Growing up…

I walk into the local hardware store: Rob is standing behind the counter; one of his colleagues is carrying around several cups of tea and handing them out to the various assistants. I greet Rob and make some lame joke about having been missed out from the coffee run…
“What can I do for you?”
“Can you order me a tub of Cascamite, please”;
“What size?”
“Half a kilo…”
He makes a note in his order book:
“It’ll be in on Tuesday”.
“Great! Thank you” and I walk out.
By any means not an unusual interaction: the sort of thing that happens millions of times a day all over the country. Not unusual for me either: I go into that store several times a month for similar errands.  A couple of other details to flesh out the picture. The store in question is not a small corner shop nor a large chain store. It’s an independent store that serves the local construction trade with hardware supply and tool rental, including heavy plant machinery. It has a good reputation for service, technical expertise and range of products.
But that day it seemed extremely significant for me. Because as I walked out I had a memory of another errand, some 40 years ago.
A boy of 10 or 11 walks into the local hardware store.  It’s only a couple of minutes’ walk from his house but it’s a big deal: this is the first time he’s done it on his own.
The shop is very busy. Men with greasy hands, or covered in plaster dust, walk in and out, talking some arcane language,  made of technical jargon and grown men humour… (I love the scene in “Grand Torino” where Clint Eastwood teaches a shy young man how men talk). He waits. And he waits. And he waits. After what feels like several hours (and might have been, who knows?) the store clerk finally addresses the boy: he’d thought the boy was there with one of the tradesmen and had ignored him up to that point. The boy finally gets to buy a pack of blades for his fretsaw and goes home.
That’s what struck me as I walked out of the TCL store: I’ve become one of those grown ups. I knew the store clerk by name, I could make conversation with him. He didn’t need to ask me my name or account number to process the order – if I’d asked him to deliver it, he would have known my business address.
I’m over 50. I have been working as a professional furniture maker for over 15 years: first as a maker, then as course manager training apprentices and finally I’ve been running my own business for some 6 years.
But so much of the time I still feel like that little boy in the hardware store. Shyly looking around myself, surrounded by “real” men that know what they are talking about. I am very aware of how much more than me some of my colleagues know about timber and furniture making. How some talk much more confidently about business matters. How others have much better design and drawing skills. And at those moments I can easily end up feeling small, ignorant, uncertain…
Lately I completed a major commission for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. A set of benches in oak: bespoke seating for a garden in Stratford-on-Avon where Shakespeare’s house used to be, known as Shakespeare’s New Place. To deliver it I ended up hiring an articulated lorry some 15m long and putting together a team of 20 people to help me load and unload. I’d never had dealings with a truck hire company: I reached out to my contacts for advice and one of them replied very confidently that I “needed a 2 ton flat back”. That’s how real men talk.  I could tell that a “2ton flat back” is a lorry but I wouldn’t be able to pick one out of a lorry line-up. And for a few days I was that little boy again. Too scared to phone a truck hire company for fear of sounding stupid and ignorant of things that a “real” man of my age “should” know…  And finally I did it and the rep was really helpful and we discussed my requirements and hire charges and insurance matters, all grown-up like and matter-of-fact.


Students from Warwickshire College Furniture Crafts courses helped me to move the benches for Shakespeare’s New Place


The benches on the lorry

Those of you that follow my blog will be aware that much of my journey in the last few years has been about identity. Who am I? why and how do I do what I do? That’s the significance of the epiphany in the hardware store car park.
That I am a man: grown-up, capable, competent, confident. And I am a man: unsure, shy if not downright scared, needing help and support from other men. It’s taken me years to start to understand that. It’ll probably take me more to fully accept it. But I have been very very lucky. From my teenage years onwards I have had friendships  – with men my age and older, and nowadays, younger – where I have been able to have these sorts of conversations. I’ve been in men’s groups for over 20 years and I have been privileged to see the vulnerability, the pain, the fear that these men don’t (and, more often than not, can’t) show in their day-to-day professional, grown-up personas. And yet, I still feel bad when I fail to live up to the John Wayne/Clint Eastwood macho model of manhood I was brought up with…
I guess I’m not quite done growing up, yet.


One of the New Place benches on site, with Simon and Philipp, who helped me make them.

Ticking away…

So much of my life has been influenced by the rhythm of the academic year that September often feels like a more appropriate time to take stock, re-evaluate and make plans than January.

