The Dragon’s Eye – from the Horses Mouth
‘Year of Legend’ is the theme for Welsh Tourism’s 2017 marketing campaign, which aims to highlight and celebrate the country’s rich and fascinating heritage. Needless to say, given my interest in history and mythology I got quite excited about this, but actually – it got even better. Some clever people came up with a fantastic initiative to celebrate the year of legend by offering a pop-up, unique glamping experience in specially designed cabins, in outstanding Welsh landscapes. ‘Epic Retreats’ glamping cabins are now designed, built, and sited in Snowdonia, but will then move to the Lleyn peninsular, giving those lucky enough to stay in them a one-off chance to experience the breathtaking Welsh landscape from a totally unique perspective.
To make things extra interesting, Epic Retreats ran a competition for the 8 cabin designs, and as you can imagine I’ve followed the competition with a lot of interest, if you’ve read my magazine articles or attended my talks you’ll know how much I admire and promote creative design. And here it was, being directly applied to glamping structures – my expectations were high. Channel 4’s new ‘Cabin in the Wild’ series, will feature all of the designs, with the first episode featuring two cabins – one based on a dragons claw, designed by Barton Wilmore Architects, and another called the Dragon’s Eye by Carwyn Jones – which was chosen as the winner of the two. You might have seen Carwyn’s CD-clad caravan in ‘Amazing Spaces’ a couple of years ago, this guy isn’t short on ideas and was, quite rightly, described by Will Hardy as a Welsh legend himself.
Step aside ‘eye of the tiger’ – this Welsh lad just stole your crown! I caught up with Carwyn this morning for a chat, I had a few questions buzzing around my head.
Me: Where did you find the inspiration from for the Dragon’s Eye design?
Carwyn: I was thinking about what is most associated with Wales and its legends and looking at the Welsh flag, I started to look at other images of dragons – and the eye caught my eye! I thought maybe I could make the eye into a window, and I wanted to create a structure that wouldn’t look out of place, so that’s where the shape came from.
Me: So then you had to start thinking about ‘how do I actually make that’?
Carwyn: I couldn’t draw the shape of the eye so I carved it out of a block polystyrene to make a 1:20 model, once I was happy with it, the photo’s of that went into my presentation for the competition. When my design was chosen that’s when I started to think about how to make it, I made the 1:10 model, and started to work out how to get the curve in, the window, how to fit the bed in and the layout. Later on I decided to have the bed curl around as there’s a lot of window and it needed privacy, I looked at all sorts of shutters but a round bed and headboard felt more organic. I decided from the beginning that the finish was going to be stainless steel, with the back being black, and that making the metal into shingles would be more dragon-like.. I don’t think any other material would get the feel of dragon’s skin.
Me: Was there any point in the build process where you thought I’m stuck, I don’t know how to take it forward, or felt you might not finish it?
Carwyn: I wouldn’t say I got stuck, there was a lot of difficult problem solving but as a maker you just want to make things, it doesn’t stop you. I’d sleep on it and come back to it in the morning. Time was the main problem.
Me: So from start to finish how long did it take you to build it?
Carwyn: Two months
Me: You did that in two months?! What’s your secret superpower?!
Carwyn: Not sleeping! The base trailer was supposed to arrive in January but I didn’t get it till March, and we were filming on May 1st!
Me: As a designer and maker, what else struck you about the process?
Carwyn; It was a good learning process, because I was the designer and builder I could problem solve as I went along – the whole process was in-house. It’s about 95% how I wanted it and I’m really happy with how it’s turned out.
I have been so inspired by the Epic Retreat initiative, it was so exciting to see something like this happening in glamping, generating innovative, original designs. The amount of work and skill applied to the Dragons Eye cabin, let alone the design, is mindboggling as Carwyn did this all by himself!
If you’ve been inspired by Carwyn’s work, he’ll be my guest presenter, sharing his story in more detail, in my ‘Unique by Design’ seminar at this year’s Glamping Show. In the meantime, if you’d like to commission your own amazing cabin you can contact Carwyn at Timber Designs Wales … I have a feeling that you won’t be disappointed.