Lazerian - beautiful, functional items to be used and enjoyed

PUBLISHED: 13:49 13 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:52 20 February 2013

Liam Hopkins works on a Mensa coffee table design

Liam Hopkins works on a Mensa coffee table design

Liam Hopkins' designs may look like pieces of art but they are also functional items to be used and enjoyed. Emma Mayoh reports. PHOTOGRAPHY: Kirsty Thompson

Liam Hopkins makes furniture youd expect from any designer worth their salt. Sofas, chairs, tables, lighting and candle holders are all part of his range. But that is where the similarities end. The designs this 26-year-old produces for his company Lazerian are far from standard.

In fact, when people first sit down on the sofas he makes in his former hat factory turned workshop in Denton, they are more than a little apprehensive. Thats because they are made from cardboard.

Cardboard is actually a very strong material if you work with its strengths. People just cant take it in when they first see it. They dont believe that its useable.

When they do pluck up the courage to sit on it they love it and say its comfortable.

The cardboard wears very well over time and it goes quite leathery as it takes in all of the natural oils. I really wanted to do something different, I wanted to do something exciting. Its also very important to me that people use them.

Liam has produced a range of furniture out of cardboard and has used other interesting materials like paper, carbon fibre and different woods to make huge light installations, tables, chairs and even a model dog made out of paper. His work is inspired by structures and colours found in different natural habitats. He only starts to design a new piece once he has decided on the material he is using.

His passion for making things was sparked at an early age by his father, Bill, a former engineer who also worked as a set designer for some of the James Bond films at Pinewood Studios. Although Liam had initially longed to be an architect, when he was faced with seven years of study without making anything, he reconsidered. After studying three dimensional design at both Tameside Technical College and Manchester Metropolitan University, he launched Lazerian in 2006, at the same time as completing his final exams.

The company has gone from strength-to-strength. He has won numerous awards for his work which has also been featured in exhibitions at London Design Week, Milan Design Week, in America and in touring shows organised by the French Crafts Council.

He also produces sculpture and commissioned work for commercial businesses including tables for the Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach Hotel, a paper cloud installation for Habitat in London, a cardboard shop that has been in use for the past eight years and he even made an office built entirely out of cardboard.

He said: It was installed and being used as a boardroom for an entire year. It was made out of waste cardboard and pallets.

I was inspired by cocoons, bee hives, spiders nests and birds nests for the structure which looked like a cave. Working on projects like this is very exciting for me. My designs are meant to be used.

The price for such design skill does come at a premium a cardboard sofa will set you back 13,000, a coffee table around 2,000 and a carbon fibre light around 30,000 a pricing structure Liam says gets mixed reactions.

He said: Some people really get it but others say are you having a laugh?. It does annoy me. Some projects take me three years to complete. I just love what I do.

Its that belief that I can get a material to work. Life is too short to be doing things that dont excite you. The dream is what Im doing now. Im very happy with the way things are.

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