Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sale of Exhibition and Showroom Furniture

Come along for some bargains to our Sale of Exhibition and Showroom Furniture, including two Pondlife benches! We are also selling some newly-made mirrors and coffee/occasional tables starting at £100 for a unique piece! Our sale is on for three days, Thursday 15, Friday 16 and Saturday 17 November, from 10 - 4 pm.
We look forward to seeing you; please share this invitation with your friends and contacts.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Book Review Richard Fyson, Cabinet Maker

I was recently asked to write a review for British Woodworking

Richard Fyson, Cabinet Maker
The history of British furniture makers in the early 20th century is generally well documented centring on such Arts and Crafts luminaries such as Gimson and Sydney and Edward Barnsley. The link between these inspirational figures and contemporary designer makers was Edward Barnsley (1900 – 1987) who set up his workshop in 1921, which continues to this day producing commissions and providing training for future craftspeople. Barnsley managed to survive the economic cycles and changing fashions, but it wasn’t until the Craft Revival of the late 60s and early 70s that contemporary furniture designer–makers begun to flourish as economic policies encouraged greater prosperity.
Alan Peters, alumnus of Barnsley’s apprenticeship programme, set up his own workshop at the very beginning of the Revival, becoming the role model for many of us who were making our way in the early and mid 1970s. But what was happening in the 50s and 60s following World War II when traditional craft skills and workshops were being swept away in the name of modernity and technology?
When Nick Gibbs asked me consider reviewing this book I was curious but sceptical that it might be vanity publishing. What I discovered was a document that has its place in the history of British furniture makers. It gives a rare insight into the life and work of what would otherwise be regarded as an “anonymous” but dedicated craftsman who, as well as a handful of Arts and Crafts-inspired individuals, kept the candle burning throughout those opaque post-war years; the book shines a fascinating light on this period.
Richard Fyson (1917-2008) was a self–taught, gentleman cabinetmaker, a distinguished naval officer who at the age of 32, accompanied by his wife and three children, turned his back on a comfortable career to follow his passion, working in wood.  The only obvious advantages he brought to his new vocation were his self discipline and people-management skills. His extraordinary capacity for hard work combined with long hours enabled him to run a very busy workshop and market garden business, based at Kencot, Oxfordshire, just a few miles from Kelmscott, William Morris’s home.
Written as a short biography, divided into decades, followed by an extensive thematic catalogue of a lifetime of commissions the book provides a valuable insight into a career spanning over forty years. There are an impressive number of church commissions in Oxfordshire and further afield, which probably can still be seen today. His public commissions also extended to Oxford University projects including a commission from the famous Bodleian Library for forty chairs (at a cost of £18.00 per chair). Oxford University College commissions included Lincoln and Keble. A commission from Nuffield College, for which he competed with Edward Barnsley, seemed to have resulted in collaboration between them. It appears that Fyson’s design was rejected but instead he made a series of tables and benches to Barnsley’s design. He also produced a significant number of domestic pieces for private clients; the overall impression is a high level of craftsmanship combined with a diverse approach to design.
The book gives us glimpses into the crafts people community of the 1950s. This is reinforced by Fyson and Barnsley’s friendship. We also learn of the formation of a furniture makers’ association in 1955 following a conference attended by twenty-five furniture makers; Fyson became its treasurer. The idea of community also extended to his long-term commitment to training the next generation; a total of 27 trainees over a 34-year period. Matthew Burt, one of our leading contemporary designer-makers was amongst them. Matthew’s tribute in the book gives us a measure of his mentor, “He gave me someone to compete with, in the best sense of that word … His standard of craftsmanship … was steadfast, exemplary, aspirational and a perfect role model …”.
The book is an affectionate celebration of a generous, honourable and passionate gentleman-craftsman and a worthy reminder that a spiritually rich and meaningful life can be derived from following one’s heart in service to one’s community. His family has meticulously produced it. Felicity French, his youthful granddaughter, is credited with compiling it; the addition of new, colour photographs has given the work a refreshing updated quality. The book can be enjoyed as an inspirational insight into an exemplary craftsman’s life; it is also another valuable piece of cultural history thanks to the unstinting efforts of the Fyson family.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Ebb & Flow

