About Claire Darwent
Posts by Claire Darwent:
My collection of off cuts of timber and remnants of other materials from past furniture commissions was becoming unsustainable and it was time for a bit of a sort out. Finding the time and inclination for this is rare so it was important to seize the moment and get creative. Making and keeping things out of harvested timber is vital for carbon capture; burning timber off cuts just releases all the carbon that the trees have worked so hard to collect back in to the atmosphere – not good. I was really pleased then when Tom http://www.odellsstore.com mentioned that he was doing a project on ‘found’ wood for London Design Festival 2016 and would be happy to take some products from me. He asked me to look in to designing a plant stand to complement the lovely plant pots he sells.
I had been busy over the summer making ply shelving for Tom’s new venture in Kentish Town – Store 171 and found that I had strips of birch ply left that I was able to shape into legs for the plant stands. The round tops are in birch ply too but laminated with linoleum, this will provide a hard-wearing, water proof surface for the plant stands as well as injecting colour. I laminated contrasting colours on to either face of the tops and clients will be able to chose which is to be on top. Again this linoleum is from my supply of off cuts and so the colours are limited to what I currently have to hand. The legs are half-lapped and bolted on to the tops and there is a choice of 3 different heights and 3 different top dimensions which gives plenty of options to play around with.
In addition to the plant stands I have made some ‘desk tidies’, small, useful trays made from rough sawn oak or walnut with coloured Formica bases.
I have been working with designer Harry Dobbs to make 5 new furniture installations destined to sit on a few of the existing granite plinths in the gardens of St Pauls Cathedral. This is a temporary project, the pieces are expected to be in place for about 6 months in which time the public response will be assessed.
Accoya wood was selected for the project; this is a relatively new product, a modified timber made using sustainable soft wood that has undergone an acetylation process to “create a high performance wood whose properties match or exceeds those of the best tropical hardwoods.” Whilst this timber is proving resistant to environmental influences it is apparently less resistant to the wear and tear of public usage – the acetylation process does not harden the wood.
St Pauls Podium
St Pauls Tete a Tete
St Pauls Public Alcove
St Pauls Tete a Tete
Accoya in the workshop
Working with independent retailers to create a unique look for their shop interiors.
I have been working increasingly over the past few years with retailers who have been inspired to make their shop fixtures and fittings play a role in creating their unique brand. Their shops are more than just the sum of the products on sale; the design of the shop interior is now also required to say something about the retailer.
One store that has been famously paving the way for creative shop interiors is Aesop http://www.aesop.com/uk/about_aesop/ As far as I am aware no two shop interiors are the same and they have used different designers to make each store unique and exciting.
I love working with independent designers and retailers such as Nigel Hall, Tom O’Dell and the women from Luna & Curious. All of these clients are very creative people who have a clear notion of the look they are wanting to achieve.
My role as furniture maker, more often than not, is to provide a guiding hand at the design stage. I’m obliged to supply all the boring, practical data; size of space, size of product, practical size of units. I often feel that I am putting a dampener on all the creative energy that is flowing but that is the challenge; to unite the brief with the aesthetic and harness the creativity into practical solutions. Great fun with the right people!
Ashwin Workshop in Dalston – still going strong through the decades and developments.
Hidden away behind the hustle and bustle of Kingsland Road the furniture makers of Ashwin Workshop have been quietly going about their business for over 30 years. This small workshop began as a women-only venture in the 80’s, in the hey day of TOPS courses and the London College of Furniture. Over the years it has seen makers come and go through it’s door and today there is no gender prescription.
The workshop is a valuable resource for furniture makers in Hackney. It provided me with a bench, machines and affordable rent for the first ten years of my sole-trading business life. At the time we were 5 women working in the limited space which dictated a strict working regime. Whilst we were all independent makers we collectively ran the workshop and all took responsibility for order and maintenance and the general smooth running of the premises. This practice continues to this day.
The beauty of sharing workshop space, beyond the obvious cost benefits, is that you have other like-minded people on hand. Furniture makers, in my experience, are affable, collaborative people and in a communal workshop ideas, muscle, hand tools and even work is often shared around.
Revisiting Ashwin Workshop today, I marvelled at it’s size and how on earth I ever managed to make some of projects that I did in the years that I was there. But where there is a will there is a way and no one is more resourceful and able to think outside the box than a furniture maker!
Small workshops and light-industrial sites have all but disappeared from their traditional homes in the East End (once at the heart of the London furniture making industry) in favour of housing. When I left Ashwin Workshop, I moved across the road to the larger premises of Oblique Workshops on Gillet Square but that lasted just 6 months before a rent hike forced us all out to Walthamstow. Now, as the threat of development hovers over my current workshop, I’m wondering where to next ………….