Industrial designer Thom Fougere knows there's plenty of inspiration to be found in the past.

For Winnipeg-born Thom Fougere, there’s only one thing missing from his hometown: a wealth of ikebana classes. The designer first became interested in the ancient Japanese art of flower arranging back in 2014, when he began conceptualizing his Tyndall Vessel collection, but the lack of local classes didn’t hold him back. “A lot of ikebana is going with your gut,” says Fougere, who incorporated the philosophy—that there’s no one right way to design—into the vessels. Made from Manitoba-quarried Tyndall stone, the multi-level containers can be staged in endless configurations and hold anything the “user” imagines, from flowers or candles to nothing at all. “I’m designing something purposeful,” Fougere says, “but I’m not trying to dictate what the exact functionality of the object is.”

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That’s true when it comes to much of Fougere’s work. His popular Bench Rack, for example, can be used for display, seating and storage. A sculpted metal tube showcases a standout wardrobe, while the solid wood base doubles as extra storage or a seat for sliding on a pair of shoes. “There’s poetry in these projects,” says judge Paolo Cravedi of Alessi—and it’s a poetry that can change as the piece ages: Fougere often leaves his work unfinished, choosing natural materials that grow more beautiful with age. Case in point: the Tyndall stone itself, a material that wears to reveal hidden fossil fragments and develops a natural patina over time.

Fougeres Tyndall vessels, made from Manitoba-quarried Tyndall stone, are intended to be staged in multiple arrangements. Photo by Charles Venzon.

In effect, there’s a nostalgia that informs many of Fougere’s designs, a balance between his understated, modern approach and a genuine appreciation for the past and the stories it contains. This fall, for example, he’ll release a storage centre inspired by his grandmother’s old rolltop desk. But even with one eye trained on the past, Fougere is moving full steam ahead: he’s a few weeks away from opening his studio in Winnipeg, where he’ll pursue his passion for beautiful, functional design full-time.

The Steel Wood table is constructed from cherry wood and steel. Photo by Mark Reimer.The Bench Rack was created as a multi-purpose solution for small space living. Photo by Mark Reimer