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Posts Tagged ‘Wood Awards 2014’

RHS Chelsea Garden Product of the Year Finalist 2016

Friday, March 4th, 2016

Floating Bench CGPotY Logo001

Wow, great news for the launch of the Sitting Spiritually / Simon Thomas Pirie Comtemporary Range – we can reveal that our ‘Floating Bench’ is a ‘Chelsea Garden Product of the Year 2016’ finalist! The winner will be announced during the RHS Chelsea Flower Show on the evening of Sunday 22nd May.

The collaboration with Sitting Spiritually and the ‘Simon Thomas Pirie Contemporary Range’ couldn’t get a better start than that! So now as well as a Floating Bench and Yakisugi Swing Seat on the Sitting Spiritually’s stand (RHW369), there will also be a Floating Bench on the ‘Garden Product of the Year stand – FR325. There is much more about how the Simon Thomas Pirie Contemporary Range came about and our exciting tie up Sitting Spiritually, the only garden swing seat and bench maker licenced by the RHS on a previous story on this blog…

Yakisugi Floating Bench Bugg Garden

Simon Pirie_002It’s a quirky award, more often than not won by smaller garden aids and implements. But it’s lovely to be nominated and frankly – you just never know!

Two years ago we won both a Design Guild Mark and the Wood Awards with another collaboration – the St Hugh’s College, Oxford project which we co-designed with Tony Portus and Makers’ Eye, so there is a lot to be said for awards and collaborations. You can read more about the St Hugh’s project by clicking here…

Winning awards and even being nominated is great for the profile of small design-led businesses, it certainly helps get press attention which is no bad thing, particularly in the frantic media scrum surrounding the Chelsea Flower Show.

The Simon Thomas Pirie Contemporary Range which includes the Floating Bench and Yakisugi Swing Seat is available exclusively through Sitting Spiritually. For more details including prices and dimensions please click here to visit the Sitting Spiritually website.

We hope to see you at RHS Chelsea from 24th to 28th May 2016.

Double Prize Winning Design

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

Simon Thomas Pirie and Tony Portus of Makers’ Eye have scooped their second major design award for the St Hugh’s / Dickson Poon China Centre Desk. The Furniture Company’s prestigious Design Guild Mark is awarded to drive excellence and raise the profile of British design and innovation. The Award recognises the highest standards in the design of furniture for volume production, by the finest designers working in Britain, or British designers working abroad.

This follows the same project winning in the furniture prize of The Wood Awards in November. So our one desk now holds two of the most recognised and coveted awards in British furniture design.

Tony and Simon received the award – Design Guild Mark no. 142 at a special event and seminar to discuss British design during Clerkenwell Design Week 2015. Other winners that night included Samuel Chan of Channels, Sir Terrence Conran, Mark Gabbertas, Rodney Kinsman as well as Robin Day and Ernest Race for classic pieces. There is a comprehensive round up plus images on In all 21 Design Guild Marks were awarded this year out of a shortlist of 50.

The St Hugh’s College / Dickson Poon China Centre project, for which we made 63 of these desks in oak also had other pieces like folding tables, academics desks, bookshelves and occasional tables as part of the furniture package. In all there were nearly 200 items of solid oak furniture designed by Simon & Tony. The manufacturing was spread across 4 bespoke furniture workshops – Waywood, Matthew Burt, Tim Hawkins and Simon Thomas Pirie. This is the great strength of the Makers’ Eye model – to be able to use some of the best furniture workshops in the country and make use of their skill sets and working capacity. The result was delivery of all the items in just 3 months – on time and on budget.

The ‘Poon’ Desk as it is now known was always the signature piece in the range. It comes in two sizes – 1.8 and 1.6 m long and currently two timbers – the original European oak and now in black walnut as seen here. The desk can be purchased through Makers’ Eye as a one off but we are also keen to sell more to institutions and corporations. The range of products will be expanded to include tables and chairs very soon. Bespoke variations can also be created for specific situations whether it’s a one-off or multiple.

More information:

There is a full article on the project and the other pieces we designed for St Hugh’s College and the Dickson Poon Centre, click here.

You can order the Poon desk and see more images and the specifications on the Makers Eye Website, click here.

Wood Awards 2014 – Winners!

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

It does sound good – Winners of the 2014 Wood Awards ‘Bespoke Furniture’ category.

Tony Portus and Ross Fenn of Makers’ Eye, myself and Matthew Burt were at the Carpenters Hall on Tuesday evening for the Wood Awards 2014 announcements. Although we were down to a shortlist of 4 I don’t think any of us really had any idea of whether a project like this one really stood a chance of winning: ‘Bespoke furniture’ tends to imply a ‘one-off’ single maker or a small workshop piece, indeed the other 3 shortlisted pieces tended to reflect that. What we had done through Makers’ Eye was about collective and collaborative effort, much more like the Architectural teams who’s prizes had all been announced earlier in the evening. They had clambered up on the podium with commissioning clients, structural engineers, contractors and suppliers.

So when “Oak Furniture for Dicksoon Poon China Centre, Oxford” was read out, none of us moved at first, I think we’d all been waiting to hear ‘Makers’ Eye’. We did eventually all get up on the podium and were joined by James and Geoff Tyler of Tyler Hardwoods who supplied the oak for the project (it was the second venture onto the stage that night). So an amazing project with an amazing team has been recognised. It’s this element that gives me the biggest pleasure, because we all stuck our necks out and did something unusual.

