20 Minutes with Matthew Hill archive
Wednesday 6 November 2013
Winner of the 2012 Alan Peters Award for Excellence, Matthew Hill offers a refreshing take on bespoke furniture
Matthew Hill started making furniture aged 16. His ebullient passion for his craft spills over into his imaginative designs which have been displayed all over the country and were recognised with an award at last year's Celebration of Craftsmanship & Design. He takes inspiration from a variety of sources and enjoys close collaborations with his clients.
F&C: What are you working on at the moment?
Matthew Hill: I am currently working on a few commissions, but there is one project in particular I am very excited about. It's a beautiful console table for a wonderful couple who have let me run free with the design; an organic-feeling, clean and crisp piece, which complements the chosen room where it will be set in.
F&C: Why did you become a furniture maker?
MH: From a young age, my main interest was furniture; creating something with care and attention which someone else can also make the same connection with and share those feelings in. My love for furniture design and making grew through college and university and making furniture in Ireland.
F&C: What inspires you?
MH: Straight lines and right angles are a no-go for me. I am truly inspired by nature and movement. Many designer/makers draw inspiration from nature. But my interest lies in creating a story for the viewer to recognise and be drawn into and appreciate; the ability to make the viewer's eyes flow around the piece, seeing the story right in front of them. I love to draw contrasts which relate to the story of the piece to make the viewer really think about what they are looking at.
F&C: If your furniture were music, what kind of music would it be?
MH: A style of music which appeals to all. Interesting harmonies and melodies, something to focus on and appreciate the work effort. Also, something as pleasing to the ear as it is pleasing to the eye.
F&C: What do you admire in the craft at the moment?
MH: Any work where the balance has been struck just right to make a pleasing piece without overcrowding the design and form. Many names in the craft world spring to mind.
F&C: Who has been your greatest mentor/role model?
MH: Two names have been very involved in my career. When working with Joseph Walsh, he showed me the true side to the combination of art and furniture, a fantastic and supportive mentor and role model. Matthew Collins has also been a very supportive mentor. The knowledge he holds is second to none.
F&C: What comes first, design or technique?
MH: The two work hand-in-hand. Design is the first thing which springs to mind. But in a split second, technique jumps forth which opens up many more exciting possibilities in the design.
F&C: Are we too obsessed with outdated modes of work?
MH: I think not. Traditional ways are often used, although part of the fun is adapting those modes of work to create new processes and techniques.
F&C: How or where do you exhibit your work?
MH: My work is predominantly recognised through exhibitions in the UK, although there are plans to move forward into the USA and Milan where there has been interest. Satisfied clients share as much interest in their pieces as I do, so their words are key for me.
F&C: How comfortable are you with working at someone else's design?
MH: I cannot put my heart and soul into a piece if it has not been mine from start to finish. I therefore never have done or never will work with someone else's design in my work.
F&C: What's your creative process like?
MH: I work with what I want the theme of the desired outcome to be. With this in mind, I then research and make my own connections with the story. When your own connections and interests are made with the piece it is a true joy to work on it and develop the design. This involvement and passion in the story of the design is shown in the final piece for the client to appreciate and share.
F&C: Do you consider yourself an artist or a craftsman?
MH: Personally, I describe myself as a designer/maker. It is important to me to have the two titles which cover both topics of work. Although regularly the word 'artist' is used as my creativity takes over when I create a piece.
F&C: What's the practical process you undergo when moving through the stages of a project?
MH: After meeting with my clients, I get a true sense of them as people so I can make the piece around them as well as my inspirations. Sketches and detailed drawings are important, although I cannot stress enough the importance of models. These are a great way to show the finished outcome and understand the proportions of the piece.
F&C: Do you think furniture making is in danger of disappearing?
MH: Not in the slightest. There is always going to be a desire to own a bespoke piece, something which is so much more than a piece of furniture.
F&C: What advice would you give to someone starting out?
MH: Always stick to your own style of work so you can enjoy it to the utmost. If you are passionate about your designs and work, then people will share the same passion and be interested in you as a designer/maker as much as their interest in your work.
F&C: What irritates you about the industry?
MH: When people ask if there is a need for bespoke furniture. Designer/makers like me are in this job for the joy and passion. The people who buy bespoke work share the same passion and interest in one-off pieces. Anything I make is much more than merely an object in a room. People appreciate that and the market is very much there.