Belle epoch: Max Lamb’s My Grandfather’s Tree on show for London Design Festival

Exhibition hall on London design festival
British designer Max Lamb was inspired by a tree in his grandfather’s house in Yorkshire for his latest project, appropriately titled My Grandfather’s Tree; ‘born’ in 1822 the ash tree was so tall, the designer explains, that you could see York Minster, 25 miles away, from the top of it
(Image credit: Max Lamb)

British designer Max Lamb (opens in new tab) was inspired by a tree in his grandfather’s garden in Yorkshire for his latest project – titled My Grandfather’s Tree, appropriately – which is showing at London Design Festival (opens in new tab) this week in collaboration with Gallery Fumi (opens in new tab).   

The tree in question was a female ash tree, ‘born’ in 1822 and so tall, the designer explains, that from its top you could see York Minster, a full 25 miles away from his grandfather’s house. In 2009, the tree started to rot and it became necessary to take it down, inspiring Lamb to give it a new life and shape with a poetically-conceived furniture project.

‘The typical afterlife of a felled tree is very sad,’ the designer says, explaining that an old tree’s fate is usually as firewood. ‘A quick and sad ending for these incredible structures of nature, and a waste of such a wonderful material containing so much potential.’

To offer a design-led afterlife to the tree, Lamb collaborated with tree surgeon Jon Turnbull (opens in new tab), who helped section it in a way respectful of its structure, branches, knots and crotches. ‘I wanted the tree to remain integral to the wood and to maintain the story told by its 187 annual growth rings,’ Lamb explains. The rings gave the tree’s history a well-documented identity, illustrating not only its growth but also the humidity and temperature of each of its epochs, the direction in which it grew and the climatic condition of each growing year.

The result of the collaboration is a collection of 131 pieces, including stools, small tables and chairs. ‘Learning by collaborating is the essence of what I do and the language I speak,’ says Lamb, whose work is often inspired by the craftsmen, engineers and makers he learns from – in this case, Turnbull, who was instrumental in helping him understand the material at hand.

Lamb’s participation in the Festival includes another project working with wood. His collaboration with Benchmark (opens in new tab) also looks at the life of a tree, sectioning it in a different direction to create long tables using a single plank from a tree’s trunk. Both projects highlight the designer’s talent for working in wood, establishing a testimony to his keen craftsman’s sensibility. 

Wooden curved structure for keeping on the festival

In 2009 the tree started to rot and it became necessary to take it down, inspiring Lamb to give it a new life and shape with a furniture project

(Image credit: Max Lamb)

Wooden curved structure on different sizes

The result of the collaboration between Lamb and tree surgeon Jon Turnbull is this collection of 131 pieces, which includes stools, small tables and chairs

(Image credit: Max Lamb)

The pieces are on show in a poetic display at Somerset House

The pieces are on show in a poetic display at Somerset House, as part of the venue’s London Design Festival offering

(Image credit: Max Lamb)

We can sit in these wooden curved structures

‘Learning by collaborating is the essence of what I do and the language I speak,’ explains Lamb, whose work is often inspired by the craftsmen, engineers and makers he learns from

(Image credit: Max Lamb)

Outer side of the wood

Each piece comes with a tag referring to its original position on the tree’s trunk

(Image credit: Max Lamb)

Different seating arrangement made of wood

Turnball’s sensitive sectioning of the tree was integral to Lamb’s vision; ‘I wanted the tree to remain integral to the wood and to maintain the story told by its 187 annual growth rings,’ the designer explains

(Image credit: Max Lamb)

Tree logs have been curved

Each of the logs was polished to give it an essential functionality, and otherwise left in its raw state

(Image credit: Max Lamb)

INFORMATION

My Grandfather’s Tree is on show at Somerset House until 27 September

 

ADDRESS

The Embankment Galleries
Somerset House
Strand
London, WC2R 1LA

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Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.