Most of the tables shown here are part of an ongoing series that reduce constructional and visual mass in traditional table constructions, aiming to achieve a feeling of visual lightness and dynamism. This is achieved at the frame corners where the elevation of the top from the legs is made explicit by removing part of the leg and frame material. Additional voids in the top rails and slender metal stretchers provide clear sight-lines through the frame. Additionally the solid tops are generously shaped on their undersides providing a delicate yet defined edge to the top. One of the variations is the Three-Legged Hall Table, a narrow console with either one, or two drawers. These Tables and desks can be made to custom dimensions and materials and with further design variations. Most here are in European oak (quarter-sawn stock for the tops). The dining table at the top is 210cm long, the hall table 150cm.
The other table shown here was commissioned for the reading and resource room at the Bilston Craft Gallery in 2005. It is a part of a group of furniture including seating. The project was undertaken with Helen Carnac, who made the vitreous enamel panels that are set in to the furniture. The central trough in the table is for book storage and display, presenting options to visitors. The joinery is quite explicit hopefully explaining something of the construction of the piece. Enamels are also placed on sightlines that might only be seen by children or those curious enough to look underneath things.
Much of David’s cabinet work is explicitly three-dimensional, many pieces appear to have more than one front elevation, an invitation to spend time exploring the cabinet’s form – to look around it. As we do this it’s small secrets are revealed, internal spaces are concealed by a range of openings – fall-flaps, hinged doors, and sliding tambours, as well as drawers. Their asymmetrical compositions have a relationship with the geometry of industrial architecture, despite being highly functional, their function is not immediately apparent.
The pieces shown here are:
Silo, a collector’s cabinet for keeping and showing indeterminate ephemera.
Volume/Composition, a cabinet for 500 CDs.
Dressing Stand, a reimagining of the dressing table – a place for jewellery, make-up, and accessories.
A point of sale and display counter for a jewellery gallery.
Sideboard, living room storage and custom fitted cutlery trays.
The series of works on this page began as a response to the normative conditions of studio furniture making: those of, slow and careful making obviating risk, an attention to utility function, and the concern with precision joinery. I had often longed for the faster feedback loops of learning and reflection that I saw in makers' practices whose work was made relatively quickly - over hours and days rather than days and weeks. Also, despite my interest in the formal and structural aspects of a piece I found many viewers were more interested in the utility of a piece - this often coincides with a zooming in on a micro interest of the the tightness of dovetails.
So these works started as an exercise in making an object inside one day, from offcuts and oddments, and that were deliberately ambiguous in their possible (lack of) function. Sketching out ideas with a limited range of tools and materials. Starting life as 'studio works' it became quickly apparent that they had more autonomy and presence than imagined. Showing them in public spaces prompted broader and more diverse responses from people than furniture normally does. They prompted stories of things in sheds and inspired imagined uses, viewers told me about their granny's ironing board or a husband's old camera. They became access points. And they almost inevitably found some uses as people placed small objects on and around them - often moving those objects quickly and thinking about juxtapositions.
This led to them being used within various group and collaborative exhibitions with Intelligent Trouble and others. The initial ideas were extended to exploratory projects such as 100 Legs & Liquorice Straps, and addressing functional expediencies as my contribution to the touring show Beauty is the First Test'
The groups shown here are:
In Our Houses 2008.
Anon.(pts1-6). Commissioned for Taking Time: Craft and the Slow Revolution. 2009.
Host, and Loop 2011.
Domestic Bliss 2012.
Exhibition furniture commissioned for Beauty is the First Test 2013.
100 Legs & Liquorice Straps 2010.
These chairs, benches, and settles are unified by an approach to utility and function. Of all the furniture types, seating has to work well and many of these pieces also embrace something of what we do while we sit.
The lounge rocking chair has a laminated scoop for stowing away newspapers, books, and those other bits and bobs. Upholstery on these pieces can be supplied to the customer's specification. The chair is shown here in oak and walnut variations - both with an ash back panel. The dining chair is also offered as a rocking variant: reach forward to read the paper, or lean back or forward to chat with someone a place or two away from you. Simply moving is often a good way to keep comfortable. The box settle stores many of the real life things that don't feature in those lifestyle photo-shoots: newspapers, the post, board games - anything that will fit. Sit/Perch/Lean/Show was developed for a school in Birmingham. Used in the story area children can use the benches in various ways including using the back panel as a temporary display board. Benches made for the Bilston Craft Gallery reading room feature enamels by Helen Carnac. The centre arm rest separates individual space and provides a handy help when standing. The jointed bench has a storage slot and doubles up as a coffee or sofa table.
Joinery methods are selected because of their functional rightness. A dovetailed drawer is still the soundest way of making something long-lasting and functional. Done well it can be beautiful too. This is not craft for the sake of itself, but because it is appropriate for the requirement. Mortice and tenon joints are used extensively too, the contrasting stripe of the wedge inserted into the tenon tightens the joint on assembly. These two joints and variants of form the basis of a constructional repertoire. Because they are 'through' joints, i.e., not concealed versions they tell something of how the piece is made - we can see the intersections of various components. Joinery then takes up a place of detail and interest on pieces of furniture that are clean-lined and economical. This lack of explicit decoration means that proportion and scale have to be carefully judged for each piece made - an idea of this procedure is set out in the 'process' button on the home page.
