Meet: Hampson Woods

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I had always thought that the best chopping boards were very simple, angular ones, but Hampson Woods have proved me wrong as I am now hooked on their distinctive handles. Chances are that you’ve seen the elegant curving wooden handle of a Hampson Woods chopping board in a photoshoot or shop lately. Their work is popping up all over the place, and I love that they have come up with a design that is instantly recognisable as their own, yet still very timeless and classic.
Hampson Woods evolved as a pairing of woodworker, Jonty Hampson and artist and designer, Sascha Gravenstein. Together they design and create hand made, small-batch products using wood sourced from their own woodland in Cumbria. This is a rare treat, meaning they can know exactly where each product originally had its roots.

Tell us about what you do?
We are small-­batch producers of wooden products for the home – serving boards, porridge spoons and hanging racks. All of our work is designed, made by hand and finished in our Hackney workshop.
What materials do you use and why?
We predominantly work with London Plane, a hardwood with an incredible depth of colour and variation in grain. It has been little used these past decades, and visually always keeps you guessing. As it’s not grown commercially, it is only really available when a tree comes down or has to be removed, so it’s not the easiest to source. We also work with Elm, Ash, Oak and Sycamore, all also sourced from within Britain. We only acquire timber if we know its provenance; where it once stood.
What is your favourite wood to work with?
My current favourite is Ash. It is almost buttery in its consistency, yet so versatile and strong. Sycamore is growing on me too, it finishes like glass and has a real sheen to it.
Wood is such a beautiful and giving material. ­Even years after it stood, it never seems to lose its energy. As it is worked, and especially when oiled, new shades and subtle pleasing variations in colour will appear. As it ages, its texture and character will change, ­ and whatsmore, no two pieces are ever the same.
What techniques do you use?
The majority of our work is sanding, from shaping right down to finish. We always work with the piece in hand, and with patience, ­taking it, bit by bit, to a comfortable and smooth form. We’re ­ always ensuring a very high quality of finish.
What/who inspires you to make your work?
The world around us, friends, family, Henry Moore, David Nash. Rebirth of timbers that have ended their previous life ­and the simple pleasures of working by hand.
Can you recommend a good book?
I’m an admirer of Ruskin ­but only in small doses. For reference, The Wood Book and for fun, The Treehouse Book.
Where can we buy your work?
From several shops across London, and the UK and also from our website.
What are your plans/ideas for the future?
Collaboration with craftsmen of other materials to see­ how beautiful timbers and grains can sit alongside other naturally­ occurring, texturally­ contrasting materials. Also to take on more hands, and branch out into other parts of the home.

Thank you Jonty!

Workshop photographs by Robin Sinha.

My New Book

The Sustainable Design Book by Rebecca Proctor

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Last year was a busy year for me. I wrote two books, had two very young children, and I generally ran around trying to do far too much. I think I might be still recovering.
The nice thing, is that the first book, The Sustainable Design Book, has just come out. Because a good amount of time passes between writing a book and it being printed and available to buy, I had sort of forgotten what I had written. So, it was a pleasant surprise when a couple of copies arrived in the post and I could flick through the pages reading. “It’s quite good” I thought. Far better than I had remembered anyway! The book contains profiles and interviews with over 250 designers working in a sustainable way. I’ve focused on material use and good design, highlighting experimental, natural materials and also a considered use of traditional materials. I’d like to think that there is an excellent range of products in there, hopefully there is something to appeal to everyone, whether they are a design professional or simply a casual reader. I’ll be featuring some of the more in-depth interviews from the book on here over the next few weeks. I hope you’ll enjoy reading them.

To buy a copy of The Sustainable Design Book, please order direct from the Laurence King website and use the code PROCTOR35 to get a 35% discount.

New Book: Maker Spaces

Teresa Robinson, Portland

Teresa Robinson, Portland

Donna Wilson

Erika Harberts

Maker Spaces is a new book which features the homes and studios of creative makers. It includes a variety of styles and disciplines from Donna Wilson’s large warehouse in East London, to jewellery designer Teresa Robinson’s converted garage in Portland, Oregon.
The book looks first at each maker’s home and then at their workspace. I found the studios most intriguing, as we rarely have the opportunity to see the places where other people work, as well as their specialised tools and machinery. I’m interested in how a workspace increasingly reflects its owners personality as it evolves into an efficient and well used working environment. My own recent experience of setting up a small pottery has taught me that tools and materials will find their way to the best place through daily use. It seems that only by allowing our working methods to gradually shape our environment, can we create the best, most efficient and uplifting space for ourselves.
To see my own maker space, click here for a recent picture on Instagram.

Images from Maker Spaces by Emily Quinton, photography by Helen Cathcart, published by Ryland Peters & Small.

Ceramics: Akiko Hirai

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I love the beautiful contrasts in Akiko Hirai’s Kohiki ware, it looks strong yet delicate and I was fascinated to learn that it is inspired by face powder. Two worlds collide – make-up and ceramics – I hadn’t thought about glaze like that before. Trust me, Akiko’s combination of white on black clay is difficult to pull off. It’s a look that I’ve been trying to emulate recently and I’ve been far off the mark! Perhaps I can pass it off as adolescent experimentation? Akiko’s work is available is several great shops and galleries, including The Cold Store, Maud & Mabel, and Mint, and I am delighted that she agreed to be next-up in my series of Q&A’s with inspirational makers.

Tell us a little about what you make?
I make tableware and large decorative jars that are inspired by antique storage jars.
What materials do you use and why?
I use coarse stoneware clay. I like the texture and feel of it. I also mix in very coarse grog which appears on the surface of the pots when thrown thinly.
What techniques do you use and why?
I use white slip on a dark body. It is called Kohiki ware. The direct translation from Japanese is ‘powder blown ware’, the metaphor of women wearing white powder make-up. It has the beauty of ‘whiteness’ but is less harsh than sharp cold white porcelain. That was my intial inspiration and I tested a few materials to create suitable ‘slips’ and then developed it in my own way. I also often use wood ash for the subtle colours and tones on the surface of my pots.
How do you fire your work?
Most of the pots are fired in my gas kiln for reduction firing to give a feeling of movement on the surface.
What/who inspires you to make your work?
Mostly antique pots. Some are wood fired and have lots of marks of ‘accidents’. I am also inspired by novels and poems. I like the idea of ‘reading between lines.’ I have been trying to apply this to my pots.
How/where do you sell your pieces?
Various galleries mostly in the UK, and a few retailers abroad.
Please recommend a good book?
Linda Bloomfield wrote several good glaze books. These are very practical and contain lots of useful information. I always recommend them to my students.
Also, Besstatsu – Taiyo, a Japanese magazine. It no longer published but you can obtain back copies. The editor’s selections are excellent and each issue features topics that are very interesting. It also contains many good photos so even you do not understand the Japanese language, you can enjoy looking at these.
What are your plans/ideas for the future?
I have signed up for the Elle decoration online shop. I have not produced enough work for it yet, but plan to be up and running on there in the near future.
I also have solo shows at the New Ashgate Gallery, Oxford Ceramic Gallery, and Slader’s Yard up until March. Each gallery will have something unique and details are on my website.
Will you be running any workshops this year?
I am doing 3 days masterclass at the beginning of August at Maze Hill Pottery in Greenwich this summer.
I am also teaching ceramics at Kensington and Chelsea College. I teach BTEC level 2 and 3 depending on the level of people starting from September. For enquiries or to be added to the waiting list, please email a.hirai@kcc.ac.uk

Thank you Akiko!