Sunday, August 21, 2016

Rycotewood Graduation Show

My colleague James Willis and I were amongst a handful of professional designer-makers judging the annual Hellen Award for the Best in Show at this year’s Rycotewood Graduation Show. For many years this Award has been kindly donated by one of my clients in memory of his wife, Hellen.
The Award went to Justin Parker for his elegant console table. Justin is a first-year Foundation Degree student, moving into his second year, so he’s one to watch!

A special Innovation Award was given to Charlie Nash, a third-year BA Honours student, for his chair and console table that combined English ash, coppice, hazel and willow bark. 

Charlie had researched how he could incorporate local coppice materials into an innovative design process. The coppice hazel and willow was sourced from the Rycote Wood , near Thame. Charlie starts an internship at Matthew Burt Furniture in Wiltshire this summer.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Queen Elizabeth Scholarship (QEST) for our intern Dan Harrison


Our intern, Dan Harrison, has been awarded a prestigious Queen Elizabeth Scholarship (QEST) to train with us for a year. The funding will help cover his tutoring. Dan begins his training with us on 11 July and will work alongside James and me to develop in design and make skills and also learn about the marketing and managing of a craft-based business.


Dan has just completed a foundation degree at Rycotewood Furniture Centre, Oxford City College. He has already spent two years as our part-time intern while he completed his degree. He previously studied Sustainable Design at Falmouth University and completed a 5-year apprenticeship in joinery.


Dan was one of 20 scholars selected from over 200 applicants for the award. The award is given by the Royal Warranty Association and is under the patronage of HRH Queen Elizabeth II.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Window to the World

Furniture for Window to the World, Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University


I recently installed a range of tables and stools made in oak from an Oxford University estate at the Blavatnik School of Government (opposite Oxford University Press in Walton Street, Oxford). The furniture occupies a central, informal meeting space known as “Window to the World”. 


I worked closely with the clients and the architects, Herzog & de Meuron, of the new school to develop a range of designs befitting of the social function of the space (people mustn't linger for too long in that particular space, which is intended for brief meetings). The designs also had to speak the same visual language of the interior.



During my open days for Oxfordshire Artweeks I will have on view, at my workshop, a collection of ½ scale models, mock ups and photos illustrating the evolutionary stages of the design process.







Sunday, March 13, 2016

“What is real is not the appearance, but the idea, the essence of things." --Brancusi

I fell in love with the work of the Romanian-born sculptor Constantin Brancusi who lived most of his life in Paris. 

Last week I returned from a trip to Paris and visited the Brancusi Museum, built next to Pompidou Centre, that houses much of his work. It is not so much a museum as a sacred space and my visit felt more like a pilgrimage than a tourist visit. The museum recreates his original atelier where he worked for 50 years. The main difference is that the external walls are now glass. The contents of his studio have been faithfully arranged as Brancusi stipulated in his will when he left his work to the French state that his workshop be rebuilt as it was on the day he died.

Seeing his sculptures alongside the tools of his trade creates a powerful environment. His sculptures are very simple yet there is a compelling, almost hypnotic quality to them. His fellow artists testify to his remarkable work. Barbara Hepworth described, on visiting his studio in 1932, “the miraculous feeling of eternity mixed with beloved stone and stone dust”. She goes on to describe the inspirational character of Brancusi and his workshop and reflects on her own feelings to what she beheld: “all this filled me with a sense of humility hitherto unknown to me”.


I took many photographs of Brancusi’s work and his studio as it felt like a unique opportunity to capture a bit of the spirit of the place (although sadly the photographic quality may not be that good as the photographs were taken with an old iphone and through the glass walls).
Interestingly, and to my surprise, I found the act of taking images made me more aware of the sublimity of his sculptures. Each image revealed a subtle aspect of his sculpture that was not so evident shielded behind a glass wall. Although I could only spend an hour there the experience has left a powerful imprint on my memory.

Constantin Brancusi is not a well-known artist in the UK yet his influence is immense. He is known as the “patriarch of modern sculpture”. He is perhaps best known for his philosophy of “Truth to Materials”. He sought to understand and express the intrinsic nature of the materials he used. His philosophy was adapted by the British Arts & Crafts movement and is a value that I have regarded as part of the craftsman’s ethos. However, it was when I was researching and experimenting on Ideas in the Making that this approach began to expand into new dimensions.

I’ll stop here as I plan to develop the theme in Ideas in the Making for my Oxfordshire Artweeks Open Studio exhibition (weekends 14/15 and 21/22 May). I will also be putting some examples of Ideas in the Making on my website soon.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Sale of Work ~ 5 - 6 December between 11.00 - 16.00 daily

This weekend my son (and fellow furniture designer-maker) Jody Koomen and I will be at my workshop in Checkendon. You are most welcome to visit and have a look and/or chat. We'll be a hosting a sale of work including this beautiful stool by Jody and more of his work at my workshop-studio this Saturday and Sunday, 5 - 6 December between 11.00 - 16.00 daily.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Curiosity Cabinet For All Seasons



Professor Richard Fortey and Jackie Fortey tell the story of twelve months in the life of their woodland at Grim’s Dyke in their book 
Wood for the Trees
The Long View of Nature from a Small Wood to be published 5 May 2016.
The story begins with a visit to my workshop in May 2013. The Forteys wanted to discuss the possibility of designing a curiosity cabinet. The cabinet was to house the collection of found objects in their woodland and to be made from cherry wood from the woodland.

We chose a mature tree suitable for felling and after Martin Drew, a local timber contractor, converted it to planks we started the air-drying process at my workshop for over a year, followed by drying in my kiln. 







In July of this year I began making the cabinet; the photos below show some of the work in progress. 












The finished cabinet was delivered on 12 November to the Forteys' home. On the way there I took it to the woodland where Robert Francis photographed it where once the actual cherry tree had stood (photos to follow).  


I’m delighted to give you early notice that Professor Fortey has agreed to give a talk at my workshop during Oxfordshire Artweeks in May 2016 (details of date and time to follow nearer the time). 

For more information of the forthcoming book, click here 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

That’s Oxford TV - Forest to Furniture exhibition

That’s Oxford TV recently did an interview with me at my exhibition, which you can see via this link  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rth9aLeI4Sg

or via my facebook page posts philip koomen furniture.


If you haven’t managed to see the exhibition, the footage gives you a few glimpses! There are, however, a few days left before the exhibition closes at the end of the day on 7 June.  I will be giving guided talks on Saturday and Sunday, 6/7 June @ 11 am. You are welcome to join me. There’s a 50% reduction on admission (tickets valid for all-year admission to all exhibitions, permanent and temporary ones), if you have one of my invitation cards, which you can obtain from the museum reception (I will leave these with reception staff over the w/e).