Class War and Furniture Making.
Recently I got a rather pompous e-mail from a fellow furniture maker. He was complaining about my use of the name Woody Nooz, saying that “it made him cringe”.
The choice of the name is very deliberate on my part it is a political choice. Americans and Canadians amongst you will be surprised at my use of language, but Britain I will remind you even in the 21st century is a class ridden culture.
Before I started on this path the term Designer didn’t mean very much. One of the new professions along with Sociologist and Psychologist. When I was training, artist craftsmen like Bernard Leach and Michael Cardew and Edward Barnsley were employed to leave their well established workshops, come into colleges and bring their real-world experience with them. That all changed about the time I was wandering aimlessly though Art School.
In house lecturers found the presence of these “pros” just too challenging. In the 1970s we saw at the Royal College of Arts a new emerging breed of white collar design tutors. Students were no longer required to make their major projects themselves technicians did that instead. Chaps in brown overalls with half moon glasses and a lifetime in the industry were employed to make the students designs.
In the 1980s when I was struggling to get going being a Woody was a term of abuse, Real furniture designers didn’t require too much contact with material, certainly not enough to work up a sweat, all that was for the technicians. I happily proclaim myself to be a Woody in the same lineage is Bernard Leach or Michael Cardew and the wonderful Edward Barnsley.
This is the tradition of the artist craftsmen. I don’t call myself a designer any more. I am not involved with industry, I dont want to fill restaurants with my chairs. I’m interested in expression and making is important to me as a means of realising that expression. It is important to me that I know how to make, that I have a profound understanding of my material. Wood, in particular, has the extraordinary capacity to stun and startle even after prolonged acquaintance. It is important to me that the making goes on around me, that ideas I may have, images I want to bring to life, are tested against a skilled maker’s profound knowledge of the task in front of her. That dialogue is profoundly important. “I want it this way.” “Well I need fixing….” “How big a fixing….” “Well I could make it…..”