This year I find myself very aware of the passing of time. The point was brought home to me very strongly while I was at the Celebration of Craftsmanship and Design in Cheltenham at the end of August, the largest exhibition of designer-maker fine furniture in the country.

my Twirl2 coffee table and Hall Table at Cheltenham

My Twirl#2 Coffee Table and 7-Hall Table at Cheltenham

I first visited the show in 1998, the summer between the first and second years of my City and Guilds training. I had never seen such furniture and from there I was hooked! When I was working for Robin Furlong, we brought our work to exhibit. Later, when I was teaching furniture making, I visited to keep in touch with the industry, to see what techniques, materials and design features were coming to the forefront, to keep my teaching relevant and up-to-date. And since I started my own business I have been going as an exhibitor.

One of the things I became very aware of this year is that a number of exhibitors that I used to see regularly in the early years are not there any more. It started with noticing that Martin Grierson was not at the private view. He retired some years back but he’s still been very active encouraging networking and organising exhibitions. And his absence started me thinking… who else wasn’t there? A few names jumped out. Andrew Varah, a great inspiration to me and many others, died a couple of years back… Sean Feeney, Robert Hingham and others have scaled down their operations and don’t exhibit as much… Richard Williams and Barnsley Workshop seem to have changed their business models and exhibit elsewhere I guess…


Tom Eddols Coffee Table at Cheltenham

And new people, recent graduates from a variety of courses are taking their places. I was particularly struck by the presence of Tom Eddols. Tom was a student of mine at Warwickshire College and after finishing his course went on to work for various fine furniture workshops. And this year he was there exhibiting under his own name… I enjoyed thinking that we had three “generations” exhibiting together: Robin was there – I trained under him and then I trained Tom… If Martin Grierson had been there as well, we would have had four “generations”…

I’ve been involved with this woodworking world, in one way or another, for 18 years: I started my formal training in September 1997. Many things have changed (new technologies, machines, materials) and many haven’t (wood is wood and a sharp chisel and a steady hand are still required to cut fine dovetails…) – but every year I go to Cheltenahm I meet new people that share a passion for the work and the materials. It never ceases to amaze me: the sheer variety of designs – from very “traditional” fine furniture to cutting edge pieces bordering on the “conceptual art” (Sarah’s concrete-canvas chair?!? Or fine oak pallet?); the time, attention, dedication that goes into producing that work; the research, planning, thinking, creativity that is required.

And witnessing this flow of people and ideas, the changes that I have seen in less than twenty years, led me to thinking about the slow majestic flow of “tradition”… Not something stuck in the past to be re-discovered or preserved but something alive where creativity and passion mix the old (the mortice and tenon goes back thousands of years) with the new (computer controlled machines, acrylic, synthetic resins) to make beautiful furniture. And it’s quite humbling to think that in some way I am part of that too…

The Designer’s Ego

Mark Newson’s Lockeed Lounge Chair recently sold for £2.4 million, making it the most expensive design object to date. While I don’t think Newson will make any money directly from such a transaction on the secondary market (unless, with clever foresight, he built any such conditions in the original sale transaction: would that be possible at all?), it will certainly affect the perceived value of any product even remotely associated with his name. Does that turn the chair into an art Marc-Newson-Lockheed-Lounge-at-Phillips-design-auction_dezeen_784_0piece? After all, you don’t spend that amount of money on a piece of furniture because it’s comfortable (though it might be, for all I know) or just the right size for that awkward space in the living room – in the same way as you don’t spend tens of millions on a van Gogh because the colours match the wall paper. The value of the piece rests not in the objects themselves and their functionality but on their significance, much of it resting on the “name”.

At the recent symposium “Ideas in the Making” in Oxford, one of the recurring themes was the importance for creative people to approach their work with humility, keeping their ego in check, whether by acknowledging a sense of ‘inspiration’ that is somehow extrinsic to themselves, or simply by accepting the need to subsume one’s personal preferences to the requirements of the design brief. The architect/designer Giuseppe Boscherini made an impassionate plea to recognise how the design process is a collaborative effort. While we are used to actors acknowledging and thanking a whole raft of people (family, producers, directors, colleagues) in their acceptance speeches and writers dedicate paragraphs to recognise the contribution of editors, researchers, advisers and (usually) long suffering family members, such expressions of gratitude seem to be much rarer in the field of design.

