Brand: Tomas & Jani
Founder & Maker: Jani Lemut
Location: Lewes, East Sussex, UK
Product range: Sustainable handmade furniture, worktops and wall panels.
Meet Jani Lemut, The Founder of Tomas & Jani
Jani is an excellent example of a creative and dedicated maker who found a way to turn waste into something beautiful and unique. 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?
Nearly 30 years ago, I graduated from the School of Arts and Woodworking in Ljubliana. Shortly after, I moved to London and set up my own workshop, which was a great success.
It was only when I was commissioned to design and renovate an old fisherman's house in St Ives, Cornwall that I decided to relocate there after falling in love with the place. Business flourished in Cornwall too, but after settling down with a family, I now reside in the wonderfully creative city of Brighton.
Designing and making from our Lewes workshop, we are dedicated to making unique contemporary furniture but without causing an impact on the environment. Tomas & Jani's mission is to provide affordable furniture that is stylish and sustainable.
How would you define maker culture?
Maker culture is wonderful in that it is creative, and every day is different. You have to keep your eyes open and your head up everywhere you go because inspiration is always around.
There's a lovely community at our workplace, and many of our neighbours are also cabinet makers, and there is no competition. We all do things differently, and it's great to be able to share tools, tips, and vehicles!
What skills do you need to become a furniture maker?
I think it's crucial to have the ability to look at a design as a big picture, but when it comes to crafting it, have an eagle eye for every step, as that is what gives the furniture an exceptional overall finish.
Where do you look for inspiration?
A lot of inspiration comes from waste! While searching through skips, I'm always coming up with new designs and ways to use waste.
What process do you go through when creating new pieces?
Usually, it starts with a middle-of-the-night lightbulb moment. Then, it'll be rough sketches on the backs of envelopes, and the next thing you know, I will be in the workshop experimenting with all sorts of materials and creating never-seen-before pieces.
What makes a piece of furniture sustainable?
It's an exciting topic because these days, many companies are greenwashing by saying that they're 'sustainable' - simply because they are made from wood!
It's true that wood is far more sustainably sound than plastics and the like, but the origin and type of wood are fundamental too. In general, I would say that a piece of furniture that is truly sustainable should have been so well thought out that each component is at its limit of sustainability.
Producing minimal waste, using waste materials, and supporting and buying local are essential aspects.
What sustainable materials are you using, and where do you source them?
We use a lot of used coffee grounds, the coffee bean 'husk', tetra paks, metal dust, and ground down stone, all of which are by-products of various industrial processes.
We even source recycled birch ply, and much of our furniture is built with OSB. Our finishes are non-toxic, water-based and natural.
What are the responsibilities of a furniture designer?
At Tomas & Jani, we feel our responsibilities are to create an eco-friendly alternative to high street pieces at similar (or lower) prices and provide users with comfort, practicality, statement, and uniqueness.
If we can achieve that and be zero-waste simultaneously, we're thrilled.
Why is sustainability important in the furniture industry?
We live in a fashion conscious culture where furniture is rarely purchased for its longevity and high-quality design but instead for its trend status. With the planet suffering from the demand for the production of new materials which are subsequently wasted, it has never been more essential to think differently about waste.
We're not only talking about recyclable materials but instead those that have been salvaged from its destined life in landfill. We need to protect our planet and our children, and like any other industry, choose the little ones with big sustainable goals, which are sometimes drowning in a sea of unsustainable giants.
How do you see the future of sustainable furniture?
Hopefully, with more people becoming aware of the impact fast fashion/homeware trends have on the environment and more sustainable options becoming available, things will change.
There's already a massive increase in people buying second-hand from online marketplaces, which is positive. Still, unfortunately, there's also so much available out there that is cheap, made in factories in poverty-stricken countries, and violates human rights.
Why invest in sustainable furniture?
Because not only will you likely receive a higher quality piece of furniture, but you will be supporting small businesses, protecting the environment, and boycotting forced labour.
Thanks Jani for sharing your journey with us!
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All Images provided by Tomas & Jani.