Maker Project - Thinking through practice

Tom Sutton / Assistant Teaching Professor / Designer Maker


For Constance

Laser cut Copper with patina, Cast Concrete


This reinterpretation of the Cox & Co. tubular bandstand chair draws inspiration taken from the timeless designs of mid-century textile designer, Constance Howarth, capturing a period in British history that celebrated excellence in design, engineering and manufacture.

Working from original artwork housed within the textile archives at Bolton Museum, the design of this piece contributes in part to a relating project directed by colleague and fellow researcher, Donna Claypool. In addition to the commonality between the period in which both designs originate, it is the cognitive thinking behind the realisation of this piece and the processes employed in achieving it that responds directly to the Maker Project.

The combination of simple flowing lines on the tubular frame achieved through mechanised production compliments the elegance of Howarth’s hand drawn botanical and geometric designs. What initially could be considered to be very individual identities, both share a great deal of common ground. Howarth’s designs went into commercial production the same as the tubular chair, both conceived through hand drawn ideas with the latter derived from a concept by Austrian designer Bruno Pollak for PEL (Practical Equipment Ltd).

Elements informed from selected designs by Howarth have been reinterpreted and developed to allow combinations of chosen applied & digital processes that celebrate the designer’s work within an alternative context. The cyclical language of process employed by the creative practitioner, each stage informing the next whilst providing information for further analysis and review. Hand drawn concepts are transferred to a digital platform to allow laser cutting of plywood and copper, introducing a 3-dimensional quality to surface pattern. Materials are then further shaped and manipulated by hand, a natural balance with applied and digital processes informing each other.

The laser cut copper back has been treated with a patina using combined chemical and heat processes capturing a decorative but aged finish, reflective of an earlier place in history.

A laminated plywood master has been used to create a silicone mould, from which the concrete seat has been cast. Embellished with the autumnal colours first used in Howarth’s original geometric design, the black with rich reds and orange now compliments the vibrant verde-gris adorning the copper backrest. This seasonal identity represents the mortality of nature and its changing identity.

Change and memory is also addressed in the way the concrete is cast, the tiered pattern only permitting illuminated fragments of the original design to spread on to the surface below.

Maker Diary

Visual diary recording each stage of the design development and language of process behind the reinterpretation of this Cox tubular chair. The eclectic mix of floral and geometric pattern is informed by the work of mid C20th Textile Designer, Constance Howarth in response to a relating archival research project directed by Donna Claypool with Bolton Museum.

The combination of simple flowing lines on the tubular frame compliments the elegance of Howarth’s botanical and geometric designs. These have been reinterpreted through a combination of applied and digital processes chosen to celebrate the designer’s work within an alternative context. The laser cut copper back has been patinated using combined chemical and heat processes that capture a decorative but aged finish, reflective of an earlier place in history. When completed, the plywood seat will be replaced with a cast concrete equivalent embellished with the autumnal colours first used in Howarth’s original geometric design. As can be seen within the current example, the tiered pattern also casts shadowed fragments of the original design on to the surface below.

The combination of traditional applied processes with digital and post-digital outputs is employed throughout the entire design and making of this piece, promoting the importance of retaining making skills whilst recognising the potential of embracing technology.