Jan Hendzel of south London-based furniture brand Jan Hendzel Studio talks about his background and the studio’s new collections
Words by Emily Martin
Profile: Jan Hendzel
SOUTH LONDON-BASED furniture brand Jan Hendzel Studio was founded by self-taught furniture maker Jan Hendzel in 2015. The studio’s diverse portfolio of work celebrates British craftsmanship and natural home-grown materials. By merging traditional joinery techniques with digital manufacturing practices, the studio can experiment with texture and function to create unique furniture pieces that lay between sculpture and furniture. Sustainability is at the heart of the practice, and a focus on quality materials, longevity and a circular approach to design contributes to the integrity of the projects that the studio is involved with.
Jan Hendzel’s sculpturally precise work comes from his understanding of traditional processes. Image Credit: MATTHEW WALDER
‘My father was a patternmaker, so I’ve been in and around workshops from a very young age,’ explains Hendzel. ‘I was always intrigued to see what he did, and lo and behold, this is what I found myself doing in my teens. For pretty much my entire adult life I have been making in some capacity’.
The distinctive pieces lay between sculpture and furniture. Image Credit: JAN HENDZEL STUDIO
He left school at 15 and started training as a patternmaker, like his father. Although, upon discovering there was not a dedicated patternmaking course he could join, Hendzel opted for a wood machining course instead to get his training off the ground. He started to make classic furniture items such as stools and tables, as well as learning joinery techniques. ‘This is how I learned to set up and use equipment safely,’ he says.
Traditional joinery techniques are merged with digital manufacturing processes. Image Credit: JAN HENDZEL STUDIO
Hendzel then went on to work in a pattern shop as an apprentice, where he learned more about machining and making techniques. ‘Being a patternmaker teaches you a great deal about being technically accurate and the skills required to create organic forms by hand – it’s these skills that are needed for furniture making,’ he says. ‘I have always been inspired by the process of something and how that can deliver interesting outcomes. This often involves pushing a machine to almost breaking point to deliver new outcomes or machining a material not really intended for that specific piece of equipment causing it to deliver surprising and unexpected patterns and or textures.’
He has always worked with reclaimed wood. And by using specific types of reclaimed wood, Hendzel says that it has earned him a greater understanding about sustainability and its benefits. On growing his own business, it has done predominantly using British-grown timbers or ‘hyper-local’ London-sourced trees from selected suppliers.
A three-legged dining table from the studio’s new range, building on the success of the Bowater collection. Image Credit: JAN HENDZEL STUDIO
His studio consists of a team of ‘material-obsessed, detail-driven designers and makers’ with a firm ethos on working with UK-sourced materials. The expansion from traditional joinery workshop to merging digital manufacturing practices allows the studio the capacity to experiment on larger-scale, complex design projects.
‘I like to think we are constantly exploring new ideas and advancing our knowledge of how things fit together,’ says Hendzel. ‘I love to combine the best of working digitally and that of the maker’s hand. We produce sculpturally precise work that comes from my understanding of traditional processes and desire to push what is expected or achievable in a piece of furniture.’
Jan Hendzel had been around workshops from a young age and was always intrigued by making. Image Credit: MATTHEW WALDER
The studio team, a core group of six people, has realised ambitious projects for leading architectural practices and design studios. Looking at its portfolio, it includes vanity stands for Birch Hotel, furniture for zero-waste restaurant Silo and furniture for Terence Conran’s restaurant Wilder, among others. Jan Hendzel Studio has exhibited work at Design Junction, Sims Reed Gallery, Masterpiece, the Saatchi Gallery and at the latest instalments of LDF and Chelsea Flower Show.
In 2020 it launched Bowater, the studio’s first collection of furniture made exclusively from British timbers. It comprises nine pieces, from a chest of drawers and sideboard to a series of desk trays and decorative sculptural objects. The collection showcases the untapped range and variety of timbers present in the UK’s woodland.
The Bowater collection was designed exclusively with a range of different British timbers. Image Credit: MATTHEW WALDER
‘One of the biggest changes to our workload came from us launching our first furniture collection, Bowater, in 2020,’ says Hendzel. ‘The majority of our projects are collaborations between clients and ourselves, however Bowater was a chance to be completely free and start creating an aesthetic and technical finesse around my workshop’.
The signature ripple is a playful detail used throughout the collection, and also enables objects to fit together. Image Credit: FERGUS COYLE
Showcasing a studio style has brought in some exciting new opportunities, from creating bespoke pieces of furniture to new more architectural projects like its work with landscape designer Thomas Hoblyn and Boodles to create the Boodles Secret Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. With new opportunities for collaboration, the studio has a busy future and is looking forward to working with new people as well as expanding its core studio base. But Hendzel says he won’t be losing sight of its principles.
‘I have also spent my formative years around many artist friends who showed me that there was another way to create other than just for industrial outcomes,’ he adds. ‘I very much enjoy how pieces can connect together using joinery, and accentuating the details to help create the product. It’s these elements that often become the defining details in the furniture I make.’