Home with Wood Review

Home with Wood

By 17 Accredited Members of Studio Woodworkers Australia
Until November 20, 2014.

This exhibition displays the work of seventeen accredited members of Studio Woodworkers Australia (SWA) which was founded in 2011 and comprises both accredited members and general members. As a national organisation, its role is to promote and support professional designer-makers working in wood.

Accredited members are all well-known for their exemplary design ideas and skills in producing high-end, one-off pieces and for undertaking commissions.

The premise for this exhibition was to offer the members an opportunity to expand their audiences and create original production pieces which would appeal to home-owners looking for well-considered, affordable designs and who appreciate the values of quality of handcrafted items – in this instance, furniture.

These principles form the basis of an invitation to visitors to cast their votes in the People’s Choice Award. They are invited to vote for one item that they think best demonstrates the purpose of the exhibition, that is:

  • an innovative idea
  • ideal for the home
  • a good design suitable for production
  • well made
  • affordable for home owners

They form the basis for this review, although I believe the first requirement of ‘an innovative idea’, particularly in furniture, is difficult to achieve other than in construction techniques which are often hidden to the viewer.

Furniture defines and structures the space in which it is located. It can make a room inviting, beckoning us to be comfortable, and can show our discernment, even when it is a production piece.

Good design for production means that the furniture can be repeated by the maker – or another maker – numerous times. It doesn’t have to be made in a factory and can be ‘limited’ production which means that the maker might set an upper limit on the number produced. In the case of furniture the hand and machine are complimentary, but the machine must be used consciously. Designers have long been fully aware of production techniques. Quality, in its fullest sense, must always be kept in mind.

Queensland designer-maker Nicholas Bailey is showing a pair of bedside tables, titled Catch some Z’s. The legs are cantilevered and support two shelves, giving clean, spare lines. Small details include dovetails where the timber is joined, and bevelled edges on the shelves. These tables meet all the requirements.

Recently elected president of the organisation, Phoebe Everill is showing two wall units – Tetri-Stack 3 and Tetri-Stack 5 – that have been carefully thought out so they can be hung horizontally or vertically with rotating drawers. She has combined a variety of timbers to give visual tension and interest. The two sets are shown together and provide considerable amounts of storage, although just one would create interesting shapes on the wall. The open boxes, shelves and drawers offer spaces to display and store small objects that collect around our homes. Everill has identified these as prototypes, so we could expect some refinements.

Small tables can always be accommodated in a home, with an instant purpose. David Upfill-Brown is showing a pair of low tables titled Tympani, with carefully detailed tops and legs. The sculptural, rounded legs contrast with the precision of the tops, and add panache to small, occasional tables. At under $1,000 each they meet the criteria.

Peter Young is showing a pair of side tables from his Kingscliff series. He uses different veneers, in timbers that contrast in colour and texture. The legs are tapered, the drawer pulls small. They are clearly part of Young’s production work, and are available in a choice of veneers and timbers.

Printmakers regularly create editions, and each print will be unique, even though it may be only in one small aspect. Neil Erasmus has identified his two Shadow Chairs as Limited Collectors’ Edition #2/100 and #3/100. The chairs on display are made from different timbers and therefore are different colours. There are many steps in making a chair, and it is practical to make them in multiples.

Thirston Morris is exhibiting a pair of Pebble Tables: a coffee table and a side table. The tops are curved, as are the legs making them less formal than the general rectangular shapes. Again, timber of contrasting colours adds visual interest.

Flexibility in design allows room for value-adding with little additional effort. By identifying furniture as being ‘production’ does not mean it doesn’t have the integrity, passion and skills of the designer-maker who produced it. Many of the makers have taken a two-way bet, and are showing smaller pieces which could become production pieces, as well as including more high-end one-off works.

Nick Coyle is showing 3 Sevens table, an occasional table with three legs from his 3-way Mitre series. Three joints come together under the top and these are well designed, practical tables. A hat stand, also from the 3-way Mitre series, is a more elaborate, decorative piece which is practical and fun, with legs at the same angle of the table. An arm chair from the same series is commodious, with a shelf for the occupant’s spectacles, drink, snack, book or other necessity. Each piece of furniture is more expensive than the last in this series, but the production focus is there.

David Emery is showing two sets of tables or stools on three legs which are ideal production works. They a quite light and easily moved, solid and steady. Each pair is in a different timber, one dark and the other pale in colour. They meet all the principles for the Award.

Bungendore Wood Works owner David Mac Laren is exhibiting two sets of vertical shelves, one in Jarrah and the other in Blackwood. The shelves are tempered glass; the cylindrical posts are turned and screwed so they are not adjustable. The posts could be combined to create different sizes, both in height and width.

Other nationally recognised – and internationally respected – designer/makers are exhibiting in Home with Wood, but I don’t believe their work meets the set criteria.

Visit this exhibition, and decide for yourself. As well as seeing a wide range of furniture that will tempt you, it might make you think about the importance of good design which is suitable for production, is well made – and we could add, is long lasting and may become icons in the future.

Meredith Hinchliffe
September 11, 2014

View Exhibition information and catalogue

Saturday 11 October 2014