Their work lives on

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Derek Jones

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hello furniture makers

No, I know I"m not Derek, see picture, but I felt moved to take advantage of his being away at Bosch for the day getting a first-hand look at their coming goodies, to reflect what I am sure readers who have been with F&C since issue 1 will be feeling. For this year we have said goodbye to some of recent history"s most respected makers, all of whose work was introduced to me by Paul Richardson, the launch Editor of the magazine, who was also my mentor in all things connected with furniture design. Indeed it was in those early days of knowing nothing about furniture and quickly becoming fascinated by it that he recommended a small library of books which I used to read in the office for enjoyment under the guise of work.

Paul, that great exponent of Georgian furniture, lost his life in a motor cycle accident this summer, only a couple of weeks after the death of American maker Sam Maloof - signature piece a rocking chair with long, inward-pointing rockers. This autumn another of Paul"s influences, James Krenov - who allowed his materials to dictate his style and made marvellous planes - died, only to be followed last month by the UK"s late great Alan Peters, widely believed to be the last proponent of true Arts & Crafts furniture – well, he was a Barnsley apprentice and passed on the knowledge to apprentices.

The tragedy of losing these four men in one year is shocking but when you look at their talents and the published material that they accrued between them, what a legacy they have bequeathed. For if 2009 has been a sad year so far it is also being a pivotal one for the future of furniture. We have seen young Jason Heap take on Betty Norbury"s mantle with Celebration of Craftsmanship and Design in Cheltenham and a number of shows in London and in the north of England, all of which have attracted not only proven makers of the highest-quality furniture but, importantly, rising stars of the future, and we are seeing some exciting work that could be said to be art-as-furniture - think Peter Rolfe"s sculptural pieces for example. Then there was John Makepeace and the Worshipful Company"s Furniture Futures symposium at the V&A, an example of being brave enough to take a broad theme of design in general and attempt to relate it, successfully in my view, to the rigours of furniture making.

So let us mourn the loss of our figureheads but in the certain knowledge that they would wish future generations to keep the craft alive with a mix of assimilated techniques and innovation.

As an appreciator of brilliant furniture style I can only say that the future looks great to me.

Andrea Hargreaves

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