Every love story begins with a spark. For Franz Ignacio, it was with a blowtorch.
In the hands of Franz, fire isn’t something that destroys, demolishes or betrays. “Initially, the whole focus was around trying to utilize techniques to mimic what would happen in nature,” says the designer. “It got me thinking about ways within the industry I could actually start to mimic that, and try to create the structure and durability that is needed for everyday use. This is when I was introduced to Shou Sugi Ban.”
A Japanese siding technique that preserves would by charring it with fire, Shou Sugi Ban is an atypical use of flame, dating back to the 1700s. The burning of cedar not only gives it an elegant stain, but also creates unique etches for different types of wood used. The flame dances along the pieces, carving patterns onto its surfaces and giving each piece its own ethos.
Besides that, the charring of wood rids mold, insects, water and even fire—thus, the technique prevents decay.
While it has been around for centuries, incorporating the Japanese technique to his designs wasn’t a walk in the park for Franz. “Product design is a complex process of trials and errors, but you don’t want to waste your time on too many ideas,” he explains. “You’re searching for the right idea, not the best idea. If you can’t find data to validate the concepts, simply kill it and move on with your brainstorming process.”
For some, ideas come in rare flashes. With Franz, he goes in headfirst and looks for them. “Whether it’s a commission, a project or personal development of my work, I start with research, then take that research and use it to develop my ideas,” he shares. “Often I build prototypes to test those ideas, but occasionally I’ll go straight into the final design. It’s mainly a combination of motives and objectives that help define the product: to learn something new, to have fun, to laugh and play, to meet and collaborate with new people, to make a small difference in someone’s day.”
Surely, success is on his plate. After only starting out less than a year ago, Franz Ignacio’s charred cedar has been making a name for itself. With clients from Dubai and Europe, it seems like only a matter of time before we see his designs around the world.
Considering the swift growth of his products, Franz envisions a platform for the future of his work. “I wouldn’t say it’s too early to think about expansion. I’m not going to do it in the next few years, but it’s definitely on the table and I’m open to considering it as opportunities present themselves. I would like a natural progression for my work.”
It only takes a flame to set things on fire, but it takes an artist to create a silver lining when things have fizzled out. To Franz, the story between him and fire is one that’s captivating and magnificent. In his words, “Fire is the creator of life, and fire was the solution.”
Photography by Nath Ybanez