Well here it is again folks, our annual excuse to tidy up, to dig ourselves out of the wood-shavings, a grubby rub at the windows with the tea towel, burnishing the chisels till they gleam, and poking our dusty heads out from behind the benches to wave at the passers-by. Yes, Oxford Artweeks is upon us again and we invite you (even more than we normally would) to visit our workshops, check out the chairs, try out the tables, swoon over sideboards, and generally alliterate a lot in the name of fine furniture fashioning. And, we have work boots filled with Geraniums.
As ever there are numerous lovely finished pieces in the showroom, including some great new Windsor chair variations such as Harry’s upgrade of the classic Fan-back armchair, complete with Elm seat and Yew banister and stays. Also a prototype for our upcoming “Staple Chair”, a modernised revision of the Comb-back, which we have recently developed for the re-opening The Three Horseshoes at Radnage, under the new moniker of The Mash Inn, soon to be serving up fire-cooked foodstuffs and fine ales. On which note, good luck to Nick and team, may the cellar be always cool and the fire always hot! If there’s one thing better than a good pint in a good pub, it’s a good pint in a good pub whilst sitting on a Bates and Lambourne chair, and even better yet if you can rest that pint on the three and a half metres of waney edged character Oak loveliness that is a Bates and Lambourne Mash Inn table. Probably. Anyway, if you get your order in quick you might get to be the proud owners of some of the very first batch of these fine new additions to our Wall of Chairs.
Also in the showroom, as if our own work wasn’t enough, we bask in the reflected glory of glass works by sculptor Jessica Ecott, burr bowls by Richard Lyon of our lovely neighbours Redkite Woodturners, and beautiful floral pictures by Lewknor artist Christine Smith. I suggested she should take on the mantle of artist-in-residence and do a picture of her husband Tony grafting away at the band-saw, but as yet I haven’t seen even so much as a preliminary sketch. On the subject of band-saws, my own latest offering pushes the notion of furniture maker distinctly far from its comfort zone and all the way into the ‘explosion-in-a-mantrap-factory’ zone, with our new chandelier made from about three dozen wrecked and rusted band-saw blades. Having just finished it this evening, and with my hands somewhat ribboned from the experience, I have been keeping a close eye on myself for signs of Tetanus. Thanks to Dr Google, I find that symptoms include ’stiffness of the neck, jaw, and other muscles, often accompanied by a grotesque, grinning expression [and] irritability’. Who knew I had had Tetanus for so long?
Meanwhile in the workshops we are stacked out with components for 140 dining chairs for St John’s College, Oxford. There’s hardly a room in the whole place that is not a cornucopia of back legs, front legs, side rails, seat boards, stretchers, and so on. And as ever there are a dozen other projects rolling on alongside in various stages of production. If you like noise, dust, vintage machinery, cold taps only, single glazing, the smell of timber and plenty of hand skills and general woodworking excellence, then we can make you very happy.
Last year’s Artweeks was a great event for us, leading to various fine commissions, so we look forward to doing it all again this time. We’ve even been kindly loaned one of my favourite pieces from last year, a wall sculpture for display of snuff boxes. Now who can honestly say that at some point in their lives they haven’t yearned for one of those?
Josh H-S 14 May 2016