Based in a old traditional Manchester Mill, Chris Holden produces very modern contemporary products, combining advanced manufacturing with the soul of craft.
The old Manchester mills are full of character. We love meeting people who have offices there. There always seems to be so much for your eyes to take in. We entered through a heavy steel door and approached the industrial elevator, closed the meshed sliding door and creaked slowly to the 4th floor where AJOTO is situated. Their space is great… original wooden flooring, high ceilings, exposed brickwork, steel and timber beams and all open plan. We were meeting Chris Holden from AJOTO, founder and owner of a company that produce beautiful tools for your journey.
“We wanted a brand that reflected our creative lifestyles. The pens were secondary to the intention though….our intention was to make something better than anyone else and then tell the story.”
Chris studied Design for Industry at Northumbria University. After he finished his course he went to London to work for a number of design and innovation consultants, using creative thinking to help businesses find new ways to connect with their customers. After a while he said “If I’m doing this for large multi-nationals and start ups then why can’t I do this for myself?” So he decided to set up his own design consultancy, with a focus on working with ambitious small businesses. He also set himself a challenging and interesting task. Find a tool he uses every day, break it down, reinterpret it and make a new one within 4 weeks. The first tool he chose to re-design was a pen and that’s were the story of AJOTO began.
After the four weeks he joined forces with Tim Higgins to progress the idea and then turned to Kickstarter to see if people would buy the product. They did and AJOTO smashed their original target figure in the process. Their journey began. “We wanted a brand that reflected our creative lifestyles. The pens were secondary to the intention though….our intention was to make something better than anyone else and then tell the story.”
Chris said “We are constantly thinking of other products but we don’t make for making sake. The first product we wanted to design was the product that we could use to design other things… hence the pen” It was this original tool that first attracted us to AJOTO. The minimalist design and simplicity of the pen is stunning but it’s the detail that is totally unique and compelling, containing seven key components that are precision machined by the finest manufacturers in the UK and Europe. The paper in their packaging is sourced from the highly regarded GFSmith paper merchants, produced by the worlds best paper mill James Cropper in Cumbria and printed using traditional techniques by the specialist printers Identity in Tonbridge, Kent. As well as the obvious qualities there are also hidden details that reveal themselves through the patterns, symbols, unique markings and messages in both the packaging and the pen itself.
AJOTO’s story is one which projects an open approach to educating the customer to every step of the manufacturing process and Chris’ meticulous focus on detail elevates each piece to another level. In a world of mass production and invisible supply chains, the sustainable, open and honest approach AJOTO take is really refreshing.