Inspiring woodwork artists Nafisi Studio share their workshop experience

A fusion of traditional Japanese, Persian and British influences, Nafisi Studio create luxury bespoke furniture and sculpture with a strong emphasis on responsibly sourced materials. We speak to Nafisi co-founder Kate Nafisi about the inspiration behind their studio and learn more about the day to day work life.

Nafisi Studio is run by husband and wife Abdollah and Kate Nafisi. The pair met whilst Abdollah was restoring Victorian houses and bonded over their shared passion to become artists working in their own studio. Through Nafisi Studio they create a range of stunning sculptures, blurring the boundaries between furniture and art, whilst promoting and preserving past values and practices for the future.


Speaking about the inspiration behind Nafisi, Kate says; “The backdrop of our studio work has been the fusion of Japanese ancient joinery, Abdollah’s Persian roots studying nomadic tribes and carpets, combined with my love of safeguarding British heritage and biomimicry.”


The individual backgrounds of the couple complement each other perfectly, with Abdollah’s extensive history in high-end cabinetry in Tehran and London combining with Kate’s 10 years working in digital product design, helping them to design and create with stunning precision and detail.


However, there is always room for improvisation, as Kate continues; “In terms of our process, the ‘art of improvisation’ has been a constant. It is a central principle to our work and sets us apart from many design and maker studios. We always leave room for spontaneity and don’t fully define our designs upfront. This makes it exciting and our clients love the surprise. The idea is to fully be in the moment, connect to where the wood takes us and surrender to the present, saying yes to intuition and no to over optimisation. “

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One of Nafisi's most popular products is the Sussex chair (seen in the above video), hand made using British Ashwood and British rush reeds, hand painted to a colour chosen by the customer. In 2019 Nafisi won the New Heritage Award for their work with the Sussex Chair, reviving an old British iconic design that involves a wide range of woodworking skills, including woodturning, rush weaving and steam bending. 


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'Kanawa Tsugi 1' is one in a continuing series of sculptures by Nafsis Studio, scaling up ancient Japanese joinery. 50% of Ebony trees are left to rot on the forest floor upon felling because marbled-streaks are classified as not ‘pure black’. ‘Kanawa Tsugi 1’ juxtaposes the old world and new value systems.


Today by contrast, GenerationZ values ‘radical transparency’ to guarantee ethical and sustainable behaviour. The sculpture’s embedded NFC chip digitally preserves its provenance and will record its future-heritage, using the blockchain.

Nafisi has built up a solid network of timber suppliers, both locally and from more exotic locations. When asked what their favourite materials to use are, Kate told us;


“Ash has a stunning smell and is a native precious British wood. We also love oak, a lot of which comes from fallen trees in our local rolling hills or oven from our own farmland. We also love African woods because they have such dramatic expressive grain patterns that just make your jaw drop! We like to find partners who help us to sustainably source them as well as look into supporting their local economies.”


Sustainability is an important aspect to their work, with the studio always looking to reduce their carbon footprint, reduce waste and reuse where possible. They are currently researching new composite materials made from straw eco-pulp as a future alternative material, and their workshop heating is run on a 100% renewable eco-mass boiler, with their lighting 50% powered by solar energy.


Featured: HÅG Capisco

The workshop itself is based on the outskirts of Horsham, in the idyllic countryside of southern England. Whilst they are often on their feet, they do spend a lot of time seated whilst working, and the Studio recently added the HÅG Capisco to their workspace, which was quickly followed by a HÅG Capisco Puls. The design of these chairs is perfect for craftsman and active professions, offering a range of movement and freedom, as well as being suited to a range of work surface heights. Their unique look was also a big draw to the creative couple, as Kate explains;


“Our space changes a lot depending on the project we are working on so all machinery and tables are on wheels, it was only fitting that our chairs were too, but we couldn’t find a style we liked until we saw the sculptural shape of the HAG Capisco. We make sculptural forms and it is a delight we get to sit on them too! They provide such comfort and flexibility for the long hours we work in the studio. We can use them to work on high benches, low tables, frontways backwards; even operate machinery sitting down on the chairs!”


“We can’t imagine the studio without them now. They relieve our backs, support our bottoms and allow free movement on the wheels around our ever-changing space.”


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Featured: HÅG Capisco


Featured: HÅG Capisco

Learn more about Nafisi

Click here to visit the Nafisi Studio website, or you can follow them on Instagram at @nafisistudio


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