Gareth Neal is an East London-based furniture designer who through material inventiveness and curiosity, has helped to shape a new era in contemporary British craft. Gareth is passionate about honouring ‘people, process and place’ working collaboratively to champion the use of indigenous materials and traditional processes. Gareth Neal’s studio produces a variety of furniture pieces including seating, cabinetry and sculptural artworks all with a focus on sustainability and respect to the environment.
Gareth Neal is an East London-based furniture designer who, through material inventiveness and curiosity, has helped to shape a new era in contemporary British craft. Gareth is passionate about honouring people, process and place, working collaboratively to champion the use of indigenous materials and traditional processes. Gareth’s studio produces a variety of furniture pieces including seating, cabinetry and sculptural artworks, all with a focus on sustainability and respect to the environment.
Gareth Neal has created numerous pieces for The New Craftsmen, including the Brodgar Chair. Inspired by the Orkney chair, a traditional piece from North East Scotland, the Brodgar is an exploration of materiality and unique processes of the British Isles. Gareth is committed to using contemporary design to elevate heritage craft skills and finds beauty in the simplicity of detail. These authentic skills, and forms of the English vernacular, are evident throughout all areas of his practice.
1. What motivates you to make?
I enjoy the process of putting well made, well designed, objects into the world in the hope that they promote interesting discussion and dialogue as well as lasting for generations. I also enjoy the prospect of collaborating with other makers, designers and craftspeople and learning from a variety of traditional craft skills – whether that be Windsor chair making, trug making or traditional wattle and daub; the authentic skills and forms of the English vernacular are great motivators and can be seen throughout my practice and ethos.
2. What and/or who are you most inspired or influenced by?
My childhood was very magical. My dad is an archaeologist and every summer was spent on Roman archaeological digs, in and around the spoil heaps, finding remains of Roman pottery that the diggers missed. As a teenager I would get a small pay packet as a volunteer on site, uncovering skeletons or digging wells. This amazing opportunity to look back in time at objects has provided me with a unique respect for history and ancient forms of craft. I’m especially inspired by the hands that made these things, but also by new manufacturing technologies that can progress craft for our contemporary society.
3. What is your unique approach to your craft, and how have you honed your skills?
I definitely work from an idea, and then from a design. Combining the principles of simplicity and honesty, I seek to find beauty in the details. Using contemporary design to elevate heritage craft skills, my aim is to create practical and functional pieces made from quality local materials. I’m someone who’s trying to get the wood to do what I want and utilise certain aspects of its natural, physical properties. Some people get hypnotised by the timber itself, whereas I want to be in control of it.
4. What is your defining or proudest moment as a maker so far?
I have two pieces which now sit within the permanent collection of The Victoria & Albert museum – one of them being the Brodgar Occasional chair created with Orkney furniture maker, Kevin Gauld, for The New Craftsmen. I have also exhibited Internationally from The Museum of Art and Design in New York to MAK in Vienna and the museum of art and science in Sydney Australia.
5. What is your dream project?
My dream project is to be invited to do a solo exhibition at MOMA.
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