The De Beauvoir-based institution Millinery Works has established itself as the destination for the British 20th century movement and celebrates that with its latest exhibition, '21st Century Furniture V: The Arts & Crafts Legacy'
Proving that furniture making is alive and well in the UK and Ireland, a new show at London's Millinery Works in Islington is celebrating the work of over 40 designer-makers producing handmade furniture across the British Isles.
Based on the Southgate Road in an old hat factory, the Millinery Works has been used as a furniture showroom and exhibition space since 1996 when Brian Thompson and Derek Rothera commandeered it as a gallery space for their Arts & Crafts furniture business that had been operating out of the nearby Camden Passage since 1970.
Their latest exhibition, timed to coincide with last week's London Design Festival, is the fifth in a series of biannual shows curated by esteemed British furniture maker Martin Grierson that celebrate modern day designer-makers who are keeping the spirit of the Arts and Crafts movement alive. Inaugurated in 2009, the Millinery Works' '21st Century Furniture' exhibitions not only showcase new designs but also provide visitors with a chance to buy the pieces.
'I first discovered The Millinery Works about seven or eight years ago when they had an exhibition of Arts & Crafts furniture at the Hampstead Garden Suburb Institute and got talking to Brian,' says Grierson, recalling the debut show. 'I then visited the gallery and found that they let their space for different art exhibitions and one man shows. Brian and Derek responded very positively to my suggestion that they might consider an exhibition of contemporary designer-makers. Over a period of six months I assembled work and, with a great deal of help from Derek and Brian, arranged the first show.'
Now six years later and the exhibitions have grown to include pieces by both established names such as Grierson himself (who was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by The Furniture Makers Company earlier this year) and younger talents such as Design Guild Mark awardees Young & Norgate.
'There is a growing interest in UK design and a disastrous loss of design education in universities,' says Grierson, reflecting on the state of the industry. 'I believe that among the designer makers fraternity there is a strong emphasis on craftsmanship which results in designs that express this. These pieces are made to last and become our heritage.'
A bespoke Australian walnut Cotswold table (left), by Peter Waals, c. 1930 and a mahogany barrel chair with slatted sides (right in foreground), by Liberty & Co, c. 1900
Left: A chestnut Cotswold small chest of drawers with carved bog oak handles, by Sir Gordon Russell, c. 1925. Right: a rare, green painted ash 'Sussex' armchair, designed by Philip Webb for Morris & Co, c. 1865
Sir Gordon Russell's oak fall-front bureau, over one drawer on a stand of six chamfered octagonal legs joined by chamfered stretchers.
A rare pair of oak armchairs with sloped tall backs, originally designed for 'The Homestead' in Frinton-on-Sea, a house designed and furnished by CFA Voysey in 1902
An oak Cotswold circular coffee table (left), attributed to Romney Green, c. 1920, and a pair of unusually large oak Arts & Crafts reclining armchairs, made by Furniture Industries Ercol, c. 1930.
’21st Century Furniture V: The Arts & Crafts Legacy’ is on view until 10 October
Photography: Jessica Klingelfuss
The Millinery Works
87 Southgate Road
London, N1 3JS
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