Totems and Towers: Sculptural Tableware That ‘Reads Like a Sentence’

As fans of the playful, minimalist furniture of UK-based designer Fred Rigby, we were happy to hear about the launch of his first homeware collection, Totems and Towers. The collection comprises two designs: totems are a stackable collection of wooden bowls and plates that look as good individually as they do piled high on an open shelf; towers are a range of functional yet sculptural bowls, vases, table mirrors, and lights made from mild steel.

Here, Fred shares the creative process behind the collection:

fred rigby totems and towers group
Above: A group shot of Fred Rigby’s Towers.

“I grew up in the Dorset countryside, where it wasn’t unusual to be among rollings hills punctuated with industrial structures, such as pylons or silos,” Fred explains. “I find there’s a sculptural beauty to these structures, but there’s also something beautiful in the juxtaposition between nature and unplanned architecture.”

Taking this as a starting point, Fred turned to his library (which is now housed in his new showroom). Here, he absorbed the work of photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher and Imogen Cunningham, both of whom photographed industrial architectural. “Imogen Cunningham photographed both tablescapes and industrial buildings,” he explains. “In many ways, she provided the missing link.”

fred rigby totems plates and bowls
Above: The stackable wooden plates and bowls (£120 each; £450 for a set of 4; £650 for 6; £770 for 8).

“Much to the annoyance of my team, I tend not to think about how we’re actually physically going to make an object until much later in the design process,” Fred admits. Unhampered by material matters (standard sizes, weights, and shapes), Fred began playing with proportions. “We do a lot of 3D printing, which helps when looking at proportions. For the towers, I think I even stacked up three rolls of masking tape and put a bowl on top of it and stared at it for a while. Only then will I start sketching lines and thinking about dimensions.”

“we considered making the bowls horizontal, but by setting them at  11
Above: “We considered making the bowls horizontal, but by setting them at a slight angle, it gives the objects a gentle playfulness that fits with the studio’s approach to furniture and design in general.” (Priced at £135-£180)

fred rigby totem and towers vases
Above: The spherical vases are available in two sizes (£190 or £350).

The steel is powder coated in off-white. “The shadows show off the sculptural beauty of the form,” Fred explains. “I see black as more of full stop. With white, your eyes pass over the objects like a sentence.”

the search light (£500). 13
Above: The Search Light (£500).

fred rigby totem and towers mirrors
Above: The table mirrors. “Great for putting on make-up,” says Fred, “but also great for bouncing light around a room.” (£270-£320)

Each piece is individually assembled, inspected, and shipped from Fred’s studio.

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