Tony Portus and I did the design work together, working really hard to not only fulfill the brief but deliver something exquisite – which would be beyond St Hugh’s College’s expectations.

The judges summary put it nicely, “Makers’ Eye created a family of products with a clear design signature to complement the subtle Oriental influence of the architecture.” I’d go further than that – i’d say we’d successfully combined an oriental influence with the quintessential Englishness you’d expect to find in an Oxford College in all of the 177 pieces made by the 4 workshops involved.

Those four workshops; us, Matthew Burt, Waywood and Tim Hawkins each took the elements of the project that best matched their skill set, facilities and of course available capacity. In the case of Waywood for example their CNC knowledge and equipment made them the ideal workshop to take on the 63 wall hanging shelves. We focused on the 63 two-drawer desks for student rooms and 12 folding tables, Matthew Burt the lino topped academics desks and Tim Hawkins the occasional furniture for the break out spaces. Everything was delivered on time and on budget, meeting the client’s high specification on material and design.

Much of the success of the design and manufacturing on this project comes from the management role Makers’ Eye played. Not only did they secure the project against established providers, but also got to grips with the complex contractual negotiations with the clients / contractors on this high-brow, high profile new build project. That allowed the 4 workshops to concerntrate on the making without distraction. There is no doubt it’s a great model to allow smaller workshops to work co-operatively and tackle projects normally ‘out of their reach’.

Throughout the Wood Awards ceremony I was struck by the good judgements made in the various Architectural Project categories. There was some lovely work including the Ditchling Museum of Arts & Crafts, House no.7 on Tiree, and the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe in London. There are plenty more projects worthy of mentions, some were winners, some not. It’s hugely encouraging to see wood used in so many ways on so many exciting projects. The RIBA Journal has a good run down of all the projects (including the furniture categories) with images and is well worth a look…

The Bespoke Furniture shortlist was very strong, as was the Production Made Furniture category, it’s great to see UK timber furniture design looking so bouyant. We pipped the Barnsley Workshop, Shaw Stephens and NMHK co. to the prize and perhaps it was that new take on collaboration that made this project stand out? Then again perhaps it is just a lovely bit of design and making by small workshops at the top of their game, supported by a dynamic, light touch team at Makers’ Eye plotting our course through tricky waters.

Needless to say we are all delighted at Simon Thomas Pirie to have ended 2014 in such a positive way after putting so much work into this project. Saying that there is little time to reflect as there are a dozen new projects to design, make, manage and fit. John puts it nicely in this video except…

If you are still unfamiliar with Makers’ Eye do take a look at their comprehensive website full of the best of British furniture making and design:

Maker’s Eye – St Hugh’s College, Oxford Project

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

We now have interior images from the newly opened Dickson Poon China Study Centre at St Hugh’s College Oxford, the project we were so deeply involved with designing and making earlier this year.

The project was won and led by the team at Maker’s Eye but it involved 4 bespoke furniture workshops, including us. It’s a story of collaboration and making the most of very experienced designer-makers with the specialist workshop facilities and decades of knowledge. Maker’s Eye won the job against stiff competition because we were able to design a bespoke range of very cost effective furniture specifically for the new China Centre.

Of course they are all strikingly beautiful pieces of furniture; quintessentially English as you would expect for something made for an Oxford College, yet with a hint of oriental design that echos this buildings purpose. The whole project comprised of 63 desks and shelves for the students rooms, as well as academics desks, folding study tables and occasional furniture for other spaces within the new build project, designed by David Morley Architects. Click here to see more images of the building on the DMA website.

We were initially involved in the design of all the pieces, but in particular the signature piece of the collection – the 2 drawer desk. In the end we made 63 of these desks and 12 similarly detailed folding tables, all in solid European oak. While the desk is clearly the signature piece of the collection, we are also particularly proud of the folding study tables and the engineering solutions on the folding leg frames. There is nothing else like it on the market – solid oak with no locking brace to interfere with leg space. Having used one here in our office for meetings we can vouch for how solid they are to work on.

Together, Maker’s Eye and the 4 workshops involved – us, Matthew Burt (acamadics’ desks), Waywood (wall shelves) and Timothy Hawkins (breakout room coffee tables), all shared ideas and expertise to deliver the project to the highest standards in an extremely tight timeframe, on time and on budget. It’s an exciting model with huge potential – through Makers Eye we can now take on much larger projects for architects, main contractors and institutions.

The furniture has been extremely well received by St Hugh’s, with the College Bursar commenting “We are delighted with the furniture Maker’s Eye designed and built for the Dickson Poon China Centre Building. This was a high spec project, and it was essential that the furniture we commissioned was entirely sympathetic to the building. All who have seen the furniture have admired it greatly. It has real presence and lends a beauty and an elegance to the concrete finish of the building.”

The cherry on the cake for all of us is being shortlisted in the ‘Bespoke Furniture’ category for the Wood Awards 2014. The desk and shelves from the project will be on the Wood Awards stand at 100% Design in London from 17-20 September, Stand L390. The aim of the Wood Awards is to recognise, encourage and promote outstanding design, craftsmanship and installation using wood in building or furniture projects with the UK.

This project certainly fulfils those criteria, but I hope that back story of collaboration and collective expertise helps win on the day. We are really proud of our involvement in this project and the design work that we put in with Tony Portus of Maker’s Eye. Click here to visit the Makers’ Eye Website…

There is a more detailed run down of all the 30 shortlisted architectural and furniture projects, including a slideshow, on the RIBA Journal site.