Richard Woods is the British artist and designer behind the big, cartoony, painted wood grain furniture for HAY and Established & Sons, and the forest-themed 'Tree Trunk' ceramics at Wrong for Hay. His latest installation, for the current Folkestone Triennial, consists of a series of six mini bungalows dotted around the landscape in unusual locations. Here he talks to DesignFizz about architecture, furniture and his love for wood.
BY CLAIRE BINGHAM
Growing up, did you always have an affinity for making things?
Fishing was a big thing in my childhood. My dad was always preparing to go fishing and I remember being into making the fishing floats. They were shaped using sandpaper out of balsa wood and then painted on the top with bright colours. The bottoms were always painted with Rustins black satin paint.
What did you study?
I studied sculpture at Winchester School of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art in London. I have always been a ‘maker’ and hands-on. Looking back at what I made as a student, it was always large. It always involved lots of wood and lots of paint, so maybe nothing much has changed since then!
How would you describe your style?
I think my work is always a cartoon. This allows it to sit physically within the real world while appearing to be visually separate from it. The works are sometimes interactive (floors, furniture). Sometimes they are ‘don’t touch!’ (sculptures and paintings). Whether you can pick them up or they are just for looking at, I think they play equally with our notions of taste and class – and hopefully have a sense of humour.
ABOVE: The new 'Wrongwoods' collection for Established & Sons, 2017
BELOW: 'Tree Trunk' vases for Wrong for HAY, 2015
ABOVE: 'Bench Press' seating for Established & Sons, 2009
What unites your projects?
After studying sculpture at the Slade, I worked as a carpenter and general builder for about seven years. That was during the early 90s and the whole world seemed to be laying laminate flooring (and I seemed to be laying most of it!). My work is a fusion of what I experienced at college and then the work I did to earn money when I left. I would laminate floors during the day and then found myself printing my own versions of wood patterns in the studio at night.
What materials intrigue you?
What’s your art/design ethos?
I’m interested in the spaces where art, design and architecture meet. There used to be an unthinking mantra that art and design somehow needed to be separated out. This was enthusiastically adopted by commercial galleries because it’s a handy way of keeping art more expensive. It’s a dogma that’s been harmful to visual arts, so if I have an ethos of any type, it would be to keep these worlds close and not separate them.
ABOVE: Woods' mini 'Holiday Home' bungalows are dotted around the coastal town of Folkestone for the fourth Folkestone Triennial, a wry comment on second home ownership and the UK's housing crisis
What inspired you to take part in the Folkestone Triennial?
I visited the site and became excited by an idea that I felt would resonate locally and nationally. (Click here to see our post on the Folkestone Triennial).
What do you reckon is the solution to holiday homes and their effect on villages?
Build more wooden houses that are heated with wood-burning stoves.
Any other recent projects?
I am making a new public artwork commissioned by Birmingham's Eastside Projects and Banbury Council. The work involves hundreds of replica houses, copied from a nearby housing estate. Our tiny model houses will be attached to a canopy of trees in a small wood near the estate. The idea was to give the houses the best back gardens that a house could ever possibly have.
ABOVE: New designs created with Sebastian Wrong for Established & Sons' 'Wrongwoods' collection include the vibrant 'Palm Springs' dining table (top), in a sunny five-colour palette inspired by the Californian city, and a low level monochrome/grey sideboard and dining table
We have been working on some new tables with UK designer Sebastian Wrong. Our collaboration, which has been developing for 10 years now, is called ‘Wrongwoods’. Previewed at 2017's recent London Design Festival, they're the first new products we've made with Established & Sons for five years, so it will be really interesting to see what the world makes of them.
What’s currently exciting you in design or style?
dRMM's wooden pier in Hastings is great. It’s a beautiful big open space – good for running around. I love that they’ve managed to avoid all the usual, miserable retail opportunities and it makes you aware of the fantastic expanse of open sea.
Where or how do you find inspiration?
Walking in woods or listening to live music. We live near Epping Forest, so I can get out and hug a tree pretty regularly, and I try to see some live music at least every couple of weeks. It’s one of the luxuries of living in London. Last week we were lucky enough to catch Deerhoof, which was truly inspirational.
Where’s on your travel wish list?
Anywhere with a big forest. There's a plan to take my kids over to Scandinavia pretty soon. I think we’ll find some big forests there.