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Growing the Ottawa Design Community: Starting with knives

Ex-industrial designers at Research in Motion (BlackBerry), Ian Murchison, and his partner Rohan Thakar co-founded the Federal in 2012, a design studio located in their hometown of Ottawa.  While Ottawa may not hold the same design cache as Montreal, Vancouver or Toronto in Canada, Ian and Rohan are certainly carving out their niche, most recently, their Maple Set, wooden knife prototype has been recognized internationally for its design.  As they work with a company to help bring their Maple knives to reality (no firm dates yet), they continue to work on a variety of interesting design projects for clients.

INTERVIEW: Ian Murchison, Co-Founder the Federal, Ottawa, Canada

01 What was the inspiration behind your Maple Set?
Our inspiration came from a desire to create a product from a new perspective. We looked at the project from a different angle and thought about how people perceived a knife. We found that when people think of a knife they always think about the blade and the actions of that blade.

02 Can you talk a bit about the design process and materials used in the maple knife set?
The knife set started as a simple idea that got lost along with the rest of them. We refined the concept a bit with sketching, modeled it in 3D, prototyped the size and handle shape and finally completed the design with a prototype. At the time we were working with wood and felt this material was going to be a perfect fit for the project. Wood has a nice warming feel.  It is found in many kitchen accessories and provides a sharp contrast between the body and the blade.

FDRL Maple Knife

03 What are these knives most suitable for cutting?
To start, we designed two knives.  The first is more of a general purpose 8″ knife that is typically used for cutting meats and vegetables.  The second knife is an 8″ clever style knife which is traditionally used for cutting through thick meats or bones. The clever style is more of a statement of design thinking than a traditional bone cutting knife.

04 How does one care for a wooden knife? (Can it get wet without expanding?)
With any wood product, maintenance is required to ensure a long product life. There are many food safe sealants on the market today already in use for wooden mixing bowls, spatulas and cutting boards. Expansion and contraction of the wood is certainly an issue. As we dive deeper into exploring how to manufacturer the knives, there are always hurdles.

05 What is going on in the Ottawa design scene these days? 
The design scene in Ottawa certainly isn’t on par with that of Milan, New York, or San Francisco, but that’s one of the reasons why we chose it. Ottawa has a great industrial design school at Carleton University, it’s one of only a few industrial design programs in the entire country. We want to help grow the design community here, make people aware of design and what values it can provide across a wide range of industries. In addition to that, both Rohan and myself grew up in Ottawa, so it’s a familiar place for us.

06 Do you entertain at home? 
I wouldn’t really say I have a style when hosting guests, but you can bet that my vintage coloured Pyrex bowls and my newly acquired Wobble Bowls from Speechless Studios will be on the table.

The Federal Ottawa1


Photo Source: The Federal

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