Living North magazine - Meet the Maker
August 2017 by Kate Foley (Assistant Editor)
"After a career that has seen him work as an engineer, a designer and a funeral director, Dan Morrison has discovered his true vocation"
Tell me about your background
I began by doing an engineering design degree but on graduating I was drawn to making musical instruments, spending the rest of my twenties as a maker/musician/composer collaborating with artists and performers, mostly on the more edgy, experimental side of things. I then moved to London where I studied for a Computer Science Masters which kicked off a decade spent designing internet applications and online 3D worlds. As the old century came to an end it was time for a change, so I headed up to the Yorkshire hills to a job as a funeral director. This was deeply rewarding work but over time I started missing my creative life. Bit by bit, ideas for a new creative venture started to form.
How did Blott Works get started?
I decided this was to be my last career change so I listed of all the things I had enjoyed over the years and came up with BLOTT WORKS. This seemed the ideal way to combine the engineer in me with the artist in me.
Tell me a bit about what you do
I hand-engineer useful sculpture basing my work around simple, functionally beautiful mechanisms and imbuing them with character and a life of their own. My work often seems to take on natural forms, like a bird or a flower. This is largely an intuitive process, bringing together the manufactured and the natural worlds and exploring how simple behaviour can convey so much personality. The pieces are often playful, and usually have a practical use, such as a lamp or a clock. I like the idea that people are actively engaged with them as part of their daily life..
Where do you source your materials?
All my work is made from raw materials and original parts sourced from local suppliers. I tend to use the same palette of materials for all my pieces because I love the combination of muted colours and contrasting textures. These materials all have a rich heritage as both decorative and industrial materials - aluminium to provide structure, oak to soften, brass to add warmth, concrete to add texture and steel fittings to provide detail.
Where do you find inspiration for your unusual designs?
Anywhere and everywhere. I’m someone who absorbs the world around them, enjoying being surprised by the ideas that surface. I work by the layering of disparate things, like a flower and a flame, or a bird and crane. But inevitably I only discover these influences after I’ve started. I thrive on the overlaps and the gaps between things and love designing things that resonate on multiple levels.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently playing around with my bird-lamp collection; looking at new ways to interpret the original ideas. I normally get most fired up when I'm starting from a blank sheet but I'm discovering how satisfying it can be to revisit existing work.
What’s been your favourite piece/project?
I’m very proud of The Clamshell Alchemist lamp. It is so uncompromisingly industrial but has real softness and beauty. It emerged from thoughts of incubating or protecting new life or chemistry, and of the joy of hidden worlds and the slow reveal. I love the way turning the handle raises the lid, gradually unveiling the glowing treasures inside.
Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
My days are pretty structured but always different. My workshop is part of our house on the Yorkshire/Lancashire border so I’m at home with the cats and the beautiful valley views most of the time. Very idyllic but I probably need to get out more!
What’s the best thing about your job?
I love seeing my work settled into a customer’s home, surrounded by their beautiful furniture. My work is pretty unique so I am still continually surprised about just how good it looks in a modern domestic setting.
And the hardest thing?
The hardest thing is probably knowing how much time to devote to each of the many different aspects of running a creative business and having to be very disciplined about how much time I spend working on new ideas.
What are you planning on doing next?
I’ve really enjoyed making my fan-assisted Breeze vases which blow air gently through indoor plants. This seems to be a rich seam; combining simple mechanisms with plants and flowers. How about a vase that blows a light mist through the flowers, or one that drips a little rain onto them? Perhaps it is time to revisit 1970s indoor water features!