Meet Joshua, The Founder of Oragi
Joshua is a great example of a dedicated maker who is using earth-friendly materials to make beautiful Japandi inspired furniture. Learn more about his journey and what makes his furniture special in the story to come.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and the brand? Ōragi is a natural and wellness-focused furniture company with the aim to create a change in the industry and move away from the use of toxic materials, promoting a circular approach and the use of natural materials.
Inspired by Japanese design principles, we create furniture to bring tranquillity and balance to interior spaces. The selection of materials and manufacturing decisions are informed by a consideration of the planet and our wellbeing.
What process do you go through when creating new pieces? Ōragi's approach is to offer environmentally considered options focused on using natural materials that benefit people and the planet. This intention feeds throughout the design of our furniture.
Materials, research and sourcing are intrinsic to my approach, understanding the benefits of each material, from how it is grown to long-term use. Education and sourcing feed into development, testing, and then refinement of form.
The country which gives the most nutrition to my curiosity is Japan. Ever since visiting in 2018, I have been mindful of adopting Japanese principles such as connecting with nature and creating balance, harmony, and respect for simple pleasures.
This translates into my minimal aesthetic approach, creating forms which bring clarity to spaces.
Why investing in a sustainable home is so important? I love the word investing. It couldn't be more appropriate. Most of us spend 90% of our time indoors, and investing in a sustainable home will give you many benefits.
From the quality of the air you breathe in, to your overall mood and mental health, which then feeds into your physical health. It is all interconnected.
Being an allergy sufferer, I can tell when a house is unclean or full of toxicity. It smells unhealthy and sets off my asthma and allergies.
Combine this with an interior applying Biophilic design principles, and you will get a home that feels healthy and united with nature. It's truly remarkable.
What skills do you need to become a furniture designer and maker? Furniture is first and foremost functional. There's something really meaningful and fulfilling in creating something like seating because there's an understanding of the human form embedded in every sofa and chair.
I think that's why so many designers are drawn to the medium.
Seating also has been used as a vessel to communicate modern technologies and materials.
For example, Kumo couch promotes materials such as bamboo, which is still undervalued in furniture design for its sustainable and ecological credentials.
We also champion the movement away from toxic foams and high VOC (volatile organic compounds) emitting cheap furniture, raising awareness of natural materials' benefits on our interior air quality and overall mental health.
What makes a piece of furniture unsustainable? Before modern manufacturing methods, furniture used to be well-crafted, locally sourced items which could be passed down through generations. However, the world has changed, and our attitudes towards furniture have changed altogether.
This notion of fast, trendy furniture is incredibly damaging to the planet. Modern sofas are only designed to last for a few years and are created from many materials considered toxic to health.
Cheap manufactured fibre and particle boards paired with polyurethane/petroleum foams slowly release toxic particles into the home, aggravating allergies and negatively impacting general health, mood and wellbeing. After this, these materials sit in landfill sites for decades, further polluting the earth.
Ōragi as a company is focused on changing perceptions, taking a circular approach and profoundly considering the impact every piece of furniture has.
What sustainable materials are you using, and where do you source them? All the materials we used are considered for their sustainable credentials and are biodegradable/repurposable.
Our cushions are made up of layers of latex, coir (coconut husk) and wool/cotton. These are held within a cotton slipcover, meaning no glue is required between the layers. This enables us to dispose layers independently when the time comes.
Our bamboo boards are sourced from an FSC certified supplier in China who are leading the way in producing these strong yet lightweight bamboo boards which require no fertiliser or pesticides. Bamboo can be harvested within 3-5 years of growth with little impact on the soil due to shallow root structures.
What does a day in a workshop look like for you? I start every day with a light roast coffee and a to-do list. All our furniture is made by myself in our workshop in Staffordshire, and most days, I am working on either a piece for clients or research and development projects for new furniture pieces I have coming up.
A workshop is a place where I try and be as present as possible, and I don't like to have music on or anything too distracting. I make my best pieces when I can switch off from all the noise and focus on the process of cutting through the line.
How do you see the future of sustainable furniture? I can see material science and the ways in which we create composite materials having a profound effect across many industries, including furniture. This is just so exciting to me and opens up so many possibilities for experimentation.
Carbon assessment and the move towards the business having a positive impact is where we need to be heading. It's a challenging route and requires much understanding and data, but companies that achieve this without greenwashing will be the successors. I'm sure of it.
Consumers will come to demand it now, and that activism is what's needed.
A little story or an anecdote you would like to share: There is a lovely story which I enjoy telling from Planted, an exhibition we were at this April. Four children came running up to our Kumo sofa, jumped on it and then sat looking up at me with beaming smiles as their poor dad trailed behind.
"Hope you don't mind!" He said. "They just wanted one more sit on the most comfortable sofa here". Wow, what a review. I wish I'd asked for a photo. That's the purest review I think I'll ever receive.
Your favourite quote? Bamboo that bends is stronger than oak that resists.
I love this quote because it speaks to the notion of tolerance and acceptance of the change.
Thanks Joshua for sharing your journey with us!
Founder & Maker: Joshua McGrath
Location: Burslem, Stoke on Trent, UK
Product range: Sustainable handmade Japandi inspired furniture.
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All Images provided by Oragi.