Tag Archive: commission

  1. Commissioning Contemporary Craft

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    A post from the archives by madebyhandonline director Katie…

    At madebyhandonline we encourage customers to engage with the making process and commission our makers to create pieces of work with extra meaning and personal relevance. It creates a real attachment with the finished piece and a heightened appreciation for the skill involved. It’s also such an enjoyable thing to do and every now and then we like to do it too!

    Recently I commissioned a lamp to go beside my bed. It had to be quite small because of limited space and, in a very male dominated house, I wanted it to be a little bit feminine! I’ve always loved the work of Jennifer Collier and Sammy & Glenn from pachadesign. Both very different in style, but their work communicates such a love and intrinsic understanding of the materials they use. I know that whatever they make will be amazing – it will be full of emotion and will celebrate the handmaking processes and qualities of the materials they use.

    Other than providing dimensions, I kept the design very open. I started by asking Jennifer to make a shade and I then gave the shade to Sammy and Glenn to make a base for it. I’d always loved their reclaimed oak and slate bases, however this style just didn’t quite fit the delicate feel of the shade so they explored different possibilities and then found a beautiful vintage sewing bobbin. It was a bit weathered and had lovely little bits of copper on the top and bottom.


    The bobbin was really highly varnished so they sanded it back to the wood to soften it to the shade. And here’s the finished lamp…


    Whether buying for yourself, or looking for a thoughtful gift, commissioning something bespoke is exciting but can also be a bit nerve wracking. My experience really highlighted how important it is to know a bit about the makers before you start. Also there are different ways to commission. Some customers come to us with very fixed ideas about what they want, and makers either accept or decline, and other times customers have an idea but are very happy to hand it over to the maker and be led by them.

    A few things to consider when looking to commission a maker… Look really carefully at what they make so that you know a bit about their style and inspirations. Makers rightly don’t want to copy another maker’s work – requests to ‘reproduce’ something probably won’t be well received! When in discussions with makers be very clear whether your idea is tight or whether you’re open to the maker to take it in their direction.

    I am now very happy with the most beautiful lamp by my bed – it makes turning the light off at the end of the day even more pleasurable! Here are Jennifer’s paper lampshades and pachadesign’s oak and slate lamps. Both makers, and many others, are available to commission and can be contacted via their pages.


  2. Benches for York. An interview with Christian O’Reilly

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    From the archives…

    Furniture maker Christian O’Reilly is now back in his workshop in Cornwall following a trip to York to deliver an order that’s been his main focus for the past 6 months. York Art Gallery have been undergoing extensive redevelopment over the last 2 years and Christian was commissioned to design and make their main visitor seating. We had a chat with Christian to find out more…

    Tell us a bit about the brief. 

    I was commissioned by York Art Gallery to create their new gallery seating. This began back in November/December of last year and the gallery reopens next month, so it’s taken up a lot of space and time but it’s been incredible.


    I submitted two design proposals, one based on the seating I designed for The Graves Gallery in Sheffield and a new design inspired by the York Gallery building. The two different designs had to compliment each other as well as fit the space aesthetically. The designs also had to be practical, as they needed to incorporate storage for information about the art works within the gallery. I had a fixed budget and a lot to consider.


    A lot of time actually passes at the very beginning of a project because the wood needs to be prepared, stacked and completely dried out.


    Can you tell us a bit more about how you used the building as inspiration? 

    I spent a morning walking around York just taking everything in. I like to look at the fabric of a place, the architecture, the materials and how they are used. The aim for my final designs on any project is to come up with something which fits into the galley, that looks integral, harmonious.


    Around the city and within the gallery itself I kept seeing the different types of arch used in buildings. I wanted to incorporate this into the design. I also spent time in the museum gardens and walking the walls. I loved the way the structures thicken at the base giving them a feeling of great stability, of permanence. In fact York seemed to have a huge sense of solidity. This lead to the other strong design cue of the tapered legs.



    We’ve only seen pictures but can tell how silky they feel! The finished benches are so clearly yours! 

    Thanks, yes.  We have built a reputation for designing furniture with elegant lines and proportion. I use a lot of oak in my work, it is very hard wearing and lends itself to my sense of aesthetic.


    And I’m very happy with the end result…



    Are you having a well-earned rest now or is it straight to the next project? 

    A little bit of both. When coming off a huge project I feel like Wile E Coyote going off the cliff : the legs are spinning frantically but there is no traction. I like to spend some time straightening up the workshop, clearing overdue paper work and inevitably my head so I can hit the next project refreshed. It’s also fair to say that I have spent a fair amount of time riding around the area on my bike.



    With their beautiful fluidity and immaculate finish there’s no mistaking that the benches are Christian’s. York Art Gallery reopens on the 1st August so if you’re visiting and need a moment to rest your feet do take note of what you’re sitting on! The Gallery will also be home to the new Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) which will showcase more than 2,000 works, including a 17 metre long ‘Wall of Pots’. If you’d like to see more of Christian’s work, including his beautiful Alice Chairs, or if you’d like to contact him about a commission please follow this link.

  3. Jennifer Collier’s work featured in Milan Design Week!

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    From the archives…

    A few weeks ago we were approached by a multi disciplinary design studio from Germany in charge of designing an exhibition stand for furniture makers Walter Knoll. This wasn’t a stand like those we’re used to at the Craft Festival, or any of the other big UK craft events – this was a 370 square meter display for Salone Internazionale del Mobile for Milan Design Week! Walter Knoll is an internationally renowned furniture company who are passionate about high quality craftsmanship and design, and they were looking for artwork to compliment their furniture and capture their ethos.


    The artwork and furniture together needed to tell a story to the visitor, and the design studio – Ippolito Fleitz Group – and the team at the German office of Walter Knoll had fallen in love with the work of one of our Makers – paper artist Jennifer Collier. They ordered several pieces for Milan, including a paper telephone, typewriter, stilettos, teacups and saucers and binoculars. More than 350,000 people attended Milan Design Week and we’ve just received these fantastic pictures from the show…






    Jennifer’s work has now been put on permanent display in the Walter Knoll showroom in Germany and we’ve just heard that they’d like more of her work to add to their collection. You can browse and order Jennifer’s work here.

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