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Joseph Walsh: How to make art with wooden furniture?


Joseph Walsh, now 33, has developed a reputation for sinuous, ethereal furniture made out of thin layers of wood. Сombining art and craftsmanship, the form of each shape is dictated by the existing qualities found in the wood.

Remarkably, Walsh is self-taught. He left school aged 12 due to an illness, but says, “I don’t like to talk about it. I don’t like it to be the main part of the story.” The misfortune of missing school brought him into his craft. His grandfather, James Duignan, gave him his first tools and taught him the basics of fret work and joinery. His first finished pieces were a cabinet and a bay window seat. “With developing the making skill and with each technique that I would master I started becoming more ambitious,” he says. He speaks in a true West Cork brogue.

Formation&Layering in Joseph Walsh wooden furniture - 1

Instead of overriding the material and forcing a particular end result, Walsh works with the wood, stripping it into thin layers and moulding it into usable furniture. The free form compositions are a collaboration between the natural divisions in the wood grain, and Walsh’s reconfiguration into functional items.

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You may also be interested in: Top 4 best furniture pieces ever

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Joseph works mainly with ash, an indigenous timber. “In my late teens I was already looking at bent forms, steam bending and laminating,” he says. “When I was 16 I came across John Makepeace [a British furniture maker], and that captivated my imagination. I was seeing forms I had never seen before. His work was so wildly new yet so earthy.” At 19 he founded his design house. In 2008 he broke the international scene with a solo show in New York.

Walsh seeks inspiration in nature, in the patterns of growth and evolution – this has influenced his approach to design and process allowing the pieces to evolve and reveal themselves.

Formation&Layering in Joseph Walsh wooden furniture -3

‘Enignum chair III’, 2011
image © andrew bradley

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You may also be interested in: Furniture with soul – Master Woodworkers and their craft

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Formation&Layering in Joseph Walsh wooden furniture -2

‘Enignum table II’, 2009 top view
image © andrew bradley

Formation&Layering in Joseph Walsh wooden furniture -5

The Enignum V Chair

Formation&Layering in Joseph Walsh wooden furniture -4

Enignum Table I

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