Made In Manchester Series - Part 5 - Design by Neb Abbott

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We proudly manufacture and print our garments here in Manchester, the city where the Industrial Revolution began. The city once nicknamed Cottonopolis, home of Britain's cotton industry. A city renowned for its creativity and innovation.

RUN&FELL is on a journey, delving into the creative community of Manchester, meeting people who share our values, and make things here. We're passionate about local people embracing and excelling in their own forms of craft, launching initiatives which have a wider impact for good, and choosing to pursue positivity in their work to inspire others.

In our Made in Manchester series, we're connecting with visionaries who are cultivating their own innovative enterprises; artists and designers creating inventive new visuals; musicians driving the heartbeat of the city. This week we met Neb Abbott. Let's shed some light on his designs...

Made In Manchester Series - Part 5 - Design by Neb Abbott

He might not realise it, but Neb Abbott is living the dream. He's doing what many people fantasise about. The man has a workshop in his shed, and he's started a business there, making beautiful things that people want to buy. 

His story is one of those tales that would light up the slightest flicker of entrepreneurial desire in any of us. A professional contemporary dancer for ten years, Neb had a major career change when he was made redundant. Funding to the performing arts project for young people he was working at, was stripped back, due to government cuts. "I went and re-trained and did a furniture and product design degree in London, worked for a small company in London, and then moved up here." he explained. 

Neb Abbott In His StudioExciting-looking Inks On Neb's Hand-made Shelves

Having faced redundancy with such resolve, with a completely new direction for his life, and a fresh start, Neb has started to build his own business, making incredible sculptural light fittings.

Drawing on the skills he learned at University, Neb began by making furniture, shelves, stools and tables. "I discovered FabLab, run by The Manufacturing Institute. They're a little digital manufacturing place, based in Altrincham, and they've got laser cutters and 3D printers. I developed a lot of the ideas there and thought "This is a potential business."

Having access to the laser cutter machinery, Neb's designs were directed by the materials he came across. "I discovered this very thin plywood, and it is quite flexible". The plywood, sustainably sourced from Finland, was the ideal component for the creation of his complex light structures, "Being interested in geodesic shapes (yes, we had to Google it too), and how to create them, I managed to achieve the initial shape. I decided to keep the base of it and play with the pattern on it and add some surface pattern to it."

It's a complex process. Rather like an intricate, three dimensional jigsaw, the sculptural lights are made up of precisely designed, laser-cut pieces, which are then assembled in his home workshop. But the appeal of these lights is two-fold, "They are these lovely sculptural things on their own, but when the light goes on they are quite radically transformed and depending on how close to a wall they are, or in what environment, they cast some spectacular shadows. I like the mathematical forms and geometric shapes, that's the start in terms of the structure. I play with surface pattern and how it affects the shadows."

I'm loving being in Manchester, I've got lots of creative friends here. There's so much energy in the city, and there always seems to be so much going on.

Each piece is made to order, and Neb constantly explores colour, variations in the electric cable cords, scale, and materials. Having only launched his business in October last year, it wasn't long before he started getting attention. "The first market I did at Altrincham, I had my first order, my first sale, and from there I got asked to do the Sale Art Trail Christmas Bazaar. There was lots of other high quality craft and art there, and it was really nice to be asked to do that without having done anything." He's also been selected for the forthcoming Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair later this year, and is regularly selling at Altrincham Market as well as the Didsbury Makers Market and Northern Quarter Makers Market.

Neb's Workshop     Neb's Workshop

Not a native Mancunian, we wondered how Neb had found living and starting his here business in Manchester so far. "I'm loving being in Manchester, I've got lots of creative friends here. There's so much energy in the city, and there always seems to be so much going on. It feels like there's lots of exciting things going on and lots of local people doing exciting things, so it feels ideal for a business start up like me. I'm confident there's a market for me, I don't feel like I need to be in London to reach it."

He's so far found Manchester to be a place of support and that there is a sense of community amongst creatives here. He has ambitions to expand and grow his enterprise. "I'd love to see them in a small chain of boutique hotels or restaurants. They have the potential to suit that environment really well." 

To us, it seems that is what Design is all about. Making life better, and making life beautiful.

Working for himself from home, following his own rules and creative ideas, Neb has something so many crave. Freedom. He has taken what he had in front him; a desire to create, new skills and experience in a new trade, access to equipment, and a simple, readily available raw material, and he's started to build a new life out of what would have otherwise seemed to be a hopeless situation. To us, it seems that is what Design is all about. Making life better, and making life beautiful.

You can buy one of Neb's stunning pieces online, or go and meet him at his market stalls and see them in person.  


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