Design Guild Mark and inspiration for the original pi stool...

Design Guild Mark and inspiration for the original pi stool...

Recently I was very pleased and proud to have been awarded the Design Guild Mark for the pi stool by the Worship Company of Furniture Makers. During the process and interview for this I was asked about the origin or inspiration for the pi stool.  My usual response to this question is that it came about from an idea to make a dining table based on the beautiful alpine bridges by Robert Maillart, which is true. The table never got made but the pi stool did and you can see the silhouette of a concrete alpine bridge in the stools. The work of the great Danish chair maker Hans Wegner also had significant input into the design development.

Recently I have been revisiting the work of James Krenov and George Nakashima in particular for inspiration on what to do next seeing as the pi series is pretty much complete. I have come to realise that there is another profound influence in the evolution of the pi stools, that is of course the great George Nakashima, I hadn't realised this until recently. His Grass seat stool from the 1940's and his Milkhouse table are in the mix too (see below).

When I started furniture making back in the mid 1980's the plan was to be a designer maker. I made ends meet by restoring antiques, which is  fancy way of saying I fixed broken furniture. I was fortunate enough to come across the books of James Krenov and George Nakashima early on in my career and they still influence me to this day. More George Nakashima than James Krenov, I don't think I have the neurotic intensity that Krenov seems to display, in his books at least.

Hearing Mira Nakashima describe her father's philosophy I realise that my own thoughts coincide with his on many levels.  His attitude to the dehumanising effect of our modern society and separation from nature that our hectic lives entail. Environmental concerns. The lack of interest in mass production, CNC machines in particular (me). The very personal connection with the piece that hand making brings.

So where to go from here? My early years fixing broken furniture have given me a good insight into furniture history, methods of construction, how and why furniture breaks. I still remember the thrill of feeling the handplane marks on the side of a chest of drawers made in the late 1600's and realising that the last person to be aware of this was probably the maker. So traces of the making left in the work are very important to me. I am planning some new pieces inspired by George Nakashima's work, possibly too derivative of his work to begin with but we shall see. There will be a strong influence from Shaker furniture too. 

So watch this space.

- Simon