Thursday, 22 August 2013

let the wood tell a story

So it’s time to show and explain another design which I have just completed, and only just photographed. It has no name as yet, so I will just jump straight into detailing my thinking behind it and the reasons for it.

  A lot of the wood I obtain from my local wood yard are small manageable pieces (offcuts sometimes) because I as yet don’t have the capacity for too large a stock of wood, so I tend to purchase the smaller sections of wood that I can make small items out of and leave the bigger sections for my fledgling commission work. The trouble with these smaller offcut sections I buy is that what there is, is what you get. So you can’t really specify the size you want- it’s that size or you buy a massive piece of wood and cut it down- which I find people shy away from.  So with this in mind I wanted to turn my attention to the redundant sections of wood that are fresh from the table saw, that are cut off to obtain the bigger sections (the waste material). Uneven lengths, roughly cut, untreated and just ready to sell as they are, ungraded etc  etc. I thought why can’t the consumer have a closer connection to the wood, and understand/know where the wood has come from and what it goes through to get to them?  Why can’t I show that the discarded offcuts of wood can still be used but also worked very minimally to produce functional, unique pieces of design- that are just as attractive as the straight edged, perfect sections of wood? -and retain their origins/routes back to the woodyard/human interaction they had to get their shape. A lot of questions! So I decided to design and make a product that used these rough redundant offcuts of wood and adhere to a minimal interference ethic to produce a coat rack.
So basically the wood of this design (English oak) specifically the back plate (which shows some lovely heart wood graining) and the shelf are as they were, from the wood yard floor. I haven’t cut or treated the back plate; all I did was sand it and oil it. So the ends are still painted from the wood yard (which gives a unique identity to it) the edges and end faces are not straight, so viewed head on it’s got a natural bow along the length. It’s untouched as much as possible by me, to give that connection to the user of where it’s from and demonstrate that not all materials have to be planed, sawn and treated to strip the identity from it to obtain a perceived aesthetic.
Why can’t the rough edges, half painted ends be seen as an attractive individual quirkiness, appealing in a way?

So once I had prepared this piece of wood which was randomly bought by me from the wood yard as I liked its appearance and uniqueness, I set about taking one of my previous ideas for a coat rack and adapting it to a larger scale. And incorporate a unique feature into it by way of an adjustable shelf that lies across the screw in pegs. This gives the design a great added functional element to display or place items that are needed close to hand, keys, letters, phone etc. So like my previous coat rack design this gives the user options that other coat racks don’t have.

I simply drilled eleven hols along the woods length, placing six together at one to maximise the storage space along this predetermined length. Then using my great little wood threading tool I made 11 pegs (the only part of the design that has had industrial machine contact, if time and resources allowed I would have turned this pegs by hand) and put the screw thread feature on each of them so the user can customise the rack to their individual requirements and place the pegs and hence the shelf where they want. Lastly the shelf, which again was made from an offcut, was routed to achieve 3 slots in it so it can attach to the pegs anywhere along the length. The whole design is finished in Danish oil to protect the wood and enhance that lovely heart section. The unit can then be secured to a wall by means of simply using screws that are concealed behind the screw in pegs.

  The result of all this…a very simple concept which importantly uses very simple construction methods and minimal involvement by me, which was one the original requirements/challenges of this project. So on first view this design looks unfinished, messy, untouched in away, and maybe of poor quality. But by being this way visually, it allows the user to understand where the wood is from and what it goes through, it demonstrates that you haven’t got to disguise the journey of the wood, from tree to table so to speak and it allows a closer connection and understanding of what goes into the production/manufacture of wood and wood based products. Hopefully changing people’s ideals and cementing the notion that every piece of wood can be attractive and used purposefully and still be just as desirable as a machined piece of design. Which could be seen as being stripped of its personality and history? Not allowed to tell the story of its industrial life.

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Tuesday, 9 July 2013

the pulse coat rail

Back when I started this blog, the idea of creating it was to showcase my work and explain in detail the designs I make. It’s been a while since I last made a new design but finally I was able to take some photos of the completed design which are shown below. And I will explain my newest creation and the reasons for it in this post.

