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Handmade: Britains Best Woodworker on Channel4

Handmade: Next Iconic Chair

Episode 3

Skills Challenge: Spoon Whittling
Big Build: Next Iconic Chair

Having been a designer specialising in producing work to the very highest possible standards, I have to confess to being thoroughly disappointed by my efforts in the first two challenges. Neither the finished Bed nor the Doll’s House matched the shiny visions of them I had conjured in my mind during the design process, and neither were finished to a standard I would have accepted had I been one of my own clients.

On the other hand, they had both been made in only 18 hours, while at the same time learning how to use all the machinery and coping with the process of filming. It was this realisation, along with a skills challenge win in episode 1 and great feedback from the judges in episode 2, that allowed me to stop beating myself up about it and accept the fact that ‘good enough’ would have to do….

With that in mind, when it came to spoon whittling I decided that rather than rush to make several spoons badly, I’d use my carving skills to make just one really nice one. Given that the last spoon I made had taken a day and a half to do, it seemed like a realistic approach, and one that resulted in a special commendation from Alex, which was all the more special given that I’d pretty much ignored the brief!

As for the chair, I wasted a lot of time at the design stage dreaming up artistically conceptual statements about the nature of the future. These included a post-apocalyptic pile of rubble with a smashed and reclaimed chair in the centre, and a super-wide lounger with inbuilt keyboard, screens, trackball, drone landing pad, and food hopper for a future where our sedentary lifestyle has got the better of us, and all we know how to do is relentlessly consume and press ‘like’ on social media.

Once I’d read the brief again, it was obvious that wasn’t really what was wanted…

What makes a design classic? It seems to me that it’s not just about tapping into the zeitgeist for form, colour and embellishment, but also about its ability to be easily produced for a mass market.

The design I came up with is my take on the Tub Chair. It uses one basic component to make all of the uprights, which, once jointed into and assembled around a circular seat ring, produces a cut-away conical enclosure in which to sit. Further cuts and variations in the leg component form parabolic cut-outs below the seat, allowing the chair to stand on four feet, rather than 25, armrests to either side, and a rising ‘rail’ at the rear. A leather covered drop-in seat pad provides comfort and a splash of colour to offset the oak from which it is made.

After the first two challenges, I was now entirely at ease with the machinery, and my newfound relaxed attitude towards the end result meant I could just dive in and enjoy the making process. The time flew by, and for the first time in the competition, I actually completed it, properly, with upholstery and oiled finish and everything, and with ten minutes to spare…

While I thought I was just making a tub chair, everyone else described it as a throne!

I might not have won this challenge (Curse you, Joe!), but I am really proud of this chair – it has a strong design identity and is super comfortable. That alone makes it a hugely successful piece of design. If you’d like me to make one for you, please do get in touch.

Mistis next iconic chair design