A Chair in a day at Daylesford…
Photographs Sam Walton
Designer Chris Eckersley explains the origins of his ongoing Bodging Project – and how it evolved for a one-off event at the Makers’ Barn…
One of the highlights of our recent curation of the Makers’ Barn at Daylesford Summer Festival was the ‘Chair in a day’ project by designers Chris Eckersley and Rory Dodd (of Designersblock). The event was an extension of the bodging events that Eckersley first set up in 2010 following a research trip to investigate traditional greenwood chair-making techniques (aka ‘bodging’). In its original incarnation, nine designers spent a freezing week deep in the ash woods of Herefordshire, with no computers, no power tools, and nothing in the way of modern comfort. The results were immediately loaded onto a van bound for Milan’s Salone del Mobile, where they caused quite a stir leading to interest from manufacturers and from the press.
From this beginning, the project has taken on a life of its own. The team has held events and exhibitions at the V&A, the Harley Gallery, the Festival Hall, the Department of Culture Media and Sport, the Contemporary Craft Festival, Collect, in the front window of Heal’s and at many other venues. For Hole & Corner‘s Makers Barn at Daylesford Summer Festival, Alex Hellum, Carl Clerkin, and Chris Eckersley took their inspiration from the Victorian chairmaker Philip Clissett, who is said to have ‘made a complete chair each day and whistled while he worked.’
‘The aim of the project is often misunderstood and so maybe needs some explanation,’ says Eckersley. ‘From its woodland origins the team – like Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival – went electric. Out went the pole-lathes, the draw-horses, and unseasoned timber, and in came power tools, dowel, and workshop offcuts.’ The reason for this, he explains, is that the project is ‘based very definitely in contemporary design and not, as is sometimes thought, in craft revival’.
‘The one lesson learnt in the woods was the importance of design-through-making – ‘bodge-thinking’ if you like,’ Eckersley continues. ‘It is this, coupled with a sort of art-school experimentation, that fuels the Bodging Project and keeps it moving forward.’