It’s called the ‘pulse’ coat rail and the aesthetical inspiration behind it came from the digital readout of heart rate monitors and medical devices, with a continuous line spiking up and down the screen to register heart rate etc. I had the idea in my sketchbook for a while and finally decided to develop it into something workable. I hadn’t worked with metal before so I spent quite a bit of time researching into what I wanted the metal to do and how I was going to do that. And it soon became clear from numerous mock-ups that I couldn’t shape the metal to the aesthetic/functional requirement I wanted, so I hunted down a blacksmith. Luckily I found one two minutes’ drive away from my home and he was happy to shape a piece of a metal to the design I had drawn up.

The most important and taxing part of the project was working out the profile of the rail and how it would function and accommodate coats, hats, bags, clothes etc. and anything else that might be stored in a hall way or with peoples garments. The reason the rail is designed like this is by the way I observed people using coat rails and stands. People seem to just throw their coats on hooks and stuff scarves, gloves into pockets and hook bags on top of the coats they have just hung up. People don’t seem to use the loops provided in the back of jackets anymore, and just seem to throw/push their garments onto the stands/hooks and carry on with their day. I observed this in my own home, cafes, and public places etc. So I wanted a design of coat rail that accommodated this ‘bunching of clothes’ and ‘hang it up and forget about it’ mentality. Also I wanted it to accommodate other items like bags, gloves, even letters/papers. So people could quickly discard their over garments without having to physically think about hanging something up, the garment would just drape onto the rail effortlessly. And that’s where the loops, horizontal sections and continuous line of the design come into play. The user determines how to use the coat rail; they can loop, thread or stuff their belongings into and around the metal profile. Hang bangs, stuff letters or newspapers into the rail. And subsequently from my trials, hang a large volume of items from this design, more than conventional coat racks/hooks. I trialled many different profiles, using thin sections of wire I could bend by hand into shape before deciding on the final shape shown in the photos. It allows varying amounts of items to be stored along its length due to some straight sections and a few traditional vertical sections for coats to be draped over.

Construction wise, this was a fairly simple design to build, the metal element was made first and luckily it was fairly spot on to the drawings I supplied the blacksmith. So once I had the finished metal section I could make the plinth to mount it onto. Sapele wood was chosen as from working with this wood before I knew it produced a wonderful finish and machined well. I wanted the plinth to be a lot smaller in proportion to the metal section so the design of the loop stood out. And I knew the metal section was not too heavy so the wood plinth would easily support its weight on the wall, via two screws.  


Overall I’m very pleased with the design and the look of it. Originally I wanted the loop element to do just that, ‘loop’ from vertical to horizontal (effectively flow along the wood) etc. With big radius’s between the transitions, but I was limited to what radius’s could be created due to the limitations of pipe benders and the minimum radius’s they could bend too, as this would have to be fabricated in one piece. So the decision was made to bend at right angles to allow the full shape to be made without the limitations of the machine hindering it. I am currently working on having radiuses between the transitions to give a more flowing aesthetic (finding the optimum radi that can be machined will take time ). I am also looking into getting the metal section made by a metal fabricator who could then possibly powder coat the loop, to give some bright/bold colour options against varying types of wood plinths. Resulting in a modern, stark appearance to further enhance the scope of this simple but highly functional design.  

Thursday, 13 June 2013

my week off

So this is my second week off in 3 weeks and as always its very busy with design projects ongoing and places visited. so this post is just a recap of whats been going on. I stayed at a very posh hotel called down hall in hertfordshire at the beginning of the week and walked around a great forest in hatfield. If you look on my flickr account you will see some of my attempts at capturing some images of my travels. And i ended up in deepest darkest suffolk yesterday for some posh food and walk around some antiques shops, as its always interesting looking and researching old furniture i find. but while going here there and everywhere this week i have always got my design projects in the back of my mind and my sketchbook in tow. luckily after a slow start my current project for a variation of my coat rack is finally moving somewhere and im visiting the local blacksmith at the end of this week to see if he can start making the metal sections i require, so keep an eye on here and my twitter feed as it progresses.  its been a while since i had a new project to show/promote so looking forward to getting this design out there.
  Also i have acquired a new mobile phone so i can now start adding to my instagram feed as well! (social media overload here) so keep an eye on that as im off to cambridge today to catch a show and have a look around. Always a great place cambridge. Some great funky shops which is always a must for designers to look in, to see whats out there and whats selling. And the river cam is always a great place for photos and people watching so expect some photos from me tday on my twitter feed. Then at the weekend im off to centreparcs which is nearby in thetford forest. A family/friend thing which im not really looking forward too, but the scenery should be lovely and will give me a chance to play around with my camera and the HDR settings on it (a mine field indeed)

