Thursday, October 8, 2009

Full repot on The Gathering

The Gathering 27/06/09.

Introduction

The Gathering now in its second year was the brain child of James Ryan of Edward Barnsley Workshop, its premise was to get together makers in an event that could discuss and implement improvements to our industry. We are an insular bunch who rarely see other makers, and some of us rarely see daylight! So this annual event is a great opportunity for us all to get out of our workshops, talk shop, and hopefully have some long term benefit for designer/makers. This year 60 top makers from the UK attended with names including John Makepeace, Andrew Varah, Robert Ingham and Joseph Walsh, no other event can claim to gather such talented makers and it was a great privilege to attend this year having missed the inaugural event.

Venue

This year’s gathering was held at Ercol’s headquarters and factory. James Ryan, who designs a range of furniture for Ercol, was able (with the generosity of Ercol’s Managing Director) to hold the event at these wonderful premises. Built in 2002 the factory itself has won numerous awards. The entire Ercol production team including over 100 staff is housed in 160,000 square foot of modern, clean, working environment with a state of art extraction system enabling all areas of production to be side by side. The air is so clean even the upholstery and polishing section is located in the open plan factory. There’s a wall of natural light bringing the outside in and the factory makes full use of modern CNC machinery.

History

Ercol is one of the UK’s last remaining, large furniture manufacturing companies. Founded in 1920 by Lucian Ercolani and still family owed it is now run by nephew Edward Tadros. The family have moved with the times and invested heavily in new technology enabling them to still be trading in difficult times. The work force has decreased from 800 to 150 today which will ensure profitability and longevity. Their range of furniture has also evolved employing contemporary designers to keep the furniture modern and appealing to a new younger market. A lack of forward thinking and unwillingness to change has been the demise of many large manufacturers. Ercol are well set to still be making furniture for another 90 years.

Speakers

This year differed from last – the first year prominent designer/makers spoke about issues affecting the industry however this year outside speakers were all chosen for their background; a photographer, branding company, curator, public relations consultant and creative industries centre The Metropolitan Works.
All the speakers were very interesting but I personally gained the most from Brian Kennedy a curator, The Metropolitan Works and Barnaby Scott.

Brian Kennedy worked with the Irish Crafts Council prior to workig with the London gallery CAA. It was enlightening to hear him speak about what a curator’s role is and the impact it can have – Joseph Walsh who was in the audience has had his career catapulted through Brian’s input into exhibitions abroad and his work with the Irish Crafts Council. Furniture exhibitions often suffer from overcrowded exhibits, an endless sea of wood and no true connection between exhibits. Brian’s skill of choosing and mixing different disciplines in a setting helps the visitor imagine the pieces in their home and therefore having an impact on sales levels.

The Metropolitan Works is London’s leading Creative Industries Centre, helping designers and manufacturers develop ideas and bring new products to the marketplace with access to digital manufacturing, workshop space, advice, courses and exhibitions. Facilities can be hired on a project or day by day basis. This is a subject close to my heart as I feel the way forward for the industry is shared facilities and those available at The Metropolitan Works are very enviable.

The last to speak was Barnaby Scott of Waywood Furniture, Barnaby took the plunge last year and purchased a 3 axis CNC router, he was speaking of his experiences, the advantages and disadvantages of such a tool for a small workshop. The machine should be used to push the boundaries of designer/makers, and Barnaby who has only had the machine some 6 months and is already producing some ground breaking work; his walnut chest of drawers (F & C no 155 page 51) certainly is right on track in this respect.

Maker’s views

It was nice to put names to faces at the event and get an insight of what is happening with other makers – although the recession was not mentioned and everyone seems to be doing really very well! I am not sure if this is a true measure of the state of British furniture making or spin. I have however had many conversations with makers over the last few months with many saying that clients are backing out of commissions even at the last minute causing difficulties with workshop scheduling and, of course, cash flow. These are difficult times but as Ercol MD quoted “we have seen difficult times before and we will see them again”.

