Earlier this year the Sylva Foundation approached Grown in Britain (GiB) to collaborate on a project to promote the potential of under-utilised home-grown timber aiming to inspire innovation and creativity. Students and recent graduates from Rycotewood, the renowned furniture college in Oxford, were asked to explore the potential of Douglas-fir and Alder for furniture making. To add to the challenge, the Douglas-fir was kiln-dried whereas the Alder was freshly sawn, resulting in differing methods of working.
GiB CEO Dougal Driver set out a design brief that challenged the participants to think creatively and work collaboratively.
Marketing at conferences and shows can mean many journeys up and down the country often end up with a car boot full of pull-up banners, folding tables, and plastic leaflet holders. Finding a beautiful off-the-peg solution that is easy to use and assemble, that displays marketing materials effectively and is well crafted in sustainable materials is impossible.
Your brief for this Sylva Summer School is to work exclusively with two under-utilised home-grown timber species, Douglas-fir and Alder, to design and prototype a solution. We would like you to develop a functional concept that can be dismantled easily, fits into a car for transportation, and is not too heavy to be carried by the user.
With only five days to develop a fully-functional response the group had to work at a fast pace. To kickstart the creative process they were given a talk by Sylva CEO Gabriel Hemery arguing the case for the increased use of home-grown timbers . This was followed by a tour of our workshops, timber store and recently planted ‘future forest’. There is so much to be inspired by the Sylva Wood Centre, but they were particularly taken by the ‘House of Wessex’, an Anglo-Saxon house being faithfully reconstructed using traditional methods. The day ended with a visit from furniture designer-maker Richard Williams, who gave supportive feedback on their emerging ideas. He encouraged them to explore the materials and allow that experience to inform the direction of their ideas.
The project gave everyone the opportunity to work within the professionally equipped workshops and to experience working with both timbers for the first time. They worked tirelessly all week helping each other to solve problems and making the most of the opportunity to produce three excellent solutions.
Andrew, Carina, Daisy, David and Paul collectively produced three collapsible tables with some beautiful detailing – all ready to be loaded into a car ready for the next marketing event! We are very excited about the potential of these products and of these students. They are a credit to Rycotewood and have a very bright future ahead of them.
We are very pleased to promote the project during GiB week and believe that our summer school has shone a light on under-utilised timber species that could have a very bright future. We would like to thank GiB for working with us and their member Vastern Timber for supplying the Douglas-fir. After such a successful week we plan to offer an annual summer school experience to continue to explore the potential for home-grown timber.
Tutor: Joseph Bray, Head of Wood School. Sylva Foundation
- Andrew Joye, @andrew.joye
- Carina Day
- Daisy Brunsdon, @lula_furniture
- David Cheng
- Paul Lippard