Directorio Deco by Gloria Gonzalez

Month: June 2020

In Conversation: Alfred Newall

After training at the Building Crafts College and working for Plain English Design Ltd, Alfred Newall established his Cabinet Making workshop in London and Sussex. Designing and making furniture inspired by historic pieces using traditional methods of joinery, his focus has always been on the qualities of simple design and proportion. Each piece is approached with a sensitivity towards the natural qualities of the wood, combining functionality, longevity and sustainably sourced materials.

Discover  Alfred’s inspiration, dream projects and what a day in the life of a modern craftsman looks like in today’s conversation.

Dear Alfred, first of all, I would like to know when did your love affair with wooden furniture start?

I always loved making things as a child. Furniture making then came whilst I was at school. I made friends with a technician who taught me to turn wooden bowls on a lathe from lumps found in local woodland. This then went on to become furniture making. I remember the excitement this gave me, being fully engrossed in a project and not able to think of much else during my other lessons!

alfred newall workshop with bobbin tables

Can you describe to us what a day in the life of a modern craftsman looks like?

A year ago my wife and I moved to Sussex where I set up a studio and workshop at the foot of the South Downs. We live 2 miles away and I bicycle along an ancient coach road each morning. I meet with my team at 8am and we have coffee and talk through what each maker has planned for the day. It’s great working with others and seeing multiple pieces of furniture come alive. We work on individual pieces but often help each other along the way. I spend the first couple of hours at my desk working on drawings and emails but try to get down to my work bench as soon as I can as that’s what I enjoy most. The days whizz past fast – making furniture occupies me mentally and physically in a lovely way. I aim to be back home with my wife and two little children at about 5.30pm, very dusty and ready for bath time.

What are the pieces you enjoy the most working on? What are the one or ones that have challenged you the most?

The variety of my work is refreshing. Bespoke pieces often bring challenges and overcoming them is satisfying and gives a sense of achievement. I also love developing new furniture and products. For the last couple of months I have been developing and prototyping a rush seated chair, working with a local rush weaver. I especially enjoy the collaboration element.

alfred newall collaboration with the new craftsmen

alfred newall collaboration with the new craftsmenAlfred Newall collection for The New Craftsmen

Alfred Newall Bobbin tableMy Bobbin table by Alfred Newall – one of my favourite pieces at home!

Where do you find inspiration?

Inspiration for me is in good supply. I am always seeing things I like and admire. It can be in local sale rooms, antique dealers‘ websites, historic furniture and design books or just catching a glimpse of something in the background in a film. In fact, I made a large oak table for a private dining room based on a table I’d seen in a set from The Crown.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

For me the reward is in seeing the furniture come together and look great. There is research and preparation before the method. The material has to be treated with respect and carefully handled. Quite often many components come together to make one piece and they need to be worked independently. It really is exciting when it comes together as one. It is also of course great when your client is happy and gets pleasure from the work.

alfred newall bobbin shelves octavia dickinson
Alfred Newall’s bobbin shelf in Octavia Dickinson London Flat featured in House & Garden. Rachel Whiting photography. 
Beata Heuman utility room
Utility room by Beata Heuman with cupboards by Alfred Newall. House & Garden. Paul Massey photography.

 

Alfred Newall Bobbin mirrorAlfred Newall’s new bobbin mirror  (available in any size or finish.)

What would be your ultimate dream project?

I really love ancient buildings. I feel my furniture looks best as a sum of parts in an environment or space. Whether it be the architecture of a building or works of art on a wall or other furniture in the room, if it all works together it’s a wonderful thing. My wife and I bought a 16th Century timber framed cottage and we plan on decorating it together with my vernacular furniture and her beautiful decorative painting – I’m really looking forward to that!

Tess NewallAlfred’s wife, Tess Newall hand-painting the medieval beams of their cottage. Tess is a wonderful decorative artist. Talk about a talented couple!

tess newall lampshades and alfred newall bobbin lampBobbin lamp by Alfred Newall and hand-painted lampshade by  Tess Newall.

