Milli is a contemporary stool whose eccentric shape is influenced by forms found in nature, such as the flowing organic lines of jellyfish, the arcing tendrils of woodland fungi and the looping arches of rock formations. It's seven legged form developed from the heptagonal shape of 20p and 50p coins - and the fact that I'd never seen a seven legged seat before!
Though I've spent most of the last couple of years working for other companies, making anything from contemporary furniture to gigantic sculptures and stage sets, when I've had a couple of weeks free between freelance projects, I've worked on several of my own furniture designs including Milli. Over the last year I've further developed the design of Milli, at times using wood, steel and plastic, before arriving at this final design.
Milli is 450mm tall and just over that in diameter, while 'Kid's Milli', the children's version is 350mm tall. The difference in size can be seen below (though if you look closely you can see that the kid's Milli prototype still needs it's edges rounded and softened with a router).
My intention was originally to paint the stool in neutral colours and subtle tones, but as the form developed I felt it had a quite playful look to it, and so I decided to experiment with brighter colours (though it's still going to be available in black and white). I'm also looking into using different materials - I've made one prototype in Plywood (as seen in the photo above) and I'm aiming to make one using 'Plyboo', a bamboo based plywood, in the next few weeks. The Ply stools will be finished with clear lacquer.
I've made a small batch of prototypes to judge the viability of the project and am very happy with the results. Along the way I ran into a few problems that prototyping allowed me to iron out and I'm now confident that this final design is safe and durable. I've had a lot of positive feedback from friends and colleagues; I hope you all like Milli too!
The stools you see in these photos are basically the final design, but I have added a tiny notch to the underside of each leg, to aid stacking. You can see this in the images of 'Mini Milli' and 'Kid's Milli' below - I think the extra detail, though subtle, looks really nice and adds to the design (though I'm a little bit biased).
Milli is made from FSC certified MDF and painted with a durable water-based acrylic eggshell paint. This paint contains no VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), so they're not harmful to the environment, and conforms to British 'Toy Paint Regulations' (BS EN 71-3:1995) so is safe for kids. Components are tightly nested on sheets of MDF to ensure that wastage is kept to a minimum. The legs are glued to the seat with polyurethane glue and dowels, creating an incredibly strong bond.
Eventually I'm aiming to develop this design into a rotational moulded polypropylene version (a strong, durable, brightly coloured plastic); as this is an 'additive process' (any excess material can be recycled and used in the next casting), it should be even more economical, but the initial tooling costs are high so I'll have to wait and see if this project is successful.
I'm aiming to fund this project through Kickstarter as, due to the ongoing financial situation we all find ourselves in, banks are largely unwilling to lend money to small businesses such as my own. Although I've had positive feedback regarding my Business Plan, I've been unable to obtain funding from my bank and so have decided to try an alternative method. If this Kickstarter project is successful it will allow me to pay for the materials involved in the construction of my pledges, pay rent and overheads for the workspace in which I'll make them, and give me momentum to carry into my next project.
I currently use space temporarily within other peoples workshops, often moving from one to another, but I'm looking to move into my own workspace either in Hackney, East London, or Bermondsey in the South East. I've designed Milli in such a way that I can build and finish a large batch of stools at one site.
Through the production of a small batch of prototypes, I've evaluated the costs and production time for any number of stools. From this Kickstarter project I am hoping to make around 100 or 120 stools, which would take me just over 4 weeks. To allow for any contingencies I'm suggesting a 6-8 week turnaround time, though I aim to finish making the stools sooner.
I can't stress what gaining funding for this project would mean to me - so I've tried to ensure that my pledges reflect how much I appreciate your support.
As Milli is the soul of this project it makes sense that my 'main pledge' is the stool itself. For a pledge of £119, I'll make you a Milli stool in one of the the standard colours. For £129 I'll make and paint one any colour you'd like (within the available palette - I use Little Greene Intelligent Eggshell paints, for their durability and concern for the environment). Standard colours are red, yellow, light pink, lime green, dark purple, orange, light blue, black and white. Also for £129, I'll make you a lacquered plywood Milli. All prices include delivery within the UK. Just pledge for Milli and we'll arrange colours and delivery if and when the Kickstarter project is successful.
For £89 I'll make you a Kid's Milli - a slightly smaller child's version of Milli. Kid's Milli is 350mm tall and finished in the same colours as Milli.
As part of this project I wanted to offer some more affordable pledges, but can't afford to lower the price of Milli itself, so I developed a couple of designs especially for this project. For starters, as a £39 pledge, I made 'Mini Milli'
Mini Milli is an exact one-sixth scale replica of Milli. There's a considerable range of collectible modern furniture designs available in this scale (search google images to see what I mean!); these models are a great way for those of us who haven't got loads of money or space to build a collection of contemporary design, and furniture of this scale is also recognised as a quite universal 'dolls house' size. So if you can't stretch to a full size 'Milli', then you could always go for one of these limited edition models!
The Model in the photo is raw plywood - the actual model will be made of MDF just like the actual stool, and finished with identical paint in the colour of your choice. Mini Milli will have a small box/case for storage, protection and delivery.
I've also designed 'TIK', a coaster and a place-mat, as a lower cost pledge specifically for this project. TIK's design is based upon the inner workings of a watch, with intricate patterns formed by overlapping cogs and wheels (I know - a strange theme for tableware, but I've been getting back into the whole 'steampunk' thing again lately!)
TIK is laser-cut from Perspex acrylic in a wide range of colours, including 'light capturing' orange or green, which appear to glow at the edges. So you can sit on Milli at your table eating your dinner on TIK tableware! The coaster is £8, while the place-mat is £15.
Risks and challenges
Having built several prototypes and a small initial batch of Milli stools, I am confident that I've ironed out any problems with the manufacturing process. The only slight challenge I foresee is finding a more permanent space in which to produce Milli in greater numbers, though as I am based in East London (where there is no shortage of workshops and studios), I don't think this will be a major problem.
In the unlikely event that the project proves particularly successful, I may find it difficult to produce all the stools within the time I've allocated myself and I may have to resort to using a third party to help me make all the stools in time. If this is the case I intend to use a local manufacturer.
I am afraid that, due to Milli's size, delivery overseas is proving prohibitive - I had hoped and expected to sell a few to you guys across the pond (especially as Kickstarter started there), but the delivery charges are crazy. I hope to find a solution to this problem before the end of the project (any suggestions?).