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Archive for the ‘Press’ Category

Design Guild Mark for Floating Bench

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

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It has been another good year for Floating Bench. Following on from being a finalist in the RHS Chelsea Garden Product of the Year Award in 2016, Simon has now achieved the ultimate accolade having been awarded a Design Guild Mark by the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers. This award, only a handful of which are awarded each year, is the most highly prized by furniture makers nationally.

The Design Guild Mark is awarded by The Furniture Makers’ Company, the furnishing industry’s charity, in order to drive excellence and raise the profile of British design and innovation. The award recognises the highest standards in the design of furniture in volume production by the finest designers working in Britain, or British designers working abroad.

Floating Bench holds only the 193rd Design Guild Mark and when you search through the list of designers who have been previously awarded – well-known names like Robin Day, Rodney Kinsman (OMK), Simon Pengelly, Rod Wales, Mark Gabbertas, Sarah Kay and Samuel Chan, it’s very refined company. This is actually Simon’s second Design Guild Mark, he also holds number 142 jointly with Makers’ Eye for the Poon Desk from 2014.

DGM SS ChelseaThe judges recognised the beauty and innovation in the design of Floating Bench which is unique in the way the gently curved back rail appears to float, unsupported, whilst at the same time being robust and comfortable to sit against. The construction of the bench required a great deal of creativity and the team at Simon Thomas Pirie Ltd had not only to develop new techniques for steaming and scorching the timber but had to build their own equipment with which to do it. One of the biggest challenges to overcome was to devise a method of scorching the timber for the seat whilst ensuring that there was no possibility of black ash stains on light-coloured clothing. Having successfully solved this problem, we believe that we are the first garden seat maker to combine these techniques in outdoor furniture.

The Design Guild Mark Logo was displayed proudly on our Noir & Blonde Floating Benches on the Sitting Spiritually stand at RHS Chelsea this year

FurnitureMakers-GuildMark-Awards_2017_044-7640Simon being presented the award by Alex Gifford, Chair of the Design Guild Mark Committee and James McClachlan, the editor of Icon Magazine during Clerkenwell Design Week

The commitment to overcome the challenges faces by wooden furniture exposed to the elements was also acknowledged by the judges. Alex Gifford, chairman of the Design Guild Mark, commented that “Floating Bench is designed specifically as a garden bench and is not, as is often the case, a standard bench which can be put outside.”

FB2 SS Garden bThe contrast between the scorched, black seat and the natural oak back and arms of the original Floating Bench enhances the effect of the back rail hovering unsupported above the seat. The open back allows a view through the bench, minimising its visual impact whilst at the same time beautifully framing its backdrop; be it lush green foliage, brightly coloured flowering plants or a characterful dry stone wall.

To provide the gardener with yet more choice, two new editions of Floating Bench were unveiled at RHS Chelsea 2017. Blonde is entirely un-scorched and adds an understated contemporary twist to a traditional or naturally planted garden. Its natural oak silvers over time and melds into the garden as it rests, unassuming, inviting the weary to rest awhile. Noir on the other hand is a sculptural statement piece appealing to the more adventurous gardener. It looks spectacular when positioned against a background of green or brightly flowering plants and its jet-black scorched timber holds its own as the centrepiece of a more minimal garden.

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The Blonde & Noir special edition Floating Benches were launched at RHS Chelsea this year

The Original ‘Two-Tone’, Blonde and Noir versions of Floating Bench are available as two or three seaters and sold exclusively through Sitting Spiritually. Ltd Prices start at £3,120.

‘Making Dorset’ – 50 Dorset Makers

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

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Woodcut by Robin Mackenzie, printmaker

Fifty of Dorset’s best designer-makers will be exhibiting together in the historic Wolfeton Riding House venue near Dorchester over the first weekend in July 2017. ‘Making Dorset’ is also the launch event for the accompanying book celebrating the same 50 artists and craftspeople called ’50 Dorset Makers’.

STP JB MDThe event has been a long-term aspiration of Dorset Visual Arts (organisers of the bi-enniel Dorset Art Weeks.) They have teamed up with Evolver Magazine who are publishing the book and of course the makers themselves who have been pushing for a high-quality selected event in the county for a long time.

The final selection, made by Professor Simon Olding of the Crafts Study Centre and Simon Barber of Evolver Magazine is a mix of well known names, makers at the start of their professional careers and established craftspeople who have not exhibited at this kind of event at all. The broad range of work will span traditional crafts to very contemporary practice; all the major disciplines will be represented from musical instrument making to ceramics, printmaking to jewellery and of course furniture making which has always been strong in the county.

