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The contemporary British artisans revitalising the art of wood craft

Meet the makers whose sculptural pieces and finely crafted furniture are an ode to the beauty of wood

eleanor lakelin contemporary craft collectable art design wood crafts
Alun Callender

The work of these artisans took the starring role in our May issue's 'Wild Wood' shoot, which celebrated the beauty of the material. Here, we get to know more about how their makers carved a career in creating these extraordinary pieces…

OBJECT COMPANY

object company wood craft makers
Greig Jackson

Catherine Johnston (above) founded her Glasgow woodwork and pottery studio Object Company in 2014, where she practises wood carving and turning, as well as wheel-thrown pottery. ‘My work explores form, materiality and limitation,’ she says of her delicate designs.

I am completely self-taught. I started out by carving spoons with a crook knife and a small piece of cherry wood. My work is led by what’s available to me, the movement of the material as it dries and the ‘solving’ of this warping.

My pieces are set apart by their delicacy and softness, created through lengthy finishing processes and hand-sanding. The changeability of wood is where the appeal lies for me: its tendency to warp and crack. I try to take the material beyond what it can endure, which can cause breakages. This pushing of boundaries is an integral part of my work.

All of the wood that I use is gathered locally from naturally fallen trees and then worked on with hand tools. Any waste material I produce is then added to the compost heap or set aside for pottery glazes.

My workshop, which looks out onto a beautiful green space, is clean, minimal and organised. I work alongside a group of talented women, including jeweller Bonnie Powell, signwriter Rachel E Millar and blacksmith Agnes Jones, who all offer company, support and feedback.

I am really proud to have worked for myself for six years, creating pieces that affect people’s lives positively. I will be working on a much larger scale in the next year and I look forward to sharing this new body of work soon. object.company


WILL ELWORTHY

will elworthy wood craft design british carpenter
Will Elworthy

Furniture maker and woodturner, Will creates refined, tactile pieces in his northeast London workshop, applying his bespoke approach to both residential and commercial commissions. He also designs made-to-order furniture, available to buy direct and at London’s Mint Gallery.

I was in the television industry before I set up my woodworking practice in 2013. I had an overwhelming desire to work with my hands and do something creative. I took an evening class in basic carpentry, then did a two-year fine furniture course and have never looked back.

I aim for simple forms and bold silhouettes when I start designing a piece, then I focus in on the details, the profiles, exposed joinery and intersecting elements. Finally, I take a step back and remove something. You can sometimes get carried away adding superfluous elements.

will elworthy design craft wood table
Will Elworthy

My workshop has plenty of space to squirrel away wood – sometimes whole trees. A slab can sit there for months, then one day I’ll look at it and a design will leap into my head. Wood is an incredibly diverse, interesting and beautiful material to work with. You have to really understand its properties to know how best to use it. You need to inspect each piece carefully and apply your knowledge. I’m continually learning about timber and its idiosyncrasies.

I aim for longevity when designing. A solid, well-made piece of furniture can outlive its owner. The amount of cheap, flimsy furniture that ends up in landfill is pretty upsetting. The most challenging part of making furniture is time. There’s a desire to work slowly and lovingly but, in reality, you often have to be quick and methodical or the hours just disappear.' willelworthy.co.uk; mintshop.co.uk


GRAIN & KNOT

grain and knot wood craft design handmade
Suki Dhanda

‘It was born from a love of nature and exploration, and the need to create with purpose,’ says Sophie Sellu of her studio Grain & Knot. She designs and makes beautiful, functional wooden objects at her home studio in London, and also co-curates a showcase called Carve London, designed to bring other makers in wood together.

I first started working with wood when I was at school over 20 years ago but, other than that, my only training has been a one-day wood-carving course. The rest has been trial and error. My work is a reflection of my personality. I have always said I would never make something that I wouldn’t have in my home, and I stick by that.

Every piece is unique and I like to show the marks of production, so my work has an organic feel. I’d never want to make anything that looks like it could have been mass produced. I take time to research, draw and design beforeI make anything. I have developed a style that includes the use of strong facets, cut-outs and free-form shapes.

grain and knot handcrafted wooden spoons
Suki Dhanda

My workspace is pretty peaceful and I’ll often work while listening to a podcast or audiobook. This year I launched a design studio with my boyfriend. We are both woodworkers with different skills that complement each other.

I try to use as many fallen trees as I can. I am currently working on a collection of bud vases that have been made entirely from offcuts. I have a large collection of pieces that I have been saving up, waiting to be made into things.

I’m very lucky that I have lots of friends in the woodworking community who are happy for me to take offcuts off their hands and put them to good use. In turn,I give my smaller offcuts to a jewellery maker who uses them to make beautiful pieces. Any remaining leftover wood is composted and reused on a no-dig vegetable patch. grainandknot.com;@carve.london


ELEANOR LAKELIN

eleanor lakelin wood carver workshop craft british
Alun Callender

An artist and maker in wood, Eleanor produces sculptural, painstakingly crafted pieces at her studio in southeast London’s Cockpit Arts. She is represented by Sarah Myerscough Gallery and exhibits her work internationally at galleries and art and design fairs.

I trained as a cabinetmaker in 1995 and started concentrating on more sculptural vessel-like pieces in 2011, teaching myself to hollow, carve and sculpt works of increasing scale. I’ve always been drawn to natural, sculptural forms. My childhood in rural Wales was spent collecting bleached bones, wizened roots, driftwood, shells and fossils.

My studio is filled with tools and wood shavings, and lined with shelves of bones, gourds, maquettes, books and pieces in progress. I use a traditional woodworking lathe, chisels and gouges, as well as modern carving techniques.

eleanor lakelin wooden vessels craft wood
Michael Harvey

I love everything about wood: its smell, feel, strength and fragility. I love the fact that it is a living thing, full of tensions and unpredictability. Working with it requires a dialogue that cannot be rushed.

I only work with British trees that are felled due to disease or decay. Sourcing often means long journeys and days in sawmills. My first UK solo show – a big career milestone – will be at Sarah Myerscough Gallery in October. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London recently acquired my large scorched piece called ‘Echoes of Amphora, Column Vessel I/20’, which was a wonderful moment for me. eleanorlakelin.com; sarahmyerscough.com

This article appeared in ELLE Decoration May issue

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