so a very busy week which is great but means my holiday is going vey quickly and to be honest i wish i could have a week in the workshop to really progress all the ideas i have in my head and sketchbook. but thats life sometimes. best make my way to cambridge and enjoy the sun

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

a week off

So last week was a holiday for me from my day job, and I had a lot to cram into it, including being best man at my brother’s wedding. I won’t go into too much detail but it was a great day that I will remember forever and importantly the best man speech went down well. So a perfect day but I didn’t get any wedding cake!! Apart from doing other design related things including hours in the workshop and visiting blacksmiths, I took a day/half a day off and went to Southwold which is a gorgeous seaside town in Suffolk which I adore. I went there with the camera to get some inspiration and see what was new as I hadn’t been for a while. Included in this blog post is some photos I took, and to keep the design theme of this blog alive I have included two photos (should have taken more really) from a new coffee shop I went into called the two magpies bakery.  As soon as I walked in it reminded me of the artisan coffee shops you find in London, with the open counters and fresh baked goodies to tempt you in. but one of the reasons I was tempted to go in was for the coffee. I am a coffee snob so was hoping to find somewhere closer to home that serves proper coffee, the only other place is honey and Harvey in Woodbridge,  But the two magpies did not disappoint, amazing coffee prepared properly from exotic blends. The other reason why I went in there was for the design of the place. For a start there was a theme of recyclability/reusing with the quirky idea of using rolling pins as coat hooks as you walk in, but what struck me the most were the tiles on the walls (see photo) just simple plywood slats about the size of a beer mat layered up like roof tiles. A simple but stunning look was achieved. Also the shelf stood out for me. Obviously a sculptural piece with the white rods representing a nest to tie in with the name of the bakery. But a large striking feature in this unique little shop. Which I loved. And don’t get me started on the tables and chairs! Again simple paired down designs with tubular wooden/trestle legs painted half way up with contrasting colours to add a modern minimalistic feel to the shop. Really great. Even the counters were made from what looked like reused plywood all tied together with simple white walls and pale colours for cushions/pictures. If you ever get a chance to head down this part of the country pop in, it’s a great little place. I will definitely be back there as I have to make more of an effort to go to Southwold regularly.

  The rest of my photos from my day trip/week off can be found on my Flickr account  whilst on the topic on Flickr I really like the new redesign they are rolling out. Making the photos stand out/be more prominent and having some lovely little graphical icons to tie it all together. Great layout too with the changeable banners. Look out for more photos on there soon as I try and remember to take my camera everywhere I go, just like I try and remember to take my sketchbook with me. Also I need to put all my photos back on this blog as for some reason they have all disappeared! That will take a while! Trying to get the bottom of why they disappeared but can’t think why. Very frustrating.
  Don’t forget to keep an eye on my twitter feed to see what I’m up to design wise and day to day ramblings. just to note, for some reason I could not upload any photos to this blog post, so I need to look into that but please look at my flickr photo stream as this has all the photos from my week off including the ones showing the great design details in that coffee shop I swooned over. hopefully technical issues will be resolved soon

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

long over due

So I am not going to begin to explain why this blog update has taken so long and I am not going to bore with you excuses either. What I am going to do is detail what I have been up to, what I am doing now and what I hope to achieve this year.

So the last update detailed that I was going to try and do some smaller projects while the commissions slowed down and try to promote my work and also see if I can get it displayed in more local shops. This as always is an ongoing/slow process. Currently my work is taking up a lot of space in my workshop and I am still searching out shops and galleries that potentially could show my work, but I feel that it will take time to get noticed. So all I can do is continue working away doing small designs from my mountain of sketchbooks that I have and see what comes of them.