So as well as ourselves, John Makepeace, Petter Southall (iTre), Karen Hansen, Jack Draper, Alice Blogg and David Saltmarsh (Fivepenny Chairs) will all be exhibiting furniture. The lovely thing about this group is all of us approach our designing and making in very different ways with contrasting results. I’m really looking forward to seeing it all together and trying to understand if there are any common strands that make the work a result of our common location – Dorset. Or not!

The venue for Making Dorset is Wolfeton Riding House at Charminster, just outside Dorchester. This rare 16th Century riding school is an important historical building which has been renovated by the Wolfeton Riding House Trust over the past two decades with support from English Heritage among others. Part of their remit in return for this funding is to open the building up to the public through cultural events like Making Dorset. For more information about the building and the Trust click here.

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Wolfeton Riding House exterior and interior following extensive renovation by the Wolfeton Riding House Trust

Making Dorset is a celebration of the best of design, making and craft, a high quality curated show with exquisitely made objects selected by experts. But it is also a book launch for 50 Dorset Makers (it’s sister book ’50 Wessex Artists’ was published in 2006) and is part of a series of events to celebrate of the 100th edition of Evolver Magazine. It’s hard to underestimate how important this bi-monthly arts culture and listings magazine has become to the South West arts community since it first appeared in 2001, for which Simon Barber, its founder and editor deserves huge gratitude. So we are really looking forward to taking part and being involved on all sorts of levels.

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The cover of ’50 Dorset Makers’ supporting Making Dorset, published by Evolver Magazine

‘Making Dorset’ is not just a one-off; Dorset Visual Arts are planning other events in the future and hope it will become a recognised brand of excellence in the world of craft, design and making, both within Dorset and beyond.

We will have a number of pieces there, we are still working on the final list but one of our stunning burr ash and ripple sycamore drinks cabinets is a definite. We are also providing a pair of English walnut glazed and lit display cabinets that other makers of jewellery and silverware will be able to use to display their work in. From our perspective the furniture is enhanced by having other high quality objects in and around it so we are very comfortable with this. John and I plan to be there over the weekend and are looking forward to catching up with familiar faces and meeting plenty of new ones.

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Don’t miss this fabulous opportunity to see the very best of British craftsmanship in a building which is a little known jewel in Dorset’s history. It will be a good day out.

Making Dorset is open to the public on Saturday 1 July and Sunday 2 July from 10am till 5pm.

The Making Dorset event opening and 50 Dorset Makers book launch is on the evening of Friday 30 June. Please contact us or Dorset Visual Arts directly for further details.

Floating Benches in Two RHS Gold-Medal winning Gardens!

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

It’s been a busy summer for the new Sitting Spiritually ‘Simon Thomas Pirie Contemporary Range’ after its launch at the Chelsea Flower Show. The Floating Bench was shortlisted for the RHS Chelsea Garden Product of the Year which gave it a very high profile, and although we didn’t win the public & press reaction was terrific. Needless to say we have been busy making them to fulfil Sitting Spiritually orders ever since.

The new range, and in particular ‘Floating Bench’ has also gone down very well with garden designers; hot on the heels of success at Chelsea Flower Show a pair of Floating Benches featured in the Gold-medal winning CCLA ‘Summer Retreat’ garden at RHS Hampton Court. Designers, Amanda Waring and Laura Arison of Catfoot Garden Design were inspired by the ethos of the Arts and Crafts Movement; the garden embracing its values of simplicity, elegance, style and craftsmanship. The Floating Benches beautifully illustrated the quality of contemporary British design and craftsmanship whilst their ‘barely-there’ appearance allowed the planting to be viewed virtually uninterrupted. CCLA-A-Summer-Retreat__1088x612-04

Catfoot Garden Design’s ‘CCLA Summer Retreat Garden’ which won a Gold-medal at RHS Hampton Court incorporated two 2-seat Floating Benches in the design.

The garden and the benches featured prominently on the BBC TV coverage from Hampton Court with Joe Swift talking about the medal wining garden at some length on and around the benches…

There was hardly time to catch breath until the opening of RHS Tatton Park (from 20th – 24th July), and once again a Floating Bench is in another RHS Gold-medal winning garden! This time it subtley makes its presence felt without dominating the ‘Waiting List’ show garden. Designed by Alison Galer, once a transplant nurse, this uplifting and calm garden has been created for patients who are waiting for a kidney transplant. The Floating Bench provides somewhere for patient and nurse to sit and talk surrounded by the beautiful planting and tranquility. The-Waiting-List-01__1088x612

A single 2-seat Floating Bench at RHS Tatton Park. Florence Garden Design’s ‘Waiting List’ garden was also awarded a Gold-medal by the RHS.

