Harry Morris and The Bower Woodworks project
The Bower is a not-for-profit environmental charity established about 20 years ago and dedicated to reducing useful waste heading to landfill. Household goods and building materials are collected for reuse from all over the greater Sydney region. Headed by Shane Orion Wiechnik, the Bower has a woodworking branch in Redfern that runs woodworking courses for Sydney community college as well as a tiny house building project. At the Bower Woodworks furniture is made and repaired and woodworking craft is promoted as a way to reduce waste.
The Bower Woodworks is currently hosting UK furniture maker as artist in residence for a six week period. Below Harry reflects on the piece he is making, the methods he is using as he highlights the value of reusing materials which are too valuable to waste. At the conclusion of the project Harry plans to produce a video that will document his experience
Reclaimed Timber Fuzei Sideboard Project
Words and photos: Harry T. Morris
The reclaimed timber Fuzei (a Japanese aesthetic concept) sideboard is a piece inspired by my recent Kōgei collection and the last few years spent studying historic craft both in the UK and in Japan. These skills where applied to see how I could design and make a piece of fine furniture using entirely donated, reclaimed materials at the Bower Reuse & Repair Centre.
My Kōgei collection of furniture (meaning hand crafted in Japanese) is inspired by Japanese traditional craft, discipline and philosophical concepts. Over the past two years have been researching and practising the use of hand tools and traditional techniques in furniture making. To explore this further I travelled to Japan to study Japanese historic craft first hand. I first studied under traditional carpenters (residential) before working and living with a Japanese furniture makers as well as visiting many other craftspeople all over Japan to help me really understand the discipline and craft.
My former education at West Dean college of arts and conservation in the UK showed me the importance of repairability in furniture making and how often this isn’t considered. Thus a large part of my design process is centred around construction methods that are not only strong but also long lasting and repairable.
This piece takes inspiration from the simplicity of what is considered ‘beauty’ in Japanese design and philosophy. The straight, clean lines, the simple sliding doors and the application of texture in use of fabric in the doors has stemmed from Japanese influences. The sideboard features half blind dovetails, mortise and tenon doors and tapered sliding dovetails – all of which have been chosen and applied to areas of the piece to allow for timber movement and provide as much strength as possible. Reversible adhesives and repairable finishes such as hide glue and shellac are used alongside entirely hand cut joinery.
The carcase is comprised of reclaimed Australian eucalypt, a kind of timber I have never encountered or worked with before. It is very dense, hard and unpredictable. On top of that, I am also challenged with considering the careful use of defects in the timber, such as the many oxidised nail holes or marks made in the wood from its previous life. These defects will not be entirely avoided; I believe these can be used to tell a story of the history of that piece of wood. Careful selection of timber and a respect for the characteristics of each piece of wood is important to me in any process.
In Sydney, and everywhere in the world, we see a huge amount of waste. Things that are used once or not even used at all and thrown away. The idea of using these materials that are heading to landfill in this piece of furniture is an effort to raise awareness of the concept of waste reduction and reuse. I feel as though if more people understood and appreciated the material world around them there would be less of an inclination for people to waste so much. I want people to give possessions a value other that monetary – to consider the construction and materials the make up the object.
The Bower Woodworks is located at 107 Redfern St, Redfern, NSW. Learn more at www.bower.org.au
Learn more about Harry T. Morris at www.htmorris.com