09 October 2012

Part of the Furniture

Written by Published in Nature

Solid, honest, unusual and playful is how woodworker Adam Ashworth describes his furniture. With designs like the Bird table and his latest project creating a fairytale bed, it’s not difficult to see the element of fun in his work

Adam AshworthThrown in at the deep end, Adam started his career whilst renovating an old cider barn in Normandy, which his father was converting into a house. ‘We got out there and with no experience whatsoever I was put in charge of all things wood,’ Adam recalls. ‘I learnt a lot of things the hard way.’

Twelve years on Adam still takes on joinery, kitchen and restoration work but has become increasingly known for his bespoke furniture. Instead of creating items from larger or whole pieces of wood, Adam often uses a technique where smaller sections are glued together. ‘The Brown Oak armchair (pictured) is made up of about 50 slices of wood that were leftover from a flooring job I did, he explains. ‘This doesn’t affect the quality, but does make the process more sustainable. Making use of wood that would have otherwise been burnt is such a wonderful way of storing carbon. The better made the furniture is, the longer it will hold that carbon for.’

Brown Oak Arm ChairAside from the environmental impact, this method also gives Adam more freedom when it comes to design. ‘It allows me to make some interesting shapes quite efficiently – for example the curve of the Bird table, the sculpted seat of the armchair, the whole design of the circular walnut table. Strength wise, it’s nigh on unbreakable. I’ve experimented and the wood usually breaks along the grain rather than the joint.’

Adam uses hardwoods for all his work, and tries to source local and windfelled oak, ash, walnut or occasionally sycamore and beech. ‘I’m not against softwoods as they have their uses. But I find that when you put several days work into a piece, at the end you’re glad you invested a bit in the wood.’

Based in rural north Wales, Adam’s ideas often come from his surroundings. ‘My workshop is as rural as it gets but often ideas just come to me. The ‘Bird Table’ was in the offing for about ten years, developing, taking shape, ready to take flight. I finally made it on the spur of the moment when a job got delayed. I had some pieces of walnut and ash in the workshop – exactly the right quantity, as it happened.’

Walnut Coffee TableAlthough conscious of competition from large outlets like IKEA that mass-produce furniture very cheaply, Adam can also see the benefits of popularising modern Scandinavian design. ‘I think it has helped to allow furniture makers to be a bit more experimental and deviate from traditional British styles and still find an ample customer base. But these outlets do also make it difficult as people know they can get a table for twenty quid. Thankfully a lot of them also realise that, for that price, it’ll be made from artificial materials or low grade pine and that thousands of other people around the country will be putting their feet up on exactly the same table.’

Adam’s furniture varies in price, with a coffee table ranging from £200 to £500. ‘I try to design them to be as labour efficient as possible. Bespoke furniture can be a lot of money but I don’t think that necessarily makes it expensive. It’s a reflection of the time and materials expended.’


bird table all

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