also through other sensorial conditions.
For me, the design process of the Avon Collection began with the waters of Cornwall. On a residency last Spring I became fascinated with the smooth-flowing lines of the many streams and brooks of Callestick, a small village where I spent much of my childhood. In 2021 I spent three weeks there in a vow of silence, spending each day in various practices to connect and deeply observe the living landscape.
In these familiar woods, many small waterways weave around mossy banks, tree roots and each other in a playful dialogue of curves. Our brains respond to the presence of water favourably, and we have evolved to feel safe when we know water is nearby. Water is life, and together with The Collective, we explored many different ways of subtly invoking the flows of water using EchoPanel. The final designs result from a long and enjoyable journey of experimenting with many different curves, patterns and textures.
I’ve fallen in love with the subtle difference between the finished top surface and the freshly cut edge. The top is slightly more glossy, which results in a pattern with real depth, as light moves from one to the other. The curves form tactile arches that invite the hand to float along the pattern. Precision cutting allowed us to create dense swathes of light and shadow that subtly change and shift as you move past, which exactly mirrors the journey, the movement of water.
I’m excited to see how this partnership evolves. With the three alternative pattern pieces to expand the Avon offering, I’m curious to see how clients play with this new opportunity to creatively clad spaces.
I wanted to use the modular panels and seams between the three designs as a strength, so we focused on creating a pattern that would move from panel to panel. The modular pattern, which is designed to flow up and down, and jump across is very appealing to me. These could be combined into different arrangements to suit clients' needs and tastes. We wanted to ensure an elegant design, however way it was arranged, where the client could create a unique pattern by playing with different combinations.
It took a lot of testing to get the depth and distance of the blade path just right to ensure a clean cut that wouldn’t burr or fluff. This is important for a product that will look as good today, as it does tomorrow and in many tomorrows to come, making sure that the critical surface integrity has been carefully maintained.
This design is a poised balance between commercial considerations and personal exploration. We worked hard to transform the beautiful but chaotic waterways of Callestic into a pattern that would soothe and not overwhelm an interior. As a Zen garden-raked sand speaks to us of unbroken water patterns, Avon's precisely curving, perfectly parallel lines soothe us as they flow up and down the panels.
It was critical to develop a pattern that would work at different dimensions, so we ensured each of the three designs would allow some cutting to the top or bottom of a panel should it need to fit a room's specifications without disturbing the lines' flow. We worked with many smaller versions to play with proportions and arrangements, carefully exploring the possibilities of all three patterns with different depths and distances. We wanted to offer a set of patterns that offer our clients varying degrees of texture, from the simple and subtle reference of ‘FLOW’ and 'LEVEN', to the boldly playful sweeping pattern of ‘KRENN’. These designs can be combined or used individually to suit the space they go into.
The real challenge here was fashioning the correct tone of the line, created by cutting into the panel at the perfect angle and depth. Exploring the different weights of lines that could be achieved by cutting a millimetre difference in depth or position was critical in order to transform a 2D panel into a rich sound-absorbing 3D surface.
It was such a pleasure combining my passion for Biophilia and Cornwall with the technical support and extensive knowledge of The Collective. The result is a perfectly poised balance between artistic exploration and commercial viability.
These panels are a tribute to the waters of Cornwall, allowing our clients to bring the biophilic beauty of streams and rivers into their interiors. Avon is Cornish for the river, which proudly hosts the collection. Krenn is Cornish for round, Flow is indicative of the movement of water, and Leven is Cornish for smooth. I am proud to bring my heritage into these designs; all those years of muddy boots and mossy walks have found a place in these patterns.
Photo credit Mark MacDonald