Contemporary is not a genre


Derek Jones

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Throughout my tenure at F&C we have looked at alternative materials to timber and explored different working methods in an attempt to broaden our palate and gain an appreciation for crafts aligned with our own. I think it was Orson Wells who alluded to the notion that although we might not all wish to tear up the script, we should at least look as if we are capable of it. It’s an interesting concept and serves two purposes. Not only does it help to keep our own creative juices flowing but, to a wider audience, it sends a signal confirming that rigor mortis has not quite yet got a hold.

Contemporary is not a genre, it has no style. It captures the moment and represents the here and now. If anything it’s a minestrone of influences where the seasoning is never quite right. You don’t have to look too far back to discover the origins of this particular recipe. At Parnham, John Makepeace made an enormous contribution to the craft of furniture design and making, inspiring thousands to pick up a chisel and become designer maker; a term incidentally that I believe is tautologically flawed as to truly be one you must also be the other. But thirteen years after handing over the Parnham reigns and the subsequent merger with the Architectural Association I suspect his true legacy is only now beginning to surface. Good contemporary is what happens when you combine craftsmanship, vision and raw talent and that’s what Jake Phipps took with him when he left Parnham. The Bespoke Guild Mark committee at the Furniture Maker’s Company were inclined to agree when they recently awarded Mr. Phipps the biggest prize in furniture this year; The Christopher Claxton Stephens’s Award.

We’ve got an in depth interview with the artist coming up in the magazine shortly and it’s likely to split the readership squarely down the middle if the F&C office is anything to go by, as there isn’t a stick of timber in the wining piece. Personally I can’t see there’s an issue there and any one who disagrees is wrong. Of course that’s just my opinion and you’ll have to wait a few weeks until you can agree or be wrong as well. Rule books, you see, need to be rewritten every so often. There, that’s got that off my chest.


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