Twitter Linkedin Facebook Pinterest Newsletter

Posts Tagged ‘Furniture Maker Dorset’

‘Making Dorset’ – 50 Dorset Makers

Sunday, June 11th, 2017


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.


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.

50 Dorset Makers Cover
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.


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.

Preview: Dorset Art Weeks 2014

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Just a week to go until Dorset Art Weeks 2014 and as usual there is a real buzz around the county’s artists, makers and art lovers. Brochures are out, the website is live and 300+ venues around Dorset are busy preparing themselves for tens of thousands of visitors. We always look forward to DAW and welcoming visitors to the Courtyard Gallery, there’s no better way of getting feedback than by opening your doors.

This year, as ever, we are joined by other artists who’s reputations preceed them; our long standing co-exhibitor, the jeweller Liz Tyler and new to the Courtyard Gallery this year, the painter Jim Hunter.

Jim was born and grew up in Co Durham, he studied painting at Winchester School of Art and then the Royal College of Art in the mid 1970’s. He then spent time in Paris, and it was through this period his enduring interest in modernism and the potential of abstraction grew.

Landscape has been the predominant reference in his work and, throughout his career, he has maintained the practice of drawing directly from the landscape as the source for his ideas. In the work that he has exhibited in recent years intuitive and expressive responses have been complemented by more considered and protracted research in his studio, interpreting the landscape through an abstract and structured language. Current work has been in response to places as different as Iceland, Japan, Venice and of course, the Isle of Purbeck.

Until very recently Jim pursued his practice as a painter alongside a career in art education, as Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the Arts University Bournemouth and now Professor Emeritus of Painting.

If you want to find out more about Jim’s work in the meantime look at his website: Jim Hunter Paintings

Liz Tyler has exhibited with us here many times, her work is the perfect compliment to our furniture in terms of quality, skill, attention to detail and design. It’s not unusual for us to both sell to the same client, which tells its own story.

2014 sees Liz celebrating 25 years of creating her award winning sculptural jewellery. Following a Flamenco dance and drawing workshop-run by Dorset Visual Arts and Dance South West, Liz’s latest pieces have evolved with a more dynamic sense of movement in the flow of the designs. – Liz specialises in individual engagement and wedding ring sets and bold colourful dress rings, but specifically for this silver anniversary year is making some larger silver pieces again .

To see more of Liz Tyler’s work visit her website:

As always Simon Thomas Pirie will be exhibiting stunning new work, but there will also be one or two speculative pieces that have reached the end of their showroom lives that we will be letting go at low prices. The workshops will be open to visitors to wander around and see work in progress. This year the workshops will be dominated by a very large elm and black walnut contemporary kitchen with two striking islands. The making team will working during the week so the place will be humming.

Our centre pieces in the showroom for DAW 2014 will be a stunning English walnut 2.0m diameter round table with a middle that spins. Round it will be 10 of our new ‘Gabriel’ dinning chairs in native walnut and sycamore.

This is a commissioned piece for a client, but without a doubt the most beautiful dining set we’ve ever made, out of some of the rarest timber, so we really wanted to show it off. We will also be displaying contemporary dressers, desks, dressing tables, chairs, outdoor furniture and occasional tables, including our new experimental ‘black’ range, seen in the image above.

To see more of our furniture visit the Portfolio Website

We are open here at Venue 45, The Courtyard Gallery and Workshop every day during Dorset Art Weeks (24th May to 8th June) from 10am until 5pm. If you would like to come to our official opening on the Sunday evening of the Bank Holiday weekend (Sunday 25th May) and enjoy some wonderful locally produced Dorset food and wine please let us know:

Simon Pirie, / 01929 471900

To see all the artists and makers exhibiting in Dorset Art Weeks 2014 visit the website and start planning your days out now!


Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

I’ve been very quiet on the blog lately, i’ve not given up, actually there is lots of news to come soon on completed work, major new projects and forthcoming events. We have just been flat out for months and months. So for the time being I thought i’d just update the previous blog post, where I was contemplating which of the two sets of ‘Torii’ tables I had left i’d end up keeping as my own set. Well that’s just been decided…

This bleached sycamore and stainless steel pair that have just sold. It’s a nice story in itself; the clients who are very local to the workshop first saw them during Dorset Art Weeks 2010, it has just taken 4 years for the sale to come off. I remember them from the show and felt sure they would come back. It’s amazing this set of tables hadn’t sold, perhaps they just had their name on them! It all bodes well as a lead-up to Dorset Art Weeks 2014, which starts on the 24th May and runs through until 8th June. There will be plenty more on DAW very soon!