Jason Heap the new owner of Betty Norbury’s Celebration of Craftsmanship and Design was present and I spent some time with him discussing his plans for the future. Wisely this year the exhibition remains unchanged, but next year Jason will be putting his mark on the exhibition and hopefully building on the good work Betty had done over the last 15 years.

The most prominent moment for me that might have gone un-noticed by many, was a question by John Makepeace to the speaker on company branding “Did he not feel company branding was indeed unnecessary for an artist, and the artist should be known for his work and not a logo?”
I felt this to be a very valid point that provokes further thought as to the direction of furniture-making. It was however a question that was misdirected to the speaker as he would never be able to answer sufficiently coming from a biased angle. The group of 60 makers however must have had their own answer, if asked the question did they consider themselves artists or craftsmen? I think they would be split, with many of them benefiting from company branding and some of them happy to stand by their artist status feeling that a signature would be enough. What makes one furniture maker an artist and another a craftsman? Is it the value of his work financially or is it that the work is of cultural importance? It is this split that John’s question had highlighted that excites and intrigues me about our future.
Design Art the movement created by gallery owners to describe this very concept is fast growing, picking up momentum and gathering rich collectors along the way. The
V & A Furniture Futures in September will bring to the forefront these very subjects. The exhibition Telling Tales: Fantasy and Fear in Contemporary Design which will be running alongside this is already provoking much thought but little in the way to answering the question what is the future for designer/makers? I think we will see a definite split in the near future of art furniture from the umbrella of ‘furniture’
These may be difficult times but boy are they exciting times.

Second Guild Mark Awarded for Furniture design and furniture making October 2009

Marc Fish was awarded my second guild mark in October this year for my Japanese Cabinet for details see www.marcfish.co.uk This is a great honour and will gain further exposure for The Workshop. To get a Guild mark requires excellence in design, craftsmanship, materials and functionality. The Guild Mark scheme was set up to promote excellence in Furniture Design and Furniture Making. It was set in 1951 and has issued some 400 plus guild marks averaging just 8 per year. This is the highest award for furniture making in this country.
Cabinet making has long had a history in this country and the furniture designer / makers are now producing work that easily equals any from the golden age of furniture making.

New furniture designers and furniture makers courses for October 2009/2010

Marc Fish is now booking furniture designer/ makers courses for 2010 and will be looking to start new 40 week courses in September new for this year, is the introduction of seminars from outside lecturers including Rod Wales of Wales & Wales. These courses are some of the most comprehensive in the UK by the award wining Furniture maker and furniture designer.

Masterclass weekends dates announced for October 2009/2010

New Masterclass weekend courses are now set up for 2009/2010 – the courses will be run on a Saturday and Sunday with a maximum of 4 students, materials are supplied.
Course 1 Tools hand, sharpening, selection, use.
Course 2 Make your own tools.
Course 3 Dovetails - undo the myth.
Cost per weekend £300 per person.

For dates for the courses see website www.marcfish.co.uk

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Japanese cabinet article

Furniture and Cabinet Making magazine has my Japanese Cabinet featured in it this month - due out on the 20 July 2009, Articles to come include a definitive guide to glues and The Gathering.

Japanese cabinet article

Furniture and Cabinet Making magazine will be showcasing the Japanese Cabinet in this months magazine due out around the 20th July 2009. Also to come in the magazine articles on The Gathering and a definitive guide to glues.

