A little over a year ago during one of my many stints on Pinterest I came across a this photo and was like ‘woah’!
A beautiful combination of some of my favourite things, vibrant colour, Dutch wax (ankara) fabric and furniture. At that time I couldn’t find out anything else about it, not where it was from or who made it – nothing. So I added it to my board and just enjoyed looking at it. Fast forward to September last year I found some more images of similar pieces, got my ‘Jessica Fletcher’ on and found out all the pieces were made by very talented London born Nigerian Yinka Ilori. RESULT!
Later that month, I attended an event and the man himself was there. I introduced myself and when he graciously didn’t look at me like a weirdo we had a chat and he agreed to an interview. He’s a very nice man.
Delali: When did you first realise you had an appreciation for furniture?
Yinka: I first realised while I was an University completing a BTEC Foundation in Art & Design studies at Metropolitan University. I remember designing some chairs inspired by the vegetable okra, they looked pretty weird but that’s when I fell in love with furniture, especially chairs.
Delali: What led you to the upcycling route as opposed to making new pieces?
Yinka: It was the narrative and story behind unloved furniture and having the beauty to integrate my own culture into old furniture, for me was where the beauty lay. It’s just not the same with making new pieces of furniture in my opinion.
Delali: Your Nigerian heritage is clearly a big part of who you are and the work you do – why did you decide to incorporate these elements into your work?
Yinka: Yes indeed it is! Growing up I found it hard at times to express my culture. There were not a lot of positive role models when I was young or maybe I just didn’t know about them, so the only way I could express my culture was by telling stories through Nigerian parables told to me by my parents. These parables were something very special to me so it nice to share them through my furniture.
Delali: When you look at a piece do you know immediately what you want to do with it or do you have to let ideas simmer for a while?
Yinka: Yes all the time! When I see a chair I always know what story I want it to tell and what the finished piece will look like. I deconstruct the chair in my head – I know weird right!
Delali: What’s your design process?
Yinka: My design process is to select a chair, select a parable, upcycle the piece in my studio, choose a fabric that tells me a story, upholster the chair, spray the chair, then sale! But to be honest it’s not always in this order!
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Delali: What do you hope people get from your work?
Yinka: I hope that people something learn from parables and share it with people they care about.
Delali: Do you have a favourite piece, or a piece that has meant the most to you?
Yinka: Yes my favourite piece is Osumare! The parable behind that chair is very powerful and was for someone that’s very close to me! The parable says “we shouldn’t throw stones at a bird that wants to fly away”
Delali: What are your plans for the Yinka Ilori brand?
Yinka: My plans are to collaborate, open a pop up shop and do some more work in Nigeria in 2015.
Delali: What is the favourite part of your work?
Yinka: Meeting the people that purchase my work is very special.
Yinka says – “A life without design is a life without a story”.