Patty Johnson Interview Part 2: Career

Patty Johnson discusses what led her to become a furniture designer and why her work has a social focus.

Qasim Virjee
Patty Johnson, Elise Hodson
March 2006
CANADA Toronto Region, Ontario, Toronto Region, CANADA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


"career or a career in the arts somehow. I wasn't convinced that a career in theatre or a career in the visual arts necessarily made sense for me because attached to my artistic interests was this overriding feeling of the need for utility. I really wanted to make sure that what I was doing had some use or had some larger function or made sense in people's lives in the larger context. So then when I left school I started to work for the Canadian Mental Health Association as a psychiatric social worker. I worked in their housing programs as an advocate for patients and I did that for about two years. My partner, during this period, started to take a furniture course at Sheridan College in Oakville, at that time the School of Crafts and Design and now the School of Animation Arts and Design, and I kind of thought that it looked interesting. It never occurred to me before that one could be a furniture designer or a designer of any kind! I knew nothing about this, and I thought it seemed sort of interesting so I decided that I might take this course too. I enrolled in it and started my career as a furniture designer. When I first left school I made furniture! I had the studio, I had the shop space and I made furniture. Slowly this grew of less interest to me and I really felt that production (or making objects for production) had far more meaning and also matched my democratic youthful ideals. So I started to build a body of work that was more suitable for production and I started to work for Canadian manufacturers. I started to do some consultancies in developing countries like Guyana, South America. From there I built a career that I think, at this point, embraces both a kind of democracy of design on many levels (making products that are appropriate or available to a wide variety of people) but also working with social concerns of mine."

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