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‘Making Dorset’ – 50 Dorset Makers

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.

Blonde & Noir, Special Edition Floating Benches for 2017

March 31st, 2017

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2016 was an extraordinary year for Floating Bench and our new collaboration with Sitting Spiritually. The bench and its new partner, the Yakisugi swing seat which form the basis of the Simon Thomas Pirie Contemporary Range had their first outing at RHS Chelsea, with Yakisugi ending up as a feature in the Raymond Blanc hospitality area – Le Jardin Blanc. Meanwhile Floating Bench was shortlisted for the RHS Chelsea Garden Product of the Year award and was part of two RHS Gold Medal winning gardens at the Hampton Court and Tatton Park shows. All this generated lots of magazine, TV, and social media coverage and a healthy order book!

There is little doubt the scorched finish and texture that we are at the forefront of was one of the big hits of last year, so much so that we are seeing it appear on other garden furniture manufacturers stands and within the garden design world more generally. So how have we reacted to this flattery? With the 2017 ‘Noir’ and ‘Blonde’ special edition floating benches…

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The Blonde is finished in natural oak with no scorching at all – pure and simple, exquistitly finished and detailed. In a way we are saying ‘”we’ve done the scorching thing and moved on”.

But that’s not entirely true, because we still love that texture and character that the burnt surface gives us. It’s a black like no other black, somehow deeper and more ephemeral; so we decided to create the ‘Noir’. This completely scorched Floating Bench has real presence, it’s a piece of sculpture as well as humble garden seating. As a statement this is saying “we are taking scorching to its visual and technical limits!” The result is a jaw-dropping piece of refined beauty, but with a real edginess.

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Burning timber to create a scorched surface is relatively easy, but creating that depth of finish, the texture and the stable surface has taken us many years to perfect. Actually it’s far from easy as the harshness of the flame shrinks the timber and creates an unstable brittle surface. We have to work hard though various processes to turn it back into a hard-wearing surface finish, but the end result is worth it.

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Playing the Blonde and Noir special edition benches off one another was fun in the photoshoot. We have always loved exploring what you can do by creating opposites. It’s an approach that we have regularly taken with our furniture over the years. Experience has taught us that a single design made in different timbers can take on very different personalities. Lighter timbers like sycamore or ash tend to produce more delicate, soft and sensitive, almost feminine characteristics; whilst darker timbers, walnuts, or burrs for example tend to demand more attention and make excellent statement pieces. The contrast between the natural mid tone oak and scorched variant on this bench do indeed create two very different beasts which just goes to highlight what you can do with a single product.

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Of course we shouldn’t forget the original two-tone Floating Bench here. It is still likely to be the best seller with that lovely balance between the two extremes of timber, texture and contrast. During the early development of the Floating Bench we did come across a few clients for whom the scorched surface was too stark or contemporary, so these clients were the impetus for the Blonde.

If the client for a Blonde is shying away from the contemporary, then the client drawn to Noir is positively embracing it. It’s a bold statement piece that will hold its own in a highly landscaped garden, or as a foil to some very specific foliage or planting. I can also see Noir as an inside piece, holding its own within a strong architectural interior.

We think these new additions to the Sitting Spiritually ‘Simon Thomas Pirie Contemporary Range’ will make 2017 as exciting as the 2016 launch year, broadening the client base and interest. Floating Bench has been shortlisted for 2 more very high profile awards this year. The first is for a B&LLA (Brand & Lifestyle Licensing Awards) as it now a Sitting Spiritually licensed product for Royal Horticultural Society. It is the RHS that suggested we all entered the bench for this award.

Even more excitingly from a design perspective Floating Bench has been shortlisted for a prestigious Design Guild Mark from the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers. Both these awards will be announced in late April, just in time for RHS Chelsea. Fingers crossed on both hands!

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Both Blonde and Noir Special edition Floating Benches will be on the Sitting Spiritually Ltd of Lyme Regis stand at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 23rd – 27th May 2017 (Stand RHW295).

You might may be able to get a pre-Chelsea sneak peak of the range at the Sitting Spiritually Open Garden Weekend, which takes place at their Lyme Regis HQ on the weekend of 29/30 April. For more information visit the Sitting Spiritually events page here.

