The Kingston University Chronicles, Vol. 1: House of Fenech
Design and craftsmanship: an introduction to House of Fenech
Graduating is important, but like many other things in life, it’s the journey that matters, not the destination. Throughout my three years at university my peers and I engaged in many-a-project, and although this might sound somewhat dramatic, they often pushed us to the limits of our abilities and visions.
One of the projects I had to do in second year was a website from scratch – we had to learn HTML, Flash, Photoshop and a thousand other things which I still have no clue how I managed to learn and use. What I want to talk about, however, is not the website per se, but the objects I created to base the website on and House of Fenech was a concept that I came up with as a ‘brand’ for my furniture designs.
It is very frustrating to have ideas but very few outlets to help me express them – I’m crap at drawing, I get jittery with a camera in hand, and the only way I know how to dance is to either twerk or grind… Thankfully, House of Fenech proved to be a perfect outlet.
My family are quite the artisans – my father’s been a carpenter for over 45 years, my mother studied as a seamstress and tailor for many years, and one of my brothers is naturally good at drawing, and together, we make the perfect team. I can describe how something needs to be, my brother can put it on paper, I review it, and then my father makes it. If textiles are involved, then my mother lends a hand. So far we haven’t created many pieces, indeed we’ve only created a handful of objects, but we have many more in the pipeline.
My favourite so far has to be the Suit of Diamonds skirt. It’s made up of over 100-hand-shaped pinewood diamonds, hand-varnished in three different tones. Each diamond is connected to a layered web of fishing nylon that allows each piece to move individually, which in turn causes a “ripple-effect” that makes the skirt move as a whole.
This took over 100 hours to make, and more than six fittings. Due to the weight of the skirt, it was designed in a way so that the top is much narrower than the bottom, in order to for it to rest on the model’s hips. The skirt is actually wearable, and one can sit and walk in it.
Another item was created two years ago in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond jubilee – I’m a big fan of the monarchy, just FYI. The Throne has a six-foot, solid sheet of wood, which acts both as the back as well as the back support for the chair. The base is very low, hovering just three inches above the ground, but the arm rests, back and base frame a stool upholstered in 50-year-old silk damask concealing a secret compartment. In order to make the chair more comfortable, a small square covered in the same silk-damask was placed around two feet further up from the stool.
As a “brand” our ethos is short, simple and straight to the point: Toujours Fidèle – faithful everyday to the way things used to be made, to Malta, and to the art of crafting beautiful objects. So far, we’ve gone to great extends to make sure we stay true to all this, and our next project will amalgamate all these things together one more time.
House of Fenech’s designs are protected by copyright and cannot be reproduced without the written permission of their owner. The model is Maria Grech.
The photos were taken by Stephanie Galea, who is currently reading for a Masters in Photography at Central Saint Martins, London, and has worked for international publications, including Vogue Britain, Grazia and The Sunday Times Magazine.