Primula Auricula

A couple weeks ago I found myself going down the Pinterest rabbit hole again. This time was with flowers, more specifically with Auriculas. I have always found these flowers mesmerising: their symmetry, colours, shape…they almost look too perfect to be natural! Like many of the things that catch my eye, I decided to delve into these fascinating flowers.

Georg Dionysius Ehret Auricula with butterflyGeorg Dionysius Ehret (1708-1770), A Blue auricula and Butterfly

Auriculas first appeared in European and English gardens around the mid-sixteenth century.  There are two schools of thought as to how auriculas reached England. One is that they were introduced by Huguenot Flemish weavers fleeing religious persecution in the 1570s. However, at that time, these plants were still novelties and were grown only by the rich. The second school of thought which seems more plausible is that they arrived, as did most other flowers, by the interchange between leading Continental and English plantsmen. Whichever it was, the auricula became a major craze and was grown by the rich and famous, as well as humbler folk, in great numbers and varieties during the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries becoming also popular with artists.

Coloured engraved plate depicting Auriculas from the 1820 publication 'The Beauties of Flora' by Samuel Curtis (1779-1860).Coloured engraved plate depicting Auriculas from the 1820 publication ‘The Beauties of Flora’ by Samuel Curtis (1779-1860). 

The auricula was one of the great Florist’s flowers, some of the others being anemone, ranunculi, tulips and carnations. The term ˜Florist” was originally applied in the 1600s to a person who grew plants for the sake of their decorative flowers rather than for any useful property the plant might have. The modern meaning of florist only came into being towards the end of the 19th century. The florists formed groups with like-minded people to meet and hold ‘feasts’.

By the 19th century the florists groups were very popular with working-class people in the industrial North and Midlands of England. They met in public houses to show off their tulips, auriculas, primulas and carnations and to weigh their giant gooseberries. Prizes at their shows were frequently copper kettles & the public houses would often hang a copper kettle outside on show days.

Towards the end of the 19th century, a movement developed against what were termed “artificial flowers” and florists flowers lost popularity, some disappearing completely. The auricula, however, retained a loyal following especially in the north of England, although Stripes vanished and Doubles became rare. Then a further blow was struck with the advent of the First World War when many of the named varieties vanished. Between the wars, the auricula was kept in being by the auricula societies, and then after the second world war a recovery began that continues to this day. A large number of new varieties of both edged and self-coloured auriculas have been raised by the modern successors to the old florists. Striped auriculas have been re-introduced and more new doubles are exhibited each year, their current magnificence owes much to the dedicated breeders in the United Kingdom (this information was found on The National Auricula and Primula Society (Kent Group) website)

Augusta Innes Withers 1793-1864 An Auricula in a PotAugusta Innes Withers (1793-1864) An Auricula in a Pot

Reading about these fascinating flowers I’ve learnt that they require very particular care and growing conditions. For the flowers to be at their best, it’s important that the plants are kept in a sheltered spot, away from wet and windy weather. Rain will ruin the perfection of the flowers, washing away the farina. What’s more, they need to be shaded in hot, summer weather, as strong sun will scorch them. So, auricula growers keep their plants under glass over winter, and only display them when they begin flowering in spring, in an auricula theatre. (This information came from The Small Gardner Blog where I found   a brilliant article about how to make an Auricula theatre. I had seen these displays of Auriculas before here in the UK but I didn’t know they were called theatres!

Auricula Theatre illustration by John FarleighAuricula Theatre illustration by John Farleigh. Image found on Janet Haigh Blog.

 auricula theathre calke abbey  auricula theathre calke abbey

In large country houses, it was the fad in the 18th century to have auricula theatres to display these flowers at their best. As tastes changed they fell out of fashion and houses removed the theatres. Calke Abbey has the only original auricula theatre in England.