I found the same theme in “Artista e Designer”, by Bruno Munari. He takes the point even further making it the defining difference between the two fields. In his view art is a personal endeavour: the artist’s goal is ultimately always self-expression, whatever form they choose to work in (even risking inaccessibility, misunderstanding and rejection), whereas the work of the designer is one of collaborative efforts (with users, technicians, craftspeople, engineers etc.) in order to develop pragmatic, accessible and functional objects, where even the aesthetics are determined by materials, manufacturing and usability rather than personal preference. Paradoxically, despite his attacks on the cult of personality in design, he is probably the first designer I was ever aware of: my first school satchel in the early ’70 was designed by Bruno Munari – I remember being aware of the fact at the time, even though at 7yrs old I had no conscious interest in design and designers. (By the way, Munari’s book is well worth reading – while dated in some respects, it was published in 1971 – some of his sarcastic sideswipes at aspects of the art market he disapproves of and at artists’ attempts at product design had me laughing out loud – ).

I see much of this tension in the world of craft designer makers. On the one hand there is much talk of re-inventing and rediscovering a vernacular crafts tradition (hence the pastel colours and faux-rustic setting of the New Craftsmen gallery for instance) while on the other hand much of the ‘value’ of those same products is attached to the persona of the makers and a to practices that are closer to the art world: signed limited editions, numbered and catalogued short runs and one off pieces. Soetsu Yanagi in “The Unknown Craftsman” pointed out how much of the work of studio

The unknown craftsmanpotters seemed to be about deliberately recreating imperfections and asymmetries of earlier traditional (‘vernacular’) pieces; defects that in the original were due to the economic pressures of manufacturing: the makers were paid by the piece and the cost had to be kept low as these were, at the time, everyday objects not museum pieces; those same imperfections, in the world of studio pottery, now representing added value as well as an individual maker’s mark.

I see that same tension in my business. Some of my clients, in the best vernacular tradition, if you will, simply come to me because I am their local woodworker: what they want is a piece to fit a particular corner of the house (and there is nothing on the market of the right size, or shape, or colour), or they ask me to modify an existing piece to improve its functionality (take a shelf off for instance). They want somebody with the practical skills to do a good job of making a functional, usable piece that fits with the rest of the furniture in the room – regardless of current trends or of my own personal aesthetic preferences. I even had people walking into the workshop with a piece of wood simply to ask me to cut it up because their DIY skills or their equipment at home was not up to the task.

Others though, come to me because they have seen my work and they like my “style”. They still want a practical solution (a table, a set of shelves), but with the added value of my aesthetics, my craft skill, my problem solving contribution: my signature, as it were. They don’t just want a table but a Magnino table. From here to one of my pieces being resold for millions is quite a gap, but only a quantitative one, not a qualitative one.

After all, no matter how self-effacing I would like to be (in some ways), for my business to be successful and sustainable I need to maintain a visible profile. I have to keep emphasising my Unique Selling Point, as they say. What I offer is a service, and not an essential one. Nor am I the only one, even locally. What makes my work different from other makers? Why should you choose me over somebody else? Ultimately just me: my approach, my sensibilities, my aesthetics, my listening and problem solving skills, my understanding of materials and production processes: the service I provide. So, not unlike the Zen koan about the sound of one hand clapping, how do I say “look at me, look at me” without ego?

Sir Christopher Frayling at Designer Crafts at the Mall 2015

On 15th January 2015, at the opening reception of Designer Crafts at the Mall, sir Christopher Frayling gave a stirring address pointing out the value of crafts and design in the modern world.

Here’s the full text:

Welcome to Designer Crafts at the Mall 2015—a special year, because this is the 25th Anniversary of the  Society’s  winter  exhibition  happening  here  at  the  Mall  Galleries.  Your  Silver  Jubilee.  Over  200   members, fellows and licentiates of the mall2015 are represented in the exhibition this year—including five former chair-people at one end of the spectrum, and 33 design graduates of summer 2014, new licentiates, at the other. I can think of few other survey exhibitions where the age-range goes all the way from 80-plus to 23-plus—a very healthy sign, and an important pledge  to  the  future.  Maybe  the  RA  Summer  Show…  but  that’s  about  it.  One  particularly  distinguished   exhibitor is Heidi Lichterman—who organised the very first winter exhibition here 25 years ago (when it included just 22 exhibitors), and who continued to curate the show for the next 20 years, 21 in all: her work is on display in the main gallery. Our guests tonight include John Deston, Gallery Manager, who  has  attended  all  25  of  the  Society’s  exhibitions  here.  A  new  feature  for  2015,  to  celebrate  the  25th, is that all members, fellows and licentiates have been challenged by the organisers to submit a small piece of new work—25 x 25 x 25 centimetres—to open the numbers out a bit: and the response to this call has been beyond all expectations. The results are also in the exhibition, in a special section.