Not sure if the Floating Bench has become a bit of a garden designer’s lucky charm or whether Martin Young of Sitting Spiritually has a sixth sense to just back winning designers. Whatever it is 2016 certainly has been quite a year for the Floating Bench!

The story of how the Simon Thomas Pirie / Sitting Spiritually collaboration came about is featured in a previous feature on this blog. Click to read more. But you can also get a feel for the collaboration in our latest short film – from design, though the making, steam bending and scorching right up to when Martin from Sitting Spiritually delivers the furniture into the clients garden.

For more information about Floating Bench and the Yakisugi Swing Seat please visit the Sitting Spiritually website who sell both products exclusively. Click here…

Chelsea Flower Show Launch

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

Chelsea SS StandFor years I’ve been watching the Chelsea Flower Show coverage on the TV thinking “is it really for me”? But recently I’ve been getting more and more drawn in; I have friends like Richard & Jane at Plankbridge Hut Makers and the Sculptor Simon Gudgeon who exhibit regularly and speak highly about the whole experience. It seemed inevitable that as I went down the route of designing outdoor furniture some day I’d be drawn like a moth to this blue light. However, following the recent tie-up and ever deepening collaboration with Sitting Spiritually it all happened rather sooner than I anticipated…

With so much of Sitting Spiritually’s focus being on RHS Chelsea every year it was inevitable that our world would have to align with theirs: The new Simon Thomas Pirie Contemporary Range which includes the Floating Bench and Yakisugi Swing Seat is now sold exclusively by Sitting Spiritually, it was our job to perfect the designs in the run-up to the show and make sure we had made enough stock to meet demand during and after.

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Of course it’s hard – almost impossible to work out how something is going to go down with the public and as a result how much stock to make beforehand, but Martin and the team have years of ‘Chelsea’ experience to fall back upon and understand the rhythm of the show and its visitors well. The same couldn’t be said for us, so John and I, accompanied with wives, thought we’d better go and ‘do’ the whole Chelsea Flower Show thing. Turns out it’s impossible not to get swept up in the atmosphere; the celebs, the TV crews, the show gardens, the awards, the incredible flower displays in the pavillions and just the general sociable hubbub. We arranged to meet clients and friends there and ran into many more entirely unexpectedly. It’s lovely, and is a total antidote to the ‘design show cool stand-offishness’ we are used to.

For all of that though, it is for a large part a high-brow trade show right in the centre of London’s most expensive district and there is serious money being spent on and off the stands. It’s the right place to bring the new Simon Thomas Pirie Contemporary Range and we were all pleased with the reception it received. In the end Sitting Spiritually had their best year ever at Chelsea Flower Show, with the new products representing about a third of the items sold. What was even more encouraging was that the kind of clientele that came onto the stand we were different to those who tended to come and buy the more traditional swing seats from the other ranges. This was exactly the more design conscious audience we were hoping to woo.

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Floating Bench was shortlisted as one of the ‘RHS Chelsea Garden Products of the Year’ which meant there was also a two-seater version on the Finalists Stand. That nomination in turn meant we got even more great press then anticipated, appearing in The Sunday Times, The Observer, the Mail on Sunday and The Sun the weekend before, as well as lots of the glossy mags in the preceding month. You can just tell when a product is going to hit the ground running, Floating Bench really did have everything going for it and it felt like it was everywhere for those few weeks. The Yakisugi Swing Seat also had its moment in the limelight though, getting it’s fair share of press attention. The high point for Yakisugi was when Sitting Spiritually were asked if they could provide one for ‘Jardin Blanc’, Raymond Blanc’s very exclusive RHS hospitality area. We dropped everything and finished one in double quick time!

As it turned out a rather lovely hosepipe won RHS Chelsea Garden Product of the Year! To be fair it was rather a sophisticated garden watering system called the Hozelock Cloud Controller, more to do with a modern phone app control system than the hose itself, but saying I got beaten by a hose made me feel better! Still, just getting shortlisted was a big coup in terms of raising the Floating Benches profile.

By the time we said goodbye to Martin, Celia and David on the stand it was near closing time anyway and our feet, eyes, nostrils and wallets could take no more, but we all agreed we’d be back next year; that we’d spend an extra day and be working hard on new products. Turns out Elvis Costello was wrong, “I do want to go to Chelsea”.

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Although Chelsea Flower Show is now over you can catch both the Yakisugi Swing Seat and Floating Bench at our studios as part of Dorset Art Weeks Open Studio’s which is on until Sunday 12th June. For further details click here.

The story of how the Simon Thomas Pirie / Sitting Spiritually collaboration came about is featured in a previous feature on this blog. Click to read more.

For more information about Floating Bench and the Yakisugi Swing Seat please visit the Sitting Spiritually website who sell both products exclusively. Click here…