Mushrooms, Boat Beds!

Susanna Gibson is a maker who has been involved at Machines Room for a long time now, and starting as a Maker in Residence is yet another fascinating chapter in her time here! We caught up to see what she has in store for the residency.

Can you tell us a bit about your background as a maker, and your practice and areas of interest?

I came to making as a second career, having started out in public services. I studied furniture production and design with the amazing Christian Notley, at Chichester College, focusing on traditional hand techniques before coming onto machine production and furniture design. After working with furniture makers around the south coast I branched out to working with UntoThisLast in Bethnal Green, London and learning about CNC production.

Susanna Gibson Maker in Residence Furniture Design
Stool with cherry and leather

This planted a seed which has taken root at Machines Room where, after some time spent founding and running arts projects in empty spaces in Brighton and working on my own designs, I have found the space, equipment, and expertise to get to grips with CAD and CAM software and start making in a new way. I have always had a strong interest in sculpture and architecture and in playful design.

Susanna Gibson Maker in Residence Furniture Design
Cube Light

Can you tell us a bit about what you’ve been working on, and what you will be working on, at Machines Room?
I have been working on designing furniture for boats, and am about to launch my first tiny sofa-bed designed specifically for small spaces. I have also had the pleasure of working with Opendesk furniture as a fabricator with the Machines Room team.

Susanna Gibson Maker in Residence Furniture Design
Furniture design for boats

My latest project is exploring materials used in furniture production or design. I am interested in where we are and where we are going with regards to the sourcing of raw materials and other energy inputs and ingredients, the move away from using VOCs and other toxic substances contained in glues and resins, and in the end-use and waste stream of a product. My current residency is investigating existing and DIY ‘eco’ materials and mainly looking at growing mycelium (mushrooms) as a material, plastics recycling and ‘eco-concrete’… watch this space!

Susanna Gibson Maker in Residence Mycelium Material Design
Mycelium samples incubating

Does having access to the machines, expertise, and community at Machines Room influence your work and practice, if so then how?
Yes, certainly! It’s an incredible space in terms of the breadth and depth of knowledge and expertise of people working side by side in such an open space. This both provides inspiration and many opportunities for collaboration and knowledge sharing, so – yes – an invaluable resource.

What are you finding most challenging?
I’m currently working with mycelium and creating ‘lab’ conditions in a maker environment requires a high degree of almost obsessive sanitation!

What is the highlight of the experience?
Just having the time and opportunity to put energy into an area of work which I find so interesting and inspiring!

What is next for you? Are you planning to continue this stream of work or start a new project? 
I think my residency exploring materials and sustainability in all its forms is a (possibly) life long project and this is really just a beginning. It will be interesting to see where and what directions the research and experimentation lead me – whether it’s further study or establishing a new way of making for future furniture.

Susanna Gibson Maker in Residence Furniture Design