 To  set  the  scene  for  tonight’s  reception,  Id  like  to  offer  a  few  snapshots  of  the  context  in  which  it  is  happening—to demonstrate just how significant this exhibition has become, and especially now.


Did you watch the episode of The Apprentice on television a few seasons ago—the one in which the contestants  were  set  ‘a  design  challenge’?  The  challenge  was  to  design  a  product  that  would  appeal   to dog-owners, which the teams could then try to sell to three retailers. Well, the moment the word design’  was  mentioned  by  Alan  Sugar,  the  contestants:

  • glazed over
  • removed their smart silk ties
  • whipped out a flipchart
  • started doodling with coloured felt pens
  • and came over  all  ‘creative’,  as  if  this  was  a  holiday  from  more  grown-up concerns.


Needless to say, the retailers were deeply unimpressed—as was Sir Alan. There was no clarity of thought, no analysis of the brief, no discussion of need or of how the product might be sourced and made, no market research, no research of any kind, no sense of what the product might signify—or of whether  it  was  practicable.  Just  lots  of  diffuse  ‘creativity’—or rather, of what the contestants thought was creativity.

Which just goes to show how, despite 180 years of publicly-funded art and design schools  in  this  country,  70  years  of  the  Design  Council,  and  endless  public  education  about  ‘design’— its importance and its processes and its methods—there are still a lot of basic misunderstandings out there. All those superficial makeover programmes on television seem to have won the day.

 A well-known designer—known to all of us—has recently referred to the cycle of design in the real world  as  ‘the  five  Fs’:  they  are

‒ function and fabrication—an understanding of and use of materials, and a consideration of processes.

‒ fair exchange between wants and needs—an understanding of the context for the product—design as something that happens in social, cultural and economic worlds

‒ fashion—the look, and its emotional impact—what some commentators have called emotional  ergonomics’

‒ and of course finance, or funding—and pricing.

Too  often,  however,  the  eminent  designer  added,  design  has  been  reduced  these  days  to  the  three   Fs’:

‒ finish

‒ photography

‒ then f— off.

 Sorry about the spelling of photography—but  you  know,  I’m  sure,  all  about  spelling  and  art  schools.

This attitude reminds me of the story the architect Hugh Casson used to enjoy telling, of overhearing two young designers sitting and chatting with one another at the height of the Swinging  Sixties.  ‘Let’s  be  philosophical  about  this,’  says  one  designer  to  the  other.  ‘Don’t  give  it  a   second  thought!’

So  it’s  no  wonder  that  The  Apprentice  contestants  reacted  as  they  did—when some within the design world seem to have a similar approach. Or claim to.

And  it’s  no  wonder,  either,  that  they  were  muddled  about  what  a  product  might  be.   The  Oxford  English Dictionary  still  defines  the  word  ‘product’  as  ‘a  thing  made  or  produced  or   constructed  or  manufactured’.  And  yet  it  has  come  to  be  stretched  in  recent  years  to  cover  insurance  products’,  ‘investment  products’—packages  of  services,  in  other  words:  I’ve  even  seen  in  a  travel  agent’s  window  the  phrase  Sun  Products’, meaning  holidays  in  the  sun,  and  in  a  car  park  Parking  Products’,  meaning  different  deals.  So  the  word  ‘products’  is  in  the  process  of  being   stretched to cover the virtual world as well as the real one—and it is now in danger of losing sight of its  original  meaning  altogether,  a  tendency  which  has  been  called  ‘living  on  thin  air’.

 This  exhibition,  Im  glad  to  say,  stands  at  the  opposite  pole  to  all  these  tendencies—and it should begin to shout its distinctiveness, and its achievements, from the rooftops. More loudly, in my view, than it has in the past.

 Meanwhile— SNAPSHOT TWO

The language of design has been moving from out of the design world where it originated to statements about almost anything by politicians and media pundits. Have you noticed this?

‒ fitness for purpose (from the Bauhaus)

‒ form follows function (from Modernism)

‒ blue skies thinking (from Icarus challenging the gods, Prometheus Unbound; the two great foundation myths of human creativity).

