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Chinese

15 Jul

Modular

I have always admired Chinese woodwork – not for it’s ornate decorations, nor for the fabulous hardwood’s from which the best cabinets are made. What I like best is the ‘pack it up and leave’ mentality that often underlies antique Chinese furniture.

If you have a chance to spend time in the Oriental galleries of the Victoria and Albert museum, take a close look at some of the ancient cupboards, chairs and tables. The removal of a couple of pegs usually allows the whole structure to fold flat and be packed away ready for transportation in the face of flood, famine, war or pestilence – they build beautiful modular furniture. Fiendishly clever joints allow the piece to retain structural integrity, whilst the timber – Zitan, Huanghuali – fabulously expensive, are so strong that legs, armatures, spindles and chair backs can be made light and airy to the eye.

This little shelving unit is also modular. It is made from spalted beech – beech that has been infected by an ascomycete fungus to leave black marbling in the grain. The shelves and brackets slot together via a T-shaped mortice joint so that the whole piece is laterally stable – it resists shearing forces.

I cut the shelves in the shape of an aeroplane wing – an elegant, semi-eliptical geometry which breaks up sharp edges in dusty room corners.

Spalted Beech 2

it is the first piece I made for my wife, Clare, so that she would have somewhere to put her ever changing collection of detective novels. Being a bit of a gypsy herself – she can take it to bits in seconds and leave for pastures new at a moment’s notice. Hopefully she will always take me with her.

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