  So currently I am making a variation of my popular multifunctional coat hook that is detailed in previous posts on this blog. It involves using my trusted material wood and a new material to me, metal. This means I needed to track down a local blacksmith. Luckily I found one only a few minutes down the road from where I live! so while I am on holiday from my day job this week, it gives me a perfect opportunity to get this latest project moving and involve a local blacksmith to make a piece of the design that I currently cannot. When the design is finished I will show it on this very blog. I am very excited about it and hope it continues my ethos so to speak of unique functional designs that play on how people live and interact with their surroundings in this fast paced world.

 Also I am going to make a few new mirror designs too. My previous mirror designs –Scape for example- proved popular and I have so many ideas for new designs. Not only that, I have a local supplier of mirror glass and so much wood to use! (I seem to buy wood like women buy clothes at the moment!) So I thought I would do something I have experience in and know I can make well, so look out for these in the summer months. Summer months I hear you say! I know we haven’t had the best weather this year so far but I’m hopeful.

 As I mentioned above I am still hunting out commissions and have had a few interested people requiring quite unique items to be made but its not as easy as a few phone calls and a quick sketch. But I am learning all the time how to approach people’s requirements when it comes to making something and I know they will come thick and fast soon. Until then I continue to promote myself on here and twitter to name but a few social platforms that have proved fruitful in gaining recognition and interest in my work.

 Also in my last post I mentioned I had setup a flickr account which I have been slowly filling with photos and more will appear on there soon. So keep on eye out. Also I have acquired an instagram account too, so all I need to do is get a phone that can run the instagram app!!!! And then fill it with daily inspiration, images of my journeys and design projects. Its annoying and frustrating that I haven’t sorted this out yet but I will and I am looking forward to sharing my design journey in a different way as I know it will benefit me long term.

 But the main thing I am going to do more of is keep this blog regularly updated. I know I have said it before but I will make a bigger effort to keep this going now as I have a jam packed summer ahead of me (fingers crossed). So as always keep an eye on my twitter feed which will link to this blog as new posts arrive. But the most pressing big thing I have to do this week is be a best man at my brothers wedding!! Wish me luck! A post will appear on here when my best man duties have been fulfilled!



Thursday, 31 January 2013

new year slow start

Well this is a very long over due blog post after the last one was back in early december! but here i am and ready to update what has and hasn't been going on in my creative journey. So the last post detailed some car design views about the new car i had purchased and so far the car is exceeding my expectations. And the post proved popular so i will do more blog posts reviewing designs and giving my views on them and they reasons why, how etc.
  But back to my news, i had a quiet christmas taking stock of what i had done that year and what i needed to do this year. Then the bad weather came which put paid to any workshop time i had planned in my freetime as it was so cold and to be honest motivation was low at that point, and since then i have not made anything new and instead have been concentrating on developing new ideas and taking stock of what i had to do in the coming year. I had a quick trip to north norfolk the other weekend to pick up some old pieces that had not sold in one of the shops that stock my designs. So i am in the process of sorting all that out and then listing it on my various design pages on and once they are listed i can then start to design and make the new ideas i have been thinking about for too long over the cold winter months. One thing i have to do is use up the piles and piles of old wood i have lying about as i am finding wood prices have increased slightly round my way and so i am having to make sure i do not end up with too much stock but also try and make new designs to promote. So in this quiet period i am sticking to making small managable designs like my candle holders and also making some small items for my own use as im trying to find a new flat so i thought making some furniture would be a good idea and would show off my making skills too. alos i am planning to sell some of my designs at a local craft fair in the spring so more news on that later in the year. Apart from that i will continue advertising my designs that are for sale on the above websites through twitter and this blog page.
 Also i have started a flickr page which i am going to use to show the various photos i take of life, experiences, designs made and things that inspire me, so keep an eye on as it will add another dimension to what i do and what drives me. So I had best get back into the making and designing swing of things as i have alot to do and a lot of time to catch up on.