 There are countless other examples—not  to  mention  assorted  ‘broad-brushes’,  ‘frames  of  reference’,  palettes’,  ‘sculptings’,  ‘patinas’  et  cetera.  The  language  of  art  and  design,  to  give  a  sense  of  ‘cutting   edge’  (there’s  another  one!)  to  whatever  is  being  discussed.  This  language  used  to  be  our   language—it started life as a series of technical terms—and now it belongs to everybody and has become  a  set  of  clichés.  If  I  hear  the  phrase  ‘fitness  for  purpose’  once  more,  I  think  I’ll  scream!  Like   the  debasement  of  the  word  ‘craftsmanship’  by  advertisers.  It’s  time  to  give  substance  to  these   phrases again—or to find new ones.

 Which brings me to SNAPSHOT THREE

At the National Portrait Gallery, there is currently an important exhibition, curated by Fiona MacCarthy—who has written a lot about British Design and Craft—on the subject of William Morris and his Legacy, from Victorian times to the near-present. It is about a man who saw the way things were going in industrial Britain—the 1880s especially—towards consumerism, over-consumption, brands, labels and verbal product differentiation; poor quality products with big labels; settling for second-best, and an increasing gulf, which he saw developing, between human beings, nature and materials: leading to all sorts of confusions and misunderstandings. Against this, he issued his own clarion-call.  I  quote:  ‘If  you  want  a  golden  rule  that  will  fit  everything,  this  is  it:  have  nothing  in  your   houses  that  you  do  not  know  to  be  useful  or  believe  to  be  beautiful.’  The  church  architect,  and   champion of the Gothic Revival, J.D. Sedding—a  friend  of  Morris’s  who  is  also  featured  in  the   exhibition, the man who helped to bridge architecture and the Arts and Crafts—added  this:  ‘There  is   hope in honest error—none  in  the  icy  perfection  of  the  mere  stylist.’

The great architect and painter Charles Rennie Mackintosh was to turn this into his personal motto— to the point where the quote is usually attributed to him these days. It was Sedding in fact.


My  final  one.  This  exhibition.  Against  the  tendencies  Ive  mentioned  this  evening—and in many others—this exhibition is, and has been for 25 years and more, about long-term substance rather than short-term style. About an understanding of materials and their possibilities—borne of intimacy, experience and professionalism. About design through making and making through design. And about the special kind of design thinking which arises out of doing things well—through patient and reflective practices rather than cutting corners. This exhibition, in short, always makes a refreshing change  from  design’s  equivalent  of  fast  food—and from the widespread debasement of the word designer’  as  a  prefix,  as  in  ‘designer  carrier-bags’,  and  so  on.  ‘Designer’  as  a  brand,  to  justify   premium pricing. The exhibition is about second and third and even tenth thoughts—embodied in things.

 And, as it always has been, it is an opportunity to view, buy and commission work from across the range of contemporary crafts—textiles, jewellery, furniture, ceramics, metalwork and glass and mixed media—at a time when crafts courses in Higher Education are fast becoming an endangered species. Did you know that in the six years 2007-2013, the number of crafts courses in England, within  HE,  fell  by  46%.  And  that’s  according  to  the  Crafts  Council’s  latest  official  figures.  2015  is  a   critical time for the crafts in education—which makes the work of this society, the facilities it offers to members,  and  this  exhibition  all  the  more  important.  It’s  truly  remarkable  that  Designer  Crafts  at  the   Mall is arranged and managed entirely on a voluntary basis, from within the membership. Why is it that in the arts and design so much has to be achieved on a pro bono basis—for love? A bigger question.  It  doesn’t  happen  so  much  in  other  walks  of  life,  in  my  experience…  But  it’s  marvellous   when it does.

So,  in  opening  this  reception,  I  propose  a  New  Year’s—a 25th anniversary— Resolution: to use this exhibition, and the work of the Society, as a platform. To say some of the things about design that need saying—and  need  saying  urgently.  To  raise  the  Society’s  profile,  and   in parallel extend its sponsorship. And in the process, by a virtuous circle, to promote its sales as ambassador for what it stands for—sales which are already on a steep upward curve. I believe that sales this time last year (the winter exhibition 2014) were some 72% up on previous years, which is a hopeful sign. I know Christine Dove, your Chairperson, is keen on this Resolution and has already put a lot of effort into it—as has Dawn Thorne.

