Interview - Jonathan Rose image

March 10, 2021

Members Interviews

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I am drawn to pieces that find a place in my home. I was brought up in the 60’s and the new clean post utility fashion was strong, made with increasingly sophisticated machine tools of the time which reduced the repetitive, but skilled work of the 19th century.

How would you describe the style of your work?

I am drawn to make pieces that find a place in my home.

I grew up in the 60’s when the new clean post utility fashion was strong, made with the increasingly sophisticated machine tools of the time, which reduced the repetitive, but skilled work of the 19th century.

Well made furniture lasts a long time and the 60’s saw a refresh of the 19th century idiom. The Scandinavian aesthetic became king and still sits up there. I love mid century lines, and use them when designing. Teak and mahogany are no longer so available, nor is there so much space in the home, so my style has adapted to include modular and storage pieces made from native hardwoods. Always with a functional or artist component.


What are your favourite materials to work with and why?

I find most native hardwoods satisfying to work with. It all depends what is in my timber store and on my list of items to make. Each one has its preferred uses.

I like ash where bends or clean lines are needed; oak for colour contrast, grain highlights or outdoor pieces.; sycamore when I want something to be white.

My satisfaction comes from ease of working and colour. If I had complete freedom, my home would be made completely of ash with fumed quarter sawn oak highlights.


What are the benefits for you of being a member of the SFMA?

SFMA is a great group of people with a common interest in handmade furniture and design. It gives me a network of support and an opportunity to show my work in some great Scottish venues. It also allows me to meet makers with similar values and who think in the same way.


What would you say are the challenges facing craftspeople today?

I suspect the biggest challenge for furniture makers is finding the right place in the market to make a living and being fulfilled in that endeavour.

Many folk move into woodwork because of a passion for making and forming objects of their own choosing; because they don’t want a boss. Those are skills in themselves but the negotiation of life is in making a living and maintaining that passion to overcome the difficult bits and bumps in the road.


Why did you decide to become a furniture maker and what have you learned along the way?

My path into furniture started with encouragement from a mother who valued making as life skill. Two generations back distant family ran a rural carpentry business,  I grew up hearing stories from that world. I took to it at school and as an engineer in industry, maintained it as weekend relaxation and found it useful for furnishing my home.

Later in life I had the chance to start my own business, making my own designs and meeting people with a similar passion.

I have learnt that when a piece leaves the workshop it has a life of its own. It needs to stay looking beautiful and maintain its usefulness, so good design and finish is critical. A client is investing, the investment has to be worthwhile.


What are your sources of inspiration?

I am inspired by endeavour and successful risk taking. I admire Walter Gropius who started the Bauhaus after the war, living in a defeated nation. He had the vision and ability to deliver what was needed to break new bounds and be sustainable. We see Bauhaus teaching world-wide and admire its quality and vision although it has gone through many dips and troughs.


What’s your starting point in the design process?

The design process always starts with the need that the object is required to fulfil. This comes in many forms and does not have to be simply function and form. Sometimes it is developing a relationship with a material, something new and with the potential to solve problems. Finding a new glue or finish, for example, requires thoughts about where it is to be used and how strong it needs to be and then how you can test it to yourself.

Ultimately the design process is working towards a finished product acceptable in form and function and identifying how to make the components and fit them together. Have you heard the sad stories of tables which don’t fit fit into their intended home because the doorways are too narrow?


What piece of work are you most proud of?

It is difficult to say because each has a place in my collection. The chiffonier made entirely from yew showed me that I could build a satisfying design from a material which is most difficult to work. It also started me thinking more about design aesthetics. Segment 1 dining table proved that using engineering techniques I could make something big from solid wood and begin to think widely about modular design.

Also the piece I have just made working collaboratively with a ceramicist. I’m thrilled with solving new issues of making a light of both ceramic and wood.


What is the one item in your workshop that you couldn’t live without?

I love using my planes. I can sharpen them to a razor edge with a diamond stone and leather honing wheel. My router saves me a lot of effort and gives pinpoint accuracy.


Is there a particular technique you enjoy using in your work?

I love planing with a sharp edged plane, set very finely. The shavings peel off like butter and the plane does exactly what I want, even with the most difficult of grains.


Is there a piece you’ve always wanted to make but haven’t got around to yet?

Yes, but I don’t know what they are yet!


When you’re not making furniture, how do you like to spend your time?

We live in the countryside and have a lovely garden, which takes a bit of time to look after. Cooking and reading are relaxations, as is cycling for exercise. During lockdown we have stayed within a 5km limit so galleries and  the city have been out of bounds

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