In the fourth installment of our studio series with Inigo, we visit the Sussex workshop of furniture maker, Alfred Newall, whose contemporary take on antique bobbin furniture is taking the crafted interiors scene by storm.
Having trained at the Building Crafts College, Alfred joined Plain English Design for two years while setting up his own practice. Eleven years later, business is booming and the zeitgeist for bobbin (or spool) furniture continues to gain momentum.
Bobbin turning uses a hand tool called a lathe to rotate lengths of wood while simultaneously shaping a series of knobs. The bulbous design – a style which dates back to the late 17th century – can be widely found ornamenting chair frames, table legs and bed posts. Alfred’s contemporary approach simplifies this historic design and firmly modernises its iconic shape. Finishes range from tones of natural, limed and ebonised oak, to vibrant pops of primary colour in red, green, yellow and blue.
Alfred has worked with The New Craftsmen to expand his wonderful Bobbin collection, which now includes mirrors and lamps adorned with shades that are hand-painted by his wife, decorative artist and set designer, Tess Newall.
At the heart of it all is a commitment to meticulously handcrafted furniture. Alfred’s focus on quality, functionality and longevity are the guiding principles of his practice, and require great knowledge of the craft, and skill, to achieve. Each piece is unique and celebrates the individual grain pattern on each bobbin round.
As well as working with The New Craftsmen to create pieces of solid craftsmanship that stand the test of time, Alfred is currently restoring a medieval cottage in Sussex. Making entirely bespoke furniture for his new-old family home has been a dream project.
‘It's lovely to make things for one's own family and to know it will be part of our lives together for years to come.’
To understand more about commissioning bespoke pieces from Alfred, please email [email protected] and explore our current Bobbin collections here. We also invite you to read Alfred’s Q&A, in full, below.
What motivates you to make?
I love to see my drawings and inspiration become reality. Working with wood is always exciting and unpredictable as the natural material is so varied. Making is a lovely process, demanding and satisfying in equal measure. Once things have circled a few times in my head, or even on paper, I have a real urge to start making.
What and/or who are you most inspired or influenced by?
I am especially influenced by the arts and crafts designers like Ernest Gimson, Edwin Lutyens and Ambrose Heal. I also love early oak furniture and unattributed rural crafts. The core values are a truth to the material, simplicity in design and quality in production, things I always aspire to practice myself.
What is your unique approach to your craft?
At the moment I am focusing on work produced through turning and lathes. It's something I haven’t had lots of experience with but am really enjoying the versatility of the technique and discovering lots of new possibilities.
What is your defining or proudest moment as a maker so far?
Setting up my own practice, and directing my focus towards making furniture with functionality and longevity at the core, has been a big achievement.
What is your dream project?
I am currently restoring a medieval cottage in Sussex and making furniture for it. It's lovely to make things for one's own family and to know it will be part of our lives together for years to come.