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Simon Yates

"freedom to improvise"

What do you make?

I’m known for my original one-off pieces of furniture, in a wide variety of timbers. I add other materials as appropriate – such as metals, or a glass top which shows off the form and fine details of the structure beneath. I also make sculptural pieces. I’ve been a furniture maker for nearly 30 years now, and this long experience gives me a varied and exciting knowledge of materials and techniques. Every piece is handmade in my studio just north of London, where I experiment, and fulfil a variety of commissions. I want my furniture to flow, to have a strong defined shape and to be appropriate for its environment.

Give us some examples

My Grace Jones side table is something of a showpiece. It won a prestigious Bespoke Guild Mark number 431 from the Furniture Maker’s Company. It’s performing what looks like an improbable balancing act, particularly when seen from the side. The solid oak top projects far beyond its curved leg, resting on an oak foot,  which is made of 14 solid ash laminates, tapered along their length so that their thickness diminishes as the leg rises and pierces the tabletop with wedged tenons. My Centipede bench has a seat of oak textured by scorching with a naked flame, resting on a mass of tapered legs in ash and stainless steel.

So what drives your work?

I love to experiment with materials and forms and this is what shapes my designs, which play with structure and balance. A variety of materials adds texture and interest. This intimate relationship with my materials gives me the freedom to improvise and to challenge preconceptions as each piece evolves.

And what are your inspirations?

Well, I often focus on a particular moment, evoking physical movement and change. I’m particularly interested in the impact of time and/or events on a person, or on an object or place.  Perhaps it’s because I come from a family of undertakers: at a very early age, I was made aware of the juxtaposition of mortality and life.  I formed the idea the idea that nothing is constant. This awareness of the fragility of human existence has led to a strong sense of fascination with and curiosity for life.

Any advice for others?

Just keep on experimenting and remain curious.

Simon Yates was a member of Design-Nation’s portfolio between 2014 and 2021.