Collectors: Peter Marigold 24.06.13

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That's a nice one," says Peter Marigold, handing me a small plastic packet that he has labelled "Hula Hoop, 20 April". Inside, there is a mutant version of the cylindrical potato snack – singled out for the designer's collection of imperfect industrial objects – trapped like an anatomical horror from a Victorian hospital museum.

We sift through others. A stunted plastic fork. An unwearable sock sewn together at the toes. An asymmetrical washing-up sponge. Marigold sees these industrial anomalies – the things you or I find in everyday life and meet with amusement but ultimately disregard – as curiosities worth keeping. Affectionately terming them the "runts of production", he thinks these little survivors have made it through the factory with something important to tell.

"Making is becoming more and more mysterious to people," he says. "These everyday objects, they magically appear in our lives but it's only when something goes wrong that you start thinking about how they are made. They give you a connection with what something really is." The off-kilter sponge, for example, shows where the registration of its extrusion process has gone awry. The plastic fork didn't have quite enough plastic in the mould to make it fully formed.

Marigold, who started his career in sculpture and then set-building before studying design at the Royal College of Art, is known for using inexpensive materials and a DIY aesthetic, often using manufactured objects to complete his constructs. Swede Light for Design Marketo (2010) consisted of a heavy vegetable – "Yam, celeriac and swedes tend to work best" – as a base, poked with an adapted fork that could hold a bulb at its handle. 20-litre Coat Stand for Skitsch made use of a heavy-duty water container as a base, joined with a branched metal pole for hanging coats. Jam Jar Shelves for the Perimeter Art & Design gallery (2011) was a wooden plank with jars screwed to the underside. Each readymade vitrine became the holder for some curiosity or other, the stuff and clutter of everyday life.

As they lie scattered on the desk of Marigold's north London studio, it is clear that there is an underlying rigour to these imperfect objects. Not flat-out rejects, the kind of comedic factory errors artist Jeremy Hutchinson collected for his project Err (Icon 100), they exist within the manufacturer's limits of tolerance. "Rejects are less interesting because there's no limits to how bad something can be," he says. "When you get something a little bit wrong, you see the limits of what is let through. They are tolerated objects, if you like."

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Screws with blobs of metal clogging their heads and gnarled wooden clothes pegs are particularly delightful to Marigold. "Pegs are these monumental, fixed, material objects. You don't think of them as bits of tree," he says, pointing to one with a side of pure bark. "It takes you back and you remember where this thing actually came from."

The flaws in some of Marigold's objects are more obvious than others. Occasionally we come across one that he has to stop and think about. "This Kit Kat, what is it? Ah, it's that the wafer is sideways and it's been printed on its edge." It is a satisfying mental game of working out what went wrong and how. While the reason for collecting a blue plastic bag evades him, he is quickly on to the next thing. "That's nice," he says, smiling. "A pencil with the lead slightly off centre."

When I ask what the collection, which Marigold started in 2005 for an RCA project to collect 100 objects over a year, says about him as a designer, or even a person, he takes his time to answer. "A lot of objects I make are kind of irregular shapes," he says. "Something weird about the geometry. That's always been kind of a main thing for me."

Marigold's best-known project, Make/Shift with the manufacturer JSP (2006), is a good example of this: the wedge-shaped shelving display units, characterised by their asymmetrical divisions, can be staggered to fill awkward spaces. Split, another ongoing series, shows the same interest in the asymmetrical and the irregular. Lent, a crooked shelf display, is the most recent incarnation of the series, shown in February 2012 for the exhibition Knock on Wood at Tools Galerie in Paris. The shelving, although apparently haphazard, has an underlying logic. Wood logs are cut into four and used to support the corners of the wooden slats. Although the logs are cut irregularly, the internal angles of a split form will always total 360 degrees, which gives the arrangement some sense of geometric unity. Like the favourite objects from his collection, familiar objects gone slightly askew, it shows Marigold's fixation for the quietly chaotic – furniture that refuses to conform to an accepted aesthetic. "Slightly screwed-up geometry," he confirms. "That kind of speaks a lot about me."

While Marigold's portfolio is a weird and wonderful mix of the commercially applicable and the absurd, projects that deal with strategies of storage and organisation recur often. He says: "You see humans in different objects and for me I'm always thinking about putting things on shelves. A lot of people go for making chairs but I've never been interested. I'm always drawn to shelves. I've done a couple of tables, but I always think of it as a shelf with one level."

And would he go as far as to describe himself as a tolerated object in the world of design? An outlier from an industry concerned with inventing new forms for mass production, yet still a curious part of it? Marigold stops to consider two conjoined Gummy bears. "I think your collection really does say a lot about you. When I presented this collection to the group at the RCA, I had this moment of clarity where I said something about the collection but also said something about me. I am a kind of squashed washer or whatever. And that's why I've held on to this collection so significantly. I collect other things – broken car wing mirrors, natural things too – but this one says the most about me."

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Image

Angela Moore

 

Words

Riya Patel

quotes story

When you get something a little bit wrong, you see the limits of what is let through. They are tolerated objects if you like

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