Calke Abbey Auricula Calke Abbey Auricula@carmypeach

Auriculas Bunny WilliamsBunny Williams

Auricula garden Auricula garden Auricula garden

@derletztewolf

auricula theatre@ewgardens

Auricula Theatre@flowersonlawn

One of my favourite discoveries while researching for this blog post was finding the work of Corinne Young and her fantastic embroidered Auriculas.

corinne-young embroidered auricula

corinne-young embroidered auricula

And this blog post by Janet Haigh en the making of her divine embroidered Auricula Theatre!

jane haigh embroidered auricula theatre

jane haigh embroidered auricula theatre

In Conversation: Jorge Perez Martin

Spanish born Cotswolds based, Jorge Perez Martin started his career as an Antique dealer 20 years ago. What was born as a hobby is now Brownrigg, a successful business run by Jorge and his partner David Gibson. Their store in Tetbury is a treasure trove for any lover of beautiful things, with a mix of sought-after antiques and decorative pieces.

With a loyal UK and international clientele and a strong social media presence followed by thousands, they have become a go-to destination for interior designers, decorators and private clients alike.

In today’s conversation, we discover more about the dynamic life of an antique dealer, the joys of Instagram and real advice for anyone who wants to make it in the industry.

Jorge Perez Martin and David from BrownriggThe Brownrigg team: Jorge Perez Martin, David Gibson and Nora.

Dear Jorge, what prompted you to start a career as an antique dealer?

It was when I first came to England in my early twenties and a good friend introduced me to the joys of weekend antique searches. It all rather took me by surprise and within no time I was hooked and an unexpected redundancy a couple of years later gave me the push and opportunity to open my first small shop. The rest is sort of history…like many, I had my fair share of financial wobbles, as buying temptations got the better of me! It is only in the last 15 years that we’ve been able to scale the business up and develop it properly as I was forced to admit that my creative spirit can be a dangerous skill and somewhat powerless without the ability to manage and control the business side of things. Never perfect harmony but it works for us and hopefully our clients find things that enrich their lives and homes.

Have you always been interested in interior design and antiques when you were growing up?

 Looking back there were early signs in childhood but very limited with much hidden beneath the surface. I think this is how it starts for so many of us in this industry…..especially if you are not fortunate enough to have grown up in an environment filled with antiques and art. In some ways, this is a blessing as it means you do not have quite the same pre-conceptions of what is right or wrong.

What catches your eye when you are looking for new pieces for your shop.

The variety has no bounds and continually surprises us both. I think I’ve found the perfect piece or look and then something completely different comes into sight and its ‘all change’! I hope this never ends as it’s what gets me going every morning.

For the last four years, you have been renovating your home in the countryside with your partner David. What was the most challenging part and the best lesson you’ve learnt in the renovation process? 

I really have to come clean on this. I might take the pictures for Instagram, but a renovation, architecture and design are really not my strengths and David has been the lead and creative on the Gloucestershire house; having cut his teeth on his London house and our old place in West Sussex. I’m afraid I struggle to sit through one architect or project management meeting……let alone think about details around lighting, plumbing, bathrooms or kitchens. The house is part Georgian and part C18th and having spent three years with builders we are now really getting started on the interior. My forte is styling and together it works…..naturally I am trying to muscle in on everything now its got to the fun bit!

You are an avid Instagram user- has this platform been helpful to grow your business?

Definitely. It has been a fun and productive addition to our social media presence and very much an area where I have been able to build on a visual and creative platform that benefits and supports our website.

What is the best advice you can give to someone who is starting their career in the Antiques field.

Be brave and follow your gut instincts as those who are lucky enough to have a ‘good eye’ will find it a richly rewarding experience. I am always telling David how lucky he is to have the benefit of my ‘good eye’…….at which point he raises his ‘good eyebrow’ and presents me with a Zoom invite to meet with our accountant and a draft VAT return to check though……….

Thanks so much, Jorge!

All images courtesy of Brownrigg.

For more information visit:

https://www.brownrigg-interiors.co.uk/

https://www.instagram.com/brownrigguk/

https://www.instagram.com/shopatbrownrigg/

Brownrigg – 14 Long Street, Tetbury
Gloucestershire GL8 8AQ