So, warm thanks to the Gane Trust for the prize it sponsors; thanks to the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship  Trust  for  organising  this  afternoon’s  seminar;;  thanks  to  all  who  put  this  exhibition   together—organisers and exhibitors—and  thank  you  all  for  coming.  For  all  the  reasons  I’ve   mentioned, and more, Designer Crafts at the Mall is a cause for real celebration.

Tradition? La tradizione siamo noi.

A colleague posted a request for help on an internet forum of which I’m a member. He had built a door for a client but after a relatively short time the construction had failed badly – the door was falling apart.

When he described the construction of the door, several contributors pointed out that his design did not allow for timber movement (wood shrinks and expands with changes of humidity in the environment) and that he should have stuck to “traditional” construction (such as frame and panel door construction). His reply was that that design of door was “traditional” in Cyprus (where the door was located) – indeed he could see examples of it all over the island. They were working just fine and had been for many years…

And that started me thinking.

In the crafts arena there is much talk of “tradition”: traditional techniques, traditional materials, traditional methods, traditional approaches… Every designer-maker at some point will have to make a statement on tradition. Whether they eschew tradition completely for “new”, “modern”, “contemporary”, “innovative” designs and techniques. Or blend modernity and tradition to various degrees and  in many combinations. Or whether they stick strictly to traditional designs, techniques and materials (often claiming therefore a post-modern edginess to their work for the simple fact of transposing, say, 17th century manufacturing into the 21st century).

So, what is this “tradition” we speak about?

It seems to me that we have a tendency to treat tradition as something fixed, a force from another time and space. A wisdom accumulated over the centuries and now crystallised in particular designs, materials, techniques. As if at some point in time the craft reached its apogee (at the time of Chippendale?  Adams? William Morris? Ed Barnsley?) and never improved since.

I am sure (and it’s a statement I have read/heard in a number on places…) that Chippendale would have used CNC machines if he had had access to them. The tools and the techniques he used were the best at the time.

The image of the “traditional” craftsman, whistling at work as his beautiful hand tools effortlessly turn a rough piece of wood in a work of art, owes much to William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement. In their disgust at the horrific production methods of the Victorian factories, they searched for a better paradigm and found it in an idealised view of the Middle Ages: the happy peasant, contented in his simple life.

William Morris

William Morris

I am not a Morris expert, but having read some of his essays recently, I wonder if this is not a misunderstanding. Yes, it is clear that he strongly disliked much of what was produced at the time in the factories, but it seems to me that the reasons for this rested largely on his political and moral concerns. The work produced in the factories could not be beautiful because the working conditions were such that the workers could not take any pride in the work, could not create any emotional attachment to the products and therefore could not imbue them with the sense of quality and beauty that comes from being able to work with care, attention and freedom of choice. Working for meagre wages, little more than slaves, the workers were (are?) churning out products they could not relate to. Any decoration in the piece would have to be artificially added and as such a mere gimmick… So different from the decoration that his ideal craftspeople would apply to their artefacts, out of a sense of pride in their work, of a relaxed approach that would give them time to reflect on what they were doing and fettle and whittle at it till they were fully satisfied and could hand it over with the sense of a job well done!

The value is therefore not in the tools, not in the rural setting, not in the local materials (though all of these might help) – it’s in the attitude of the craftsperson to the work, in their sense of having chosen their crafts, of having the time and space to fully focus on their work and carry it out with a sense of pride, ownership and creative latitude. Beauty and quality rest not on the choice of materials, in the aesthetics of the design or its functionality or on the skill of the maker. These are by-products of attention, care, concentration, a commitment to the process and to produce one’s best.

“A man at work, making something which he feels will exist because he is working at it and wills it, is exercising the energies of his mind and soul as well as of his body.” William Morris
Up and down the country there is a plethora of designer makers, working in a range of disciplines and materials, designing and making beautiful work because that’s their passion. It’s not necessarily an easy way to make a living – but it’s a way of life. An active choice. (Am I getting romantic and misty eyed and idealising things now?).

We are still experimenting with materials, techniques, designs… the learning goes on. Whether any of our work will still be around, will still be admired in 5 years or 50 or 500… only time will tell. William Morris knew this. For all his harking back to the Middle Ages, he talks of “the ceaseless evolution of countless years of tradition”.

As a designer maker of the 21st century, I see myself part of that ceaseless flow. To paraphrase a song by Francesco de Gregory – la tradizione siamo noi. We are the tradition.