Wood, glass and stainless steel create a sophisticated combination. This design for a coffee table is another design for a client that takes an earlier idea a lot further. It’s given a lot of creative satisfaction. Ebb & Flow is a series of designs that explore the dynamics of simple curvi-linear forms in wood. The split glass top adds another dimension. It’s been an adventure; sometimes the simplest designs are the hardest to get right!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Going Wild

It is not often I get “permission” from a client to take a design further than before. A young couple (about the same age as my children!) commissioned a Pondlife coffee table. They wanted the design to be as wild and Pondlife-like as possible. It’s quite large at about 150 x 120 cm and has a glass top cut into an “organic” shape – here is the final product! 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Art in Action & the OneOak Project

The OneOak project culminated in a group exhibition of work made from a 222-year old oak tree from Blenheim Palace estate (donated by the Duke of Marlborough). Jody and I exhibited our two pieces, the OneOak dining table and coffee table along with 12 other artists and craftsmen.
About 24,000 visitors came over 4 days to see us and 200 other artists and craftsmen at Art in Action. The event is masterminded by the philosophy group The London School of Economic Science; 600volunteers make this a wonderful experience for exhibitors and visitors alike. It is a must-see annual event. Check out the Sylva website to see more.
The exhibition of all pieces has now moved to Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, where it will remain until October 4th before moving to Edinburgh Botanical Garden. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Facebook present

For my birthday my daughter surprised me by giving me a facebook 'id'...
i.e. Philip Koomen Furniture

Friday, July 20, 2012

We are at Art in Action

I'm at art in action (19-22 July) with my son Jody who is a furniture maker based in Northumberland. Please come and visit us at our stand in the OneOak tent. See earlier posts about this special project and the Sylva website
Childs Curved chair - with thanks to Maya
Jody's daughter Maya sitting in a chair made by him

Friday, July 13, 2012

Father & son getting ready for Art in Action

The original planks used to make our Oneoak furniture pieces
Jody and I have been getting ready for Art in Action, making furniture from the wood of the 220-year old oak from Blenheim Palace. We will be demonstrating and co-exhibiting with other artists and crafts people as part of the OneOak project organised by the Sylva Foundation.
Jody's daughter Maya and some of the OneOak pieces made by Jody
One of the pieces I made was a large dining circular dining table. This photograph was made by Nick Gibbs of British Woodworking when he featured me in his magazine for the July/August edition this year.
Please visit Art in Action, 19 - 22 July 2012 (10-5.30) at Waterperry House, Near Wheatley, Oxford and come and say hello to us!

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Month of June

If May was the month for giving presentations (Buckinghamshire New University, Rycotewood Centre, Oxford and Rotary Club Henley-on-Thames) then June was the month for judging and presenting awards!

On 18 June I accompanied one of my clients to co- judge the Best in the Show at the National School of Furniture, (Rycotewood Furniture Centre), Oxford. This client annually awards a £1000 prize, called the Hellen Award in memory of his wife, as well as a few smaller monetary prizes given as encouragement. The students' range of work was very impressive so selecting a worthy winner was a bit of a struggle; fortunately we had  Joe Bray, the course leader, to give us some background information, which helped.

I have been helping Design and Technology GCSE pupils and their teacher Sean Murray at Langtree School, Woodcote with a design project to stimulate their understanding of design and sustainability issues. This project was inspired  by a donation from one of my clients, in memory of a loved one, who wanted school children to have an insight into the world of the designer- maker. Certificates of excellence and cash prizes were awarded to four pupils at the school Art and Design exhibition, Thursday 21st June. It was encouraging that the most outstanding pupil was a young woman, Sophie. There were also enough funds to buy some new equipment for the school, including a Festool "Domino" ( it makes tenon joints), sash cramps and various tools. The company Festool generously gave a 50% discount, worth £450, which made the purchase possible; this was thanks to Nick Gibbs, Editor of British Woodworking, who put in a good word.
I will be continuing my involvement with the School next year; I think I've learned more from the experience than the pupils! Teaching this subject, at this level, is very challenging; Sean does an excellent job against the odds.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dedication of the New Choir Stalls