It seems only right I’m left with the scorched oak Torii tables. They were the final set of this limited edition, there were 12 sets made over 12 years in various timber combinations. The scorched oak pair are the most sculptural of the sets we made and as a result the least ‘furniture like’. They are also closely associated, in my mind at least, to a memorable trip to Japan and strong memories of my late brother.

There is more on that in the preceding blog story. It feels like a chapter closing in a way, but in a good way.

Shaftesbury Public Art Projects

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Of the 3 Shaftesbury public art projects I’m working on with Adam Zombory-Moldovan from ZMMA Architects, one has ground to a halt, one is in the design and planning stages and the last is actually physically underway. So, all in all, pretty good.

‘Common Places’, the first of these projects in Shaftesbury town centre has hit some well organised vocal opposition. We are still listening to views and reviewing where we go with this project, but it is certainly not dead and buried from our perspective. The project also has lots of support from high places and perhaps most importantly from young people in Shaftesbury – 72% of children polled in Shaftesbury School liked the scheme when Jan Scott of Shaftesbury Civic Society presented the ideas earlier this year.

I’ve said before good Public Art will never gain unanimoius support, by it’s nature it should be challenging in some way. Saying that I don’t think anything in the Common Places proposals is particularly radical and I fail to see what all the fuss is about. This has included requests for documents regarding the brief and artist selection proceedure from Dorset County Council through the Freedom of Information Act. It’s hardly top secret information that will threaten national security. Perhaps some people just have too much time on their hands!

The other two projects relate to the work we are doing with Persimmon Homes on the new East Shaftesbury development. Mampitts Square, in the middle of the development, is still in the early stages of design, consultation and planning. I’m looking forward to showing the concepts of this exciting project very soon once planning has been granted. It’s fantastic that a big housing developer like Persimmon are incorporating Public Art at the core of their ideas and are showing some real open mindedness about the ideas.

This week my focus has been on the first Persimmon Homes project though – The Rickyard. This had been held up for a year, partly related to the speed of building and selling houses through a recession, but the green space and surrounding houses are now in the final stages of completion.

The Rickyard (above) will see the installation of our curved sliced oak seating in the early Autumn. For me this is a really exciting project and a return back to my artistic roots. I trained as a sculptor before moving into furniture design, this project bridges both disciplines in a very creative way. It was very odd going out specifically to find logs that were twisted and bent, usually I’m looking for faultless straight butts for the furniture projects. This was more akin to the kind of wood shipbuilders looked for hull frames with a natural curve to work with. Nowadays this stuff tends to be firewood, so from an environmental perspective it’s very satisfying.

I spent a hot Friday working with Will Miller, my aptly named chainsaw and wood-milling ace making sure what we proposed is actually possible. What we needed to achieve was to slice off parallel top and bottom surfaces of the length of the log – after selecting the best sides (more tricky than you might think on a 3 dimensionally twisted log that weighs a tonne!). This was done with an Alaskan Chainsaw mill – a huge chainsaw suspended from a parallel frame, in this case a fixed softwood plank. We ended up with a log with two flat faces 325mm apart.

Once we had done that we had to test the vertical chainsaw cuts, potentially the most difficult and dangerous part. We have to create accurate jigs that guide the vertically suspended chainsaw to follow the natural curved shape of the log. We needed this to create a clean cut and after lots of set up changes we made a first perfect slice through the smallest of the logs. Every log will require 6 to 7 of these vertical cuts, in effect creating the optical illusion of a curving vertically sliced stack of wood. You can never tell how a day like this is going to go, we got less done than expected but somehow learnt stuff that will get us further along next time. We’ve got another 3 days scheduled with Will for the log work.

I’m really beginning to believe the final pieces will look just like the visuals now, very exciting! There will be more over the next weeks as the Rickyard Project takes shape.