‘As artists and makers we are led and inspired by materials, techniques and styles…then nature creeps in everywhere.’ Nicola and Christopher Cox
How can the natural world fail to inspire us all? I have just returned from an Easter weekend in north Norfolk. We walked in the Queen’s garden and ran the sandy shores and shady pinewoods at Holkham.
But before I escaped I spent an afternoon with Nicola and Chris Cox of Cox London. They were both nature lovers as children and its no surprise that as people they were drawn to be sculptors as readily as they were drawn to nature.
Continuing the exploration of their love of trees their Olive Tree chandelier was created after a single stem that found its way into their sketchbooks. Wishing the branches to be a loose tangle of metal and glass, the accents of glass are a gentle implication of fruit and bring the foliage to life.
Olive Tree Chandelier
The Olive Tree is created using a free formed, forged iron process. The branches are twisted and hand beaten into shape and the finish is a distressed hand patina. The glass is amber, cut lead crystal buds, clear glass catkins and lamp worked beads.
The oak leaf is another recurring nature theme on mirrors for Cox London. It is not only a symbol of endurance but emblematic of the English countryside. When you happen across a great oak tree in a London park there is often a wistful sense of the green hills and lost forests beyond the city borders. The composition is inspired by historic artisans such as Grinling Gibbons.
‘It is surprising how many of us are drawn to the oak above all other trees. I was told some years ago by a friend that oaks sustain more life forms than any other tree in the British Isles, playing home to a huge cross section of mammals, birds and insects. There is also so much associated folklore and history attached to the oak not to mention the vast history of use for its timber in furniture design.’
I don’t think artists will ever stop being inspired by nature as Chris says ‘art and nature have been and will remain inseparable partners. ‘
The Jamb Reproduction Collection Supplement has arrived. It is a beautiful hand-stitched tactile book that showcases chimneypieces, lighting and furniture.
‘Since producing our comprehensive reproduction catalogue in 2010 we have been tirelessly refining and developing new chimneypiece designs. With the Country House aesthetic and our vast, ever changing, collection of antique mantels still very much at the heart of our design ethos, we continue to ensure that all our chimneypieces are individually bench made by the finest craftsmen employing traditional 18th century skill and techniques. The new collection focuses particularly on clean architectural lines to produce elegant, stylish mantels that will work beautifully in both traditional and contemporary settings.’
Charlotte Freemantle, co-found of Jamb
Jamb’s unrivalled reputation for dealing in superior quality antique fire surrounds continues in its fine reproduction fireplaces made by highly skilled craftsmen who use traditional 18th and 19th century techniques. The reproduction lighting and furniture is also made to the same exacting standards and designed using historical reference.
I love the stark simplicity and distinctive purity of the black marble fireplaces, the hanging copper Aspley Dish Light, the Cobbler stool and I want to highlight the Conroy wall sconce. Its 1920s influence makes it one of Jamb’s most dynamic and versatile wall lights to date and Will Fisher is passionate about it.
‘ It has been a heartfelt journey to get to this point. It has taken over a year and a half to totally re-engineer, redesign and update it to work in both home and commercial environments including IP rating for bathrooms. The end result is beyond expectation.’
The Conroy has a heavy brass fixture with a hand crafted central opaline glass shade that is of staggering quality. For Will Fisher the acid test was creating something that not only looked amazing in situ and lit but is also weighty and tactile.
‘I can’t bear it when you go to pick something up that looks beautiful but is actually as light as one of my children’s toy.’
The Conroy wall lights promises to be a winner due to the sheer versatility of use. It’s perfect for so many different settings within the home or hotel. For the bathroom, hallways, and kitchens – any space needing a run of wall lights. Another key design criteria was for it to evolve accessibility with an everyday aesthetic without ‘dumbing down’ on quality and Jamb has done this beautifully.
Jamb does everything beautifully. Its new supplement catalogue captures the latest reproduction collections and gives each crafted piece space to breath.
Grab a copy if you can.
Fine Cell Work’s new collections take this innovative prison charity to even greater decorative heights. Kit Kemp who heads the design arm of this social enterprise has expanded the interior design portfolio to launch upholstered furniture and worked with Melissa Wyndham and Blithfield on a colourful cushion collection.
‘Melissa and I wanted to create a collection that took Fine Cell Work further, developing a line of furniture that would look good in the home and have a strong design element. These pieces can inspire others to commission Fine Cell Work and their prisoners to make bespoke designs within the framework.
With the high quality of workmanship and skilled voluntary workers we have created covetable items. It would be wonderful at the end of the day if we could have an upholstery workshop and training scheme so everything could be done in the prisons.
I have to thank Melissa for her overwhelming sense of humanity and quiet determination to get things done, Blithfield for their inspiring fabrics and everyone at Fine Cell Work for their enthusiasm and commitment.’
There is an awful lot of stitches and stitching going on here. Kit has introduced sophisticated stitching and applique work to interior furniture with designs sourced from antique textiles. The Tree of Life headboard is a linen applique on boiled wool, incorporating French knots, whipped back stitch, feather stitch, buttonhole, and coral stitch. The footstool and mirror frame with counted darning stitch uses crewel wool on a natural linen base.
Touched by the work of this pioneering charity, Blithfield became the other thread in this collaboration and worked with Kit and Melissa to select fabrics from its collections that would lend themselves best to embroidery. The cushions include The Pineapple and Small Damask from the Peggy Angus collection, which are drawn from original lino blocks making these prints perfect to embellish with vibrant stitching and enhance with French knots.
Fine Cell Work is a charity and social enterprise, founded by Lady Anne Tree in 1997 with the aim to enable prisoners to develop new skills, earn and save some money and to acquire the self-belief to stop offending. Currently working in 30 prisons across the UK, they work with 250 prisoners at any one time. I think I am right in saying that this is the largest group of embroiderers in Europe today. I like that.
The prisoners’ work is sold around the world. Some are interior design collaborations and commissions, others heritage pieces for the likes of the V&A, English Heritage and the Duchess of Cornwall and Prince of Wales.