Quark went to meet Hugo Delavelle. This cabinetmaker creates wooden furniture. He works in circular economy. In this interview, you will discover how from local materials and in an environmentally friendly approach, he develops designer furniture. We are therefore talking about cabinetmaking and circular economy.
Can you introduce yourself and your cabinetmaking and circular economy workshop in a few words?
My name is Hugo Delavelle, I am 37 years old. I am a cabinet maker and designer by training. I created my company in 2009: Hugo Delavelle workshop. Self-employed status at first, all alone, in my parents' garage. After two years, I hired my first employee and I changed status (SARL). Today we are ten. We had a new cabinetmaking and circular economy workshop last year.
How did you enter the world of cabinetmaking and circular economy?
Initially, I did a cabinetmaking CAP. For 10 years, I worked in different companies: cabinetmaking, furniture restoration, kitchen, fittings, contemporary cabinetmaking, traditional cabinetmaking but also artisanal and industrial.
The cabinetmakers where I was able to work made less and less furniture, or even no furniture at all. I looked for a lever of action to overcome this. I identified design as potential. So I went to Germany in 2007. I studied craft design there for 2 years. Then in 2009 I returned to France and created my cabinetmaking and circular economy company.
Can you explain your combination of traditional cabinetmaking know-how and circular economy?
Artisanal design is not very present in France. In Germany there are a good twenty schools that train craftsmen in design. I was in one of them in Aix-La-Chapelle, at the Gut Rosenberg Academy. In France there is the Boule school which comes close. We have a much more of a craftsmanship approach in France. There is a strong artistic approach linked to the materials and the know-how of the craftsman. But there is no design approach which aims to be more functionalist, with economic, ergonomic and industrial application concerns. Artisanal design is therefore the skills of the industrial designer that we have in France associated with know-how.
I do everything: from furniture design to manufacture. Although the company is growing, I haven't changed the creative process. We put forward the know-how and not only the form. This is what gives a creative field of expression that is a little different from the industrial designer as such. Who can often create form for form's sake, without necessarily knowing the ins and outs of the material that will then be worked on.
Precisely, can you develop a little more your creative process and your way of working?
Today, all the pieces that we market are pieces that I designed. We don't really have a structured creative process like there is in industrial design, where there is really marketing who does a brief upstream. It's a bit long and not necessarily very attractive. The designer will then digest all this marketing data to create something to match. I have a little more freedom.
If one morning I want to design a chair, I make a chair, without worrying about anything marketing. Even if we think about it of course. If I create a bar stool, I will create a high table to canvass restaurant owners for example. However, I have a large degree of freedom.
In my case, it's often the set of constraints that I set for myself that are the bases of the creative process. For example, the material if I have scrap wood of a given size. It can also come from the desire to make a reduced environmental impact on the product.
The material, the environmental impact and the functionality are constraints to which I try to respond as favorably as possible. The intrinsic aesthetics of the product is often a result of the constraints of ergonomics, materials, economy of materials, environmental impact.
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Do you have an eco-responsible approach?
This is really the basis of our entire approach. The CSR side, minimizing the impact of the product, the process and the company in the broad sense is what is the basis of the approach.
How do you define your profession, what qualities are required?
I became a manager somewhat by force of circumstance. We are about ten employees, with much greater financial stakes. We have a turnover of around one million euros. We have just acquired a building which is more industrial with 4000m2 of building on a large platform of 25,000m2.
Now I have more of a manager's hat than a cabinetmaker or designer. The design and cabinetmaking time I produce per week is less right now. There are a lot of management, administration and also marketing tasks to do. In my case, you need a good capacity for adaptability, the desire to take up challenges. You have to learn a new trade almost every day.
Do you think your job will have to reinvent itself? Especially with the pandemic we are going through?
Not particularly no. I don't think it will change much in the long term. We work with local wood, with local actors, and sawyers who are real partners. When I started we sawed our own wood. We plan to create our own sawmill to be able to buy wood in the forest of the municipality and make the first transformation.
We will work in a circular economy and locally. This circular economy approach and working in an artisanal and not industrial way has meant that we are less impacted than people who produce furniture with components from all over the world.
What is the “Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant” label that you received?
It is a label which is awarded by the state and which rewards companies "with exceptional know-how". The aim is to promote them in France and abroad. It is supported by the National Institute of Crafts. You have to submit an application and prove your know-how.
It's insurance for people with whom we would like to work, especially for architects and designers for whom we make artistic cabinetwork or unique pieces, especially abroad. This is proof of our know-how.
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