100 Legs & Liquorice Straps.
100 Legs and Liquorice Straps were parallel works made as an invitation to respond to the Siobhan Davies Studios building in London. The building is home to Siobhan Davies Dance and is used full time for making dance works by the company themselves and other organisations. It is a sensitive conversion of a Victorian school building by the architect Sarah Wigglesworth with the current school buildings wrapping the site.
My works respond to the life of the building and the people that use it. I spent many hours watching, drawing, photographing and recording the space and how it is used. I made and placed 100 wooden struts of various sizes around the building. As a direct reflection they pick up on the poise, balance, and dynamism of doing dancing and choreography, not always what is expected but always embodying an elegance. The struts also highlight how we, as users of buildings are drawn against the environment. People and place are interdependent and interchangeable as texts and contexts for each other, a commentary on how we interact with space.
The pieces were placed in the building for an extended period - several months - and an open invitation was extended to all the building's users to move the pieces, possibly use them, and to rearrange them as they went about their working days. It was always fascinating, therefore, to visit the building over those months and see how they became part of the life of the space.
The building (or at least it's activities) is arranged around a main three storey staircase supported on long black steel bars. Over this length a material we often think of as hard and unyielding becomes pliable and slightly fluid. The sound of footsteps on the treads resonate through them. I wired the steel straps with a number of microphones and made an extending recording. From this I edited and assembled three different soundtracks. These were of varying lengths and were played back through vintage Tannoy speakers placed in the building, the result of the varying track lengths meaning that on continuous play the combined audio output evolved and changed as they played. These three tracks played alongside the ongoing ambient sound of the building.
Public art commissions.
Much of the work that leaves the workshop goes on to have a life with a relatively small group of people. It is therefore always a pleasure to be able to make work that goes out to have a much wider audience, to be encountered where craft-like furniture is not always encountered. Public art projects always bring particular requirements in the brief, and responding to these and working with others to realise something of relevance to the end users and audience is always rewarding. The project shown here was commissioned for Gloucestershire NHS by Lesley Greene. A Victorian cottage hospital was to be closed and the services moved to a more fit for purpose new building. There was understandable anxiety about the move within the community, the old hospital had played a part in the life of the village and it's people for over one hundred years. I selected objects from the archive of the hospital - to take something of the old to the new. These ranged from personal keepsakes to obscure and sometimes terrifying surgical equipment. There was little clear documentation accompanying the objects. I decided to present the objects in small individual cases without any interpretation or information and position them in a range of locations. As peculiarities that people will come across they will hopefully prompt stories and memories of past events and people, and spark further imaginings of possible uses.
Paget School, and Bilston Craft Gallery to follow soon.
Intelligent Trouble (IT), is a London based collective of makers who have sought to explore the possibilities of working together whilst shifting, changing and remaining the same. Intelligent Trouble is a space that embraces risk and questioning as a vital aspect of creative practice, seeking to explore the social conditions of making work.
IT began when a group of 4 makers, (Helen Carnac, Lin Cheung, David Clarke and David Gates) decided that they wanted to work together, with no particular outcome in mind, but as a collective response to showing works together at the exhibition 'In Transit', Munich, 2009, which was installed in a working foundry as part of, but on the fringes of the established Schmuck jewellery event. During its four day duration they responded to each other and their works, (re)positioning pieces, toying with juxtapositions and modifying works. ‘three days in there bored…for 35 hours and out of that came the conversation that gave rise to this’ (Intelligent Trouble, 2010)
Consequently IT’s first project began in August 2009 with a walk and a boat journey in London. ‘It was there that we decided that each of us would make an edition of four small works or assemblages of materials that we felt represented an aspect of our own practices to exchange with each other. These were, a month later, simultaneously exchanged, retaining one for reference, and working on or responding to the others by the other members of the group’.
From that first project, which showed as A Curious Exchange at London's Contemporary Applied Arts, Intelligent Trouble have employed various strategies for working together. From the starting point of exchange a key intention has been to find where practices and intention can overlap to enable new and unexpected directions and results.
Intelligent Trouble shifts, changes and remains the same, in different formations, exploring the possibilities of working together. So far nine artists have made work between them: suggesting, prompting and responding with objects, materials, sounds and words.
‘As a group of makers we have explored the possibilities of working together and what new things could be done. Without jettisoning our own identities, opening our selves to the actions and provocations of others. Trying to find out a little about how each of us works and thinks, locating the overlaps in approaches’
The Tool at Hand was a fascinating project initiated by Ethan Lasser. I have yet to move and edit material to this page but more information can be found in my previous blog posts, here, here, and here, and by visiting the Tool at Hand website.