It's continuing to be a busy month and I have a backlog of news to add as time whizzes by. Highlight so far was the special choral Evensong service on Sunday 10 June in Dorchester Abbey to celebrate the conclusion of the John Piper and the Church exhibition and the dedication of the new Choir Stalls, designed and made by Philip Koomen Furniture. The preacher was Professor Lord Harries of Pentregarth, the former Bishop of Oxford. The Dorchester Abbey choir sang beautifully and the readings were all wonderfully appropriately chosen from the Old and New Testaments on the themes of Arts and Crafts.

Dorchester Abbey ~ Choral Evensong
John Piper and the Church
 Conclusion of the exhibition
“John Piper and the Church”
and the
Dedication of the New Choir Stalls
My Photo

Monday, June 4, 2012

Money raised for Workaid

One of our freelance colleagues donated the money he earned from working on the Dorchester Abbey new choir stalls to Workaid. This paid for a container of refurbished tools and equipment to be shipped to Africa.
Workaid tackles poverty by supplying disadvantaged people with the tools they need to acquire practical skills and become self supporting. Tools and equipment are collected from all over the UK, refurbished and sent to vocational training projects and self-help groups, mostly in East Africa and in the UK.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Donation to Sylva organisation

At our recent workshop exhibition Dr Gabriel Hemery from the Sylva Foundation based in Little Wittenham gave a talk on the OneOak Project. One of our visitors subsequently was able to donate £5000 from his charitable organisation to Sylva (more details will follow soon on this blog, no doubt) - very exciting!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Eden Project Fundraiser

Recently, we donated our “Hay” coffee table in English walnut and oak for the Big Green Quiz auction (May 10), which was held for the eden project and Southbank Centre Roof Garden and associated education and training programmes. The project created a new urban green space on the roof of the Queen Elizabeth II Hall as part of the Festival of Britain’s 60th anniversary celebrations. The initiative brought together groups of vulnerable people including the homeless, ex-offenders and addicts to transform a concrete roof space into a fabulous summer garden on the Thames. This garden is now open for this year, so please if you are passing do visit.
We were most pleased that the table raised as much as it would have cost to buy from us (£1500).

Friday, May 4, 2012

Annual workshop exhibition: OneOak

Saturday 5 May, 12 - 5pm and Sunday 6 May, 11 - 5 pm
Here is an article which was published in the Oxford Times on the exhibition theme:
Telling tale of how tree lives on

Philip, left, and Jody Koomen with giant slices of timber from the tree at their workshop

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

John Piper and the Church at Dorchester Abbey

See our recently installed new choir stalls and pay a visit to see the John Piper and the Church exhibition, which is taking place at Dorchester Abbey 21 April - 10 June

You can see our choir stalls in the following youtube clip about the John Piper exhibition when at the beginning the Canon and later the Chair of Dorchester Abbey chose to be filmed beside them: click here please.  Please click the Like button at the end of the film

Friday, April 13, 2012

Choir Stalls are installed!

On Thursday 12 April we installed the new choir stalls in Dorchester Abbey.

Dedworth Green Baptist Church

Last week we finished the furniture for Dedworth Green Baptist Church
Communion table in oak with fish motif carving and crucifix design cut into legs

Communion table with crucifix on top

Crucifix and detail of carved fish on communion table 

Crucifix design in legs clearly showing

Small table

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Monday, March 19, 2012

THIS SUNDAY, 25 MARCH: Preview of the new choirs stalls for Dorchester Abbey

You are welcome to the PREVIEW of the new choirs stalls for Dorchester Abbey. The preview will take place at our workshop on SUNDAY, 25 March between 12.00 and 4 pm.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Dorchester Abbey ~ Roundel Motifs

 Each choir stall is fitted with its own roundel motif
The Eucharist
The Eucharist 
In the beginning was the word

In the beginning was the word
Lute and harp
Lute and harp
The light shines in darkness
The light shines in darkness
Cross and moon
Philip with one of the finished choir stalls