Peter Coombs has taken the world by storm with his uniquely handcrafted glasses which are sure to turn heads on the street. We were lucky enough to ask Peter all about his journey into eyewear. Learn more down below!
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and what sparked your interest in getting into design, particularly eyewear?
I have always made things, as far back as I remember I always saw materials as opportunities. Growing up there was a lot of building materials lying around due to a reno on an 1880s house. We spent hours and weeks from multi storey forts in our fig tree, and when it wasn’t building a fort, we were creating crazy bikes with different size wheels and forks. It was a constant quest.
In my teens, our family had a variety of family businesses. Most of these ventures were all-in, all-hands working type affairs with after school, weekend and holiday work expected. The experience was invaluable as I saw firsthand how thinking needed to be somewhat agile at times; often I was in the position of problem solving whether it was assisting in setting up Flinders Gallery to working in every aspect of the Paddle Boat Coonawarra which did 5-day river cruises for 42 passengers on the Murray.
Through this I also met cabinet makers, blacksmiths, fettlers, engineers…the list is long and interesting. I met people who could create, alter and repair things on the fly. All of this was a brilliant grounding for my future in design.
Later, at Design School I was studying Jewellery and Metalsmithing and created all sorts of things from rings, pendants, brooches, knives, perfume bottles, goblets, and many other things. After a few years, I had a wonderful display shelf full of creations, but these were at home and I spent a lot of time on the beach, so decided to create a frame and it turns out I was pretty good at it. We still make that original frame.
2. Can you tell us about the process of bringing your ideas to life?
Everything begins with an idea. Where the ideas originate can be very varied – a conversation, a pattern on the floor, a reflection from a swimming pool, the way a gate swings, a reaction to a colour whether gemstone or lens. Alternatively, it might be a solution I am seeking – a new hinge, new construction, a new temple, or the beginning of a new collection.
Whatever the inspiration, I am constantly sketching, which for me this is like taking notes. I will draw and look and think and sometimes the answer is right there, other times it takes days or weeks to get to the solution.
Making one piece is easy, making multiples is not so easy as you need to simplify and perfect the construction.
From sketching ideas, I will work through a bunch of detail technical drawings – often at 10X – and possibly make a few tests of a particular section. When I’m happy with the components, I do a small quantity as test production to ensure everything is correct, and from there will often prepare moulding for hinges and have components cut and processed.
The way I work is from the bridge and hinge. Once I have resolved how these are to be made, then the shapes usually flow very easily for us.
3. What sets your eyewear apart from the other brands?
There are so many great eyewear brands out there, but I guess our difference is the intimate way in which we create our work. Having the metalsmithing and jewellery background has meant much of the past forty years has been spent transforming metal in some way or other. I’ve carved, rolled, forged, bent, twisted, raised, hammered, melted, fused, soldered all sorts of metals, and have brought this knowledge into our design process. Usually, a new collection involves a new construction method, and whilst there may be echoes from previous offerings, we continually try to evolve.
Also, having my background in jewellery making, there is a lot of hands on. Like jewellery, eyewear is tactile and should be pleasant to touch and comfortable to wear. It usually takes a bit more time but hope the outcome is something beautiful.
4. What is your favourite collection or select piece that you’ve created?
That is a really difficult question to answer as there have been so many favourites over the years. Probably the first piece – electro torch – is still up there. Making pieces for film has always been a hoot too. More importantly, when I deliver a frame and the clients face lights up with delight, that is my favourite.
5. Who have been some of your favourite customers to create eyewear for?
I have met a lot of famous folk over the years, but at the end of the day, the customers who have chosen one of pieces, and perhaps thought about it for quite some time, are our favourite people. Often, they become long-time friends and I enjoy seeing them when I do a tune-up on their frame, or they choose the next part of their collection.
6. Can you give us an insight into what trends to look out for in the future with eyewear?
Insights are really difficult. Everything comes around again. I recently gave my wife an eyewear magazine from the mid 90s, and apart from the layout and models, the magazine could have been current as we’d seen so many of the frames at the international shows. Anecdotally, we’ve noticed a lot of folk seeking something they can cherish rather than a purely fashion piece.
Nevertheless, we’ve been in the midst of oversized frames, we could be heading back to tiny slit frames. Actually, I’m the last person to ask, I have no idea.
Don’t forget to check out his unique designs on Instagram @petercoombseyewear