The ‘Simon Thomas Pirie Contemporary Range’ of garden furniture is available exclusively through Sitting Spiritually. The images above are all of 2 seater versions of the bench, there is also a generous 3 seat version available in all finishes. For more details and pricing of all Floating Benches and Yakisugi swing seats visit the website by clicking here.

All Images taken by Double Exposure Photographic.

Perhaps the last word on Floating Benches should go to an RHS Gold Medal winning garden designer…

“It’s understated and simple, functional and beautiful. Inspiring.”
Sarah Jarman of Jarman Murphy Garden Design

Shows and Exhibitions 2017

March 22nd, 2017

As I write this, I am seated at my desk in our so-called office and showroom surrounded by towering piles of kitchen appliances, chunks of solid kitchen cabinets and units and sections of study shelving. A narrow path leads to my chair and looking back along it I can glimpse a sliver of the outside through the glass doors. You are always welcome to visit our ‘showroom’ but just at present, even a pre-emptive telephone call won’t help you to actually see anything – you can barely step inside, never mind make out the shapes, shrouded as they are in protective grey blankets!

All is not lost however as there are several opportunities for you to see our work at various different venues this year:

3rd – 6th May 2017 – ‘Inspired’ British Festival of Silver, The Goldsmiths’ Centre, 42 Britton Street, London EC1M 5AD

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This is the 3rd time we have exhibited in this prestigious show. Part of London Craft Week, ‘Inspired’ presents the work of the very best of British silversmiths, including our friend, Karina Gill, displayed in and on furniture by the country’s leading furniture makers. This year we will be showing a contrasting pair of our drinks cabinets: one in English walnut with burr American black walnut doors, the other in sycamore with burr ash doors. The show is open Wednesday – Friday 10am – 5pm and Saturday 10am – 4pm. More details available here.

23rd – 27th May 2017 – RHS Chelsea Flower Show London Gate, Royal Hospital Road, Royal Hospital Chelsea, London SW3 4SR

Chelsea SS Stand
Following the success of the launch of our collaboration with Sitting Spiritually Ltd at RHS Chelsea Flower Show last year, Floating Bench will be returning in a slightly different guise. This year, you will be able to see two new versions of the Floating Bench: Blonde and Noir. As the names suggest, Blonde is completely un-scorched natural oak while Noir is jet-black, entirely scorched oak. They will once again be accompanied by our Yakisugi Swing Seat. Look out for Sitting Spiritually’s stand – RHW295.

1st & 2nd July 2017 – ‘Making Dorset’ Wolfeton Riding House, Wolfeton, Dorchester, DT2 9QN

wolfeton riding house‘Making Dorset’ is an exhibition of fifty of the best 3-D artists and crafts-people based in Dorset and will include the launch of a new book called ‘50 Dorset Makers’. The show is a Dorset Visual Arts initiative and is curated by Professor Simon Olding , Director of the Crafts Study Centre and Simon Barber, Editor of Evolver Magazine. ‘50 Dorset Makers’ will be available to purchase at the venue and from each of the makers taking part.

As we get closer to each event, we will update these details so keep checking back.

If you can’t make it to any of these, then you are welcome to try your luck at the Courtyard Workshop, please though, do telephone first.

New Maker; Bradley

March 22nd, 2017

BradleyWe are pleased to introduce to the newest member of our team, Bradley Rowland. Brad served his apprenticeship at another furniture making company in North Dorset but, as the boyfriend of our landlord’s daughter, he was keen to find work closer to home – well you can’t get much closer than across the farmyard!!

In fact there is very little reason for Brad to ever leave the farm, with girlfriend, job, home and hobby in one neat package! Brad is a keen motocross biker and spends much of his spare time at Rogers Hill Raceway just up the hill from the workshop. We are always relieved to see Brad in one piece on Monday morning as he is developing into a talented maker and has been a welcome addition to our team.

We are very proud of our support of emerging furniture making talent, some of whom we have introduced to you before. Click here to read about ‘New’ Mike and Tom…