Sharon Adams / Applied Artist
Beech, Hawthorn, Linen
My practice uses craft techniques to create one-off non-functional objects. I have a particular interest in the loss of skills which results from work being increasingly mediated through digital interfaces and thereby reduced to the click of a button. For me this project presented an opportunity to explore a number of ideas, and the requirement to document the process created an accountability that pushed me to explore materials in more depth than I might have done otherwise.
Two techniques were used: rounding planes to create the chair frame and a small tabletop loom to weave the seat. Traditional chair-making, whether by bodgers in England or hedge carpenters in Ireland, used small diameter timber for spindles. The twentieth century saw a shift into industrial furniture production, and in the tubular chair I see a conversation between the round profile of the metal and those traditional spindles. Seats can be woven from rushes or cane, so adding a woven material stacks one adapted technique onto the other. Both the beech for the frame and the hawthorn twigs in the weave were gathered from hedges within a 0.5 mile radius of my studio.
I first used rounding planes in 2017, and wanted to spend more time with them to refine the outcome. There is still a way to go to achieve a consistently smooth cut, but I now have a greater level of precision with sharpening and setting the blades. Carpenters ordinarily strive for straight spindles, but I like to leave as much of the natural form as possible and create lengths that are consistently round, but emphatically not straight.
The loom was purchased from a South London junk shop in 2012 and had been waiting for a suitable time to overhaul and learn how to use it. This project provided that impetus, and You Tube delivered expert tuition in winding a warp and threading it. Weaving a 3D fabric meant the standard setup needed modification and the front of the loom had to be extended as the thorny weave could not be rolled.
At the centre of craft process is a place of certainty where skills, tools and materials meet. Apart from the repeated action of preparing beech lengths for the frame, this project required a high level of focus and problem-solving throughout.
It took time to learn how the thorns distort the warp, and there was a lot of testing and chopping before a satisfactory weave was reached. Finding ways to joint irregular stock required a number of variations, as well as bespoke jigs and supports for drilling and clamping.
This project has reminded me of the value of structured researching and testing. It challenged my natural response to adapt around technical difficulties and encouraged me to stay with the idea and to work through issues as they arose. Both the techniques are ones I have wanted to develop but not previously made time for and I am excited by the possibilities that now exist as they go forward.