First exclusive images of Le Orchidee desk

The first images of my desk are now online. They are 3D model photo realistic renders - these have been done by a very talented artist called Lloyd. They are a view of how the desk will look when it is finished next year. Further details are available on www.marcfish.co.uk

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Cherry bowl Sold

My Cherry Bowl has been sold. After a short stay at Tarquin Bilgen's Shop in London the bowl has new owners,i hope they will enjoy this very special piece.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Gathering June 27 2009

The Gathering was to get together makers in an event that could discuss and implement improvements to our industry. We are an insular bunch who rarely see other makers, and some of us rarely see daylight! So this annual event is a great opportunity for us all to get out of our workshops, This year 60 top makers from the UK attended with names including John Makepeace, Andrew Varah, Robert Ingham and Joseph Walsh, no other event can claim to gather such talented makers and it was a great privilege to attend this year having missed the first event.
This year’s gathering was held at Ercol’s headquarters and factory. Built in 2002 the factory itself has won numerous awards. The entire Ercol production team including over 100 staff is housed in 160,000 square foot of modern, clean, working environment with a state of art extraction system enabling all areas of production to be side by side. The air is so clean even the upholstery and polishing section is located in the open plan factory. There’s a wall of natural light bringing the outside in and the factory makes full use of modern CNC machinery.

My full coverage will appear in Furniture & Cabinet Magazine shortly.

Engineering lathe and milling machine June 2009

We are very exited at The Workshop as we have just taken delivery of a new engineering lathe and milling machine. Our old one I think belonged to Noah's father. It was a little tired so we took the plunge and it means once again we can push the boundries in contemporary furniture making.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Brighton Festival AOH Exhibition

As part of this year's Brighton Festival Artists Open Houses (AOH), The Workshop will be open to the public for two weekends during May.
You'll be able to see work by four of the designers makers currently working from The Workshop including myslef and the last years work.

I am also in the process of making a very special piece - a tambour top desk made from ziricote with more than a nod to the art deco period - I'll be making it on the open days.

9th and 10th May 2009
16th and 17th May 2009

The Workshop
North Quay
Newhaven
East Sussex
BN9 0AB

Tel: +44 (0)1273 513611
Mb: +44 (0)7776 140083

Newhaven Artists trail - http://www.aoh.org.uk/artists-open-houses/trails/venues-for-trail?trail_code=10NA09&submit=GO

Monday, January 19, 2009

New courses for 2009 cabinet making & furniture making

I have added a couple of new courses to the list this year the first is a 1 week bespoke course and the second is an evening course over 6 weeks

I personally train only one furniture making student at anytime. The course is only available in-between long course students. When these short courses are being run the long term student can not get the tutoring they require.

1 Week bespoke furniture makers course. cost £750

This course is designed for the improver, it can cover any subject the student wishes to learn. Projects and assignments are set and tutored. Previous subjects covered have been sharpening, dovetails, laminating and the router table. These courses are ideal for those not able to commit to 12 or 40 weeks but wish to improve their making skills. For the amateur maker it is a chance to wishing to see award wining techniques from the professionals.

For many people further tuition or studying can be very difficult - many find it hard to get time off work or are unable to justify the large cost of a long course This is why I have set up an improver's evening class, it runs for just 6 weeks. Class size 2 - 4 students

6 Week Tuesday evenings 7pm 10pm woodworkers course. cost £300 materials supplied

This course is designed for the improver, but a group of beginners can be catered for. It can cover subjects like sharpening, dovetailing, laminating, machining or routers.

These courses are ideal for those not able to commit to 12 or 40 weeks but wish to improve their making skills. For the amateur maker it is a chance to see award winning techniques from the professionals.


An informal meeting is advised to discuss suitability before booking the course.

New Student starts October 2008

I had a new student starting in October she is now nearly half way through the 12 week course and doing really well. She will be looking for employment if anyone needs an improving cabinet maker. Her name is Patou and her furniture making is getting better. She is due to finish in February and I will have one space for a new student details can be found at http://www.fishcontemporaryfurniture.com/cabinet_making_tuition.htm

Delivery of Macassar cabinet December 2008

Just before Christmas I delivered my latest commissioned piece of fine furniture. A curved fronted cabinet to house a Japanese doll. The cabinet is made in Macassar ebony and rippled sycamore. It was a tricky piece to make and really used some great cabinet making techniques some old and some new, if you are interested I run courses that cover some of these. details can be found at http://www.fishcontemporaryfurniture.com/cabinet_making_tuition.htm