Meet the Maker: Marie Cudennec Carlisle, CEO & Co-Founder of Goldfinger, London
Design and sustainability pioneers Marie Cudennec Carlisle and Oliver Waddington-Ball opened the doors to Goldfinger at the foot of Trellick Tower in 2013. Named after Ernö Goldfinger — the infamous architect of our Grade II listed Brutalist home and inspiration for Ian Fleming’s notorious Bond villain —they have developed a brand not only eco-responsible but also community-focused. We sit down with Marie to discuss their passion for wood, the Goldfinger academy, and three tricks to be more responsible when it comes to our interiors.
Can you tell us three things people might not know about Goldfinger or working with wood?
- We recently published our Goldfinger Manifesto, entitled ‘From Tree to Table’ – a statement of our mission and values, and a call to action for people to join us. If you don’t know much about Goldfinger, this is a great place to start! You can read it here.
- We’re lucky to have a beautiful workshop, showroom, and café at the foot of the iconic Trellick Tower on Golborne Road. Some may not know that Goldfinger is actually named after the infamous brutalist architect of the building – Ernö Goldfinger – who was the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s notorious Bond villain. We decided to take its literal meaning as guiding inspiration: the material we touch, we turn to gold.
- Our passion for wood is at the core of everything we do at Goldfinger. A wonderful fact that we recently learned is that just being around wood has been shown to have positive effects on wellbeing. According to studies carried out in Norway, Japan, Canada, and Austria, environments with wooden structures can have a calming effect, and actually cause a drop in blood pressure.
Can you tell us about the story behind Goldfinger?
My Goldfinger story began when I was 8 years old – in Hong Kong, where I grew up – a city that is highly polluted and where the problem of waste is in your face. I remember seeing a fridge floating in the ocean and thinking “something’s not right here” and it was so obvious that we humans were causing damage to our beautiful planet. Fast forward 20 years, I was working in marketing in the luxury goods industry in Hong Kong and London and fell out of love with the resource-intensiveness of that world. And so in 2013, my co-founder and I felt called to create a social enterprise that would bring together craftsmanship, community, and sustainability to create beautiful furniture and impact. Our goal was to create a sustainable design as well as the opportunity for our local community, through training opportunities and our monthly soup kitchen, which in Covid times has transformed into a meal delivery service for those in need.
How would you describe your work in one word?
Have you always had a passion for woodcraft?
I have to confess, I’m not a woodworker, in fact, my team won’t let me near any of the tools 🙂 I wish I was more skilled with my hands. I’ve always had a deep love of beautifully made objects, especially wooden ones. A lot of urban living has ironically given me a deep appreciation and longing for being closer to nature. In the midst of highly urbanized London, I take every opportunity I can to go for walks amongst the trees and engage in what the Japanese call shinrin yoku, or forest bathing. I can feel the therapeutic effect being around trees has on me- it is deeply soothing and grounding. Being around wooden furniture connects me to the natural world.
What does the Trellick Tower represent to you?
The Trellick Tower is very close to our hearts – it’s both an example of iconic architectural design, and a reminder of the community we are striving to serve through our Academy and People’s Kitchen. Many Trellick Tower residents have come through our doors – from our carpentry apprentice Jason, to regulars of our monthly soup kitchen, which – due to the pandemic – has now transformed into a meal delivery service.
I’m deeply inspired by the courage of its design which was ahead of its time. It almost didn’t survive an attempt to having it torn down and it’s now become a grade II listed building and a landmark for the area.
Can you tell us more about the Academy?
The Goldfinger Academy is where we share our skills and knowledge in sustainable design and craftsmanship, and it’s the main vehicle for our social impact. We teach marginalized young people the craft of woodworking through apprenticeship schemes, sponsored by partner businesses, so they can progress into meaningful work. On-the-job training is done alongside an accreditation at the Building Crafts College and empowers trainees to become independent craftspeople.
We also offer corporate away-days that enhance wellbeing and celebrate the joys of making, as well as public craft workshops (if you haven’t been to one yet, join us!). We offer free spaces on all our courses to local residents who are facing financial hardship. Check them out on our website!
As of last year, we’ve also started working with schools to introduce the world of craftsmanship to children across London, which we’re really excited about rolling out further
Can you tell us one cool fact about the Academy?
Our biggest discovery is that everyone has the potential to be a maker. There is a joy that almost everyone discovers working with their hands, the question is not so much whether you can become an expert in this but whether you will allow yourself the pleasure of creating with your hands.
Can you give us three tricks to be more responsible when it comes to our interiors?
- Surround yourself with natural materials: solid wood furniture, house plants, linen, and cotton bedding. By applying this filter on everything that enters your home, you in turn support companies who are mindful of the environment by using materials that are easily recyclable, compostable, reusable, or even better – reclaimed.
- When buying furniture, seek out companies that are using British wood rather than wood that’s imported from elsewhere. There’s such an abundance of beautiful wood on our doorstep…we should make the most of it!
- Don’t be sucked in by trends! Opt for timeless, well-crafted items that will stand the test of time and become future heirlooms.
How can our flaneurs get involved?
If you’re in the market for a new piece of furniture or item for your home, pay us a visit when we reopen our doors in April. You’ll be welcome to come for a tour of our joinery workshop too, and if you haven’t yet tried the Sicilian food from our on-site café, you’re in for a treat!
If you want to try your hand as a maker and learn more about sustainability, circular design, and craftsmanship, join us for one of our craft courses.
In what way do you think this pandemic has changed the way people see their homes?
The pandemic has put home back at the center of life, reinstating the importance of the environments we create for ourselves at home and the objects we surround ourselves with every day. It’s not surprising that we’ve seen an increase in inquiries for residential clients this year, who are looking for ways to make their homes more sustainable, personalized, and, well, life-affirming.
A wish for Goldfinger in 2021?
Something all of us at Goldfinger have very much missed this past year has been connecting face to face with our community. We’ve moved many of our offerings online but we have never lost our love for the sense of connection and community that our shop, café, joinery workshop, and Academy provide. We’re so looking forward to the moment when this can become a reality again…hopefully not long yet!
Share Dining TableFrom £4,900
This elegant and classic dining table focuses on purity of form, and is the perfect meeting place for sharing delicious food and wine with family and friends. The table is crafted using timber-frame joinery and British hardwood of the finest quality. Designed with Holland Harvey and handcrafted by our artisans. Available in Oak (pictured), Ash or Walnut.