Douglas & Bec’s Bec Snelling launches Lens

Her new collection is intertwined with a deeply personal story of reinvention.

The past couple of years have been quite a journey for Bec Snelling of Douglas & Bec, the Auckland-based furniture and lighting brand she once ran with her father. In fact, the background to where she is today reads a bit like a Hollywood film plot. Having already reached what she believed to be her turning point, Bec was in recovery and just 30 days sober when the Douglas & Bec factory burned to the ground. But through adversity comes strength, and she decided to see it as an opportunity. 

So then what? I thought to myself, ‘Right, this is really clearing the wreckage of the past; this is a new beginning.’ It forced our hand on a lot of decisions we’d already been considering, but at no point did I have an inclination to give up.

Ultimately the Douglas & Bec brand came to a natural end with Doug retiring, so now you’re reinventing yourself as Snelling Studio and doing away with launching collections to an output-driven, regular schedule… For me, success is honing and mastering my creativity. I love the word ‘mastering’ because it means it’s a process — not an end point. Now there’s no clear business plan that says we must have KPIs that we meet. It’s more about creating and evolving and having a strong, authentic voice. I’m taking the learnings Dad and I discovered together to develop Snelling into a beautiful place of maturity where my art and design can work together.

ABOVE Like Douglas & Bec, Snelling is all about gorgeous things (including this Lens Pendant Minor Major 04) that are made to order, last a lifetime and be truly loved. “I’d rather you save up to buy one piece you adore from me than have to have the set,” says Bec. “It’s a privilege to be in a position where we’ve built a solid foundation as a sustainable business that’s also a viable business that gives me the freedom to present new ideas that push the boundaries of what people expect.”

Your launch collection is called Lens, and I understand yoga was its creative catalyst… I knew that it was time for a new collection, but I had a massive creative block. My therapist said, “You just need to go and do something else — how about yoga?” and I laughed at him, because yoga on a Friday night was not my idea of a good time. However, I persevered.
At first I was very bad at it, but it taught me about learning a skill through committing to working on it regularly. At the same time, I reconnected with my art practice and went back to my formative training in blind contour drawing with charcoal. The yoga informed the drawings, shaping everything in the Lens collection: the forms, the tension, the simplicity, even the materiality via the light, mirrors and timber of the yoga studio.

TOP The Lens Rabbit Sculpture (pictured here with the yoga-block-like Lens Block Lumen) echoes the shape of yoga’s Rabbit pose. “I loved the idea of a floor sculpture that has a light — it’s two things, and I thought it’d look quite nice,” says Bec, who also designed a mirrored Lens Reflection Sculpture. “That was how [this design] started, and then I thought, ‘Mirror reflection, lens, looking new, fresh eyes…’” ABOVE Lens Wall Sconce Major. The taller of the items below it is the Lens Webb Perch, which plays on the forms of the Rabbit Sculpture and its Camel counterpart.

As well as yoga, how are you prioritising looking after yourself on a daily basis? Self-care is the most important thing — if I don’t put myself first, everything else falls apart. For me, meditation is massive. It’s so beneficial for a creative mind, to be able to let it have some resting space in a very short period of time. That comes through the yoga practice too.
One of my best pieces of advice is do the hard stuff first in the morning, the stuff we creatives hate: the emails, the accounting. Also, the world isn’t going to fall over if you give yourself a break. We think life is destination-based, but it sure ain’t. We’ve got to enjoy the process, the failures, get off the treadmill and enjoy all of these moments.

ABOVE Tools of the trade in Snelling’s East Tāmaki factory, where Bec creates alongside six staff. In terms of inspiration, she’s into Futurism and Brutalist architecture right now. “I’ve also always admired [British designers] Max Lamb and Faye Toogood. There’s some high-end fashion that I’m inspired by too, even that ultra-glamour stuff, the Kim Kardashian-type aesthetic, which is odd to pair with yoga, but that’s me, I love extremes.”

We’re looking forward to seeing where this journey takes you! Well, it’s a miracle that I’m even here, really. At times I get very frustrated, but through looking at what I’ve been through, I trust more and more. I love that I’m able to have conversations about being a creative and the realness of the struggle of it.
The way Lens has been received has actually been really overwhelming because I didn’t know what was going to happen. I’ve never felt so comfortable in my own skin as I did launching it, and I’ve done the work now, so it’s for others to take from it what they want. That’s exciting — it’s fun not to have it all carved out. It’s like each day is a new beginning for me and I love getting up in the morning and going, ‘Oh, it’s none of my business what happens today, I’m just going to go along for the ride.’
Look, it’s not always that blissful though, you know? The dog literally ate my wallet this morning, the car broke down… We’re all human, right?! 
snellingstudio.com

Interview Alice Lines
Photography Duncan Innes

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