Assembling the structure at St John's school

07.04.15 | visits & production lines

Days nine and ten of the Visiting School have been written up by George Sinclair, a graduate of Edinburgh University who’s currently living in Lewes where he works in practice and co-runs the community organisation Making Lewes:

Day 9 marked the beginning of some exceptionally nice weather. Some of us were lucky enough to be working outside, soaking up the rays. Whilst others beavered away in the workshop continuing the cutting and sanding, soaking up the sawdust and varnish fumes. Assembling on site continued in earnest. With lattice pieces being screwed together and moved into location, the form and scale of the building begins to take shape.

In the evening we had the pleasure of a lecture from artist and educationalist, Richard Wentworth CBE, who was head of the Ruskin School of Art at Oxford and later the Head of Sculpture at the RCA. Through a series of images from his recent trip to Cuba, Richard presented his observations of the built fabric and material landscape, making connections with the wider political and social environment.

As always the day ended with a feast and much animated conversation. Clem and Jia prepared a delicious sea bass dinner, which was followed up by the quite considerable remnants of cheese and cake from the previous night, courtesy of Paul. There seems to be an endless supply of cheese at Grymsdyke farm!

Day 10 and we are blessed with another bright, sunny day. The morning was set aside for our visit to local furniture makers Ercol. Now based down the road in Princess Risborough, they have been manufacturing furniture in the area since 1920. Whilst they have outsourced some of their production oversees they still maintain a UK factory which produces high end and bespoke furniture using solid woods including beach, ash and elm. As with the brickworks we visited it was fascinating to see the various aspects of the production process, which combine the latest in high tech CNC technology with handmade techniques dating nearly a century. Of particular interest to everyone was the steam bending area where we were given a demonstration of how the steamed timber is bent into various complex curved forms, some of the formwork dating back more than 50 years. We joined for the tour by Chris Pierce (Director of the AA’s Visiting School program) and Valerie Bennet (the AA’s photographer), who came over to the Farm afterwards to have a look at what we’ve been up to.

After lunch it was business as usual, and the production line becomes more efficient each day! Chi Lam and myself continued working on the finger joints. Working with the Tai Chi master inspires a calm and precise approach, which is absolutely necessary for the art of finger jointing!

Thanks to Richard, Jane, Chris and Valerie for visiting us – and for Dylan Freeth at Ercol for a great tour!