On the sofa with

Harriet Speed

July 09, 2018
Rycotewood Graduate

We caught up with Harriet Speed, recent graduate of Rycotewood Furniture, at the third year Furniture Design & Make students’ end-of-year show ‘Branching Out’ at Heal’s on Tottenham Court Road. Harriet also runs This Girl Makes, a blog that celebrates women in craft and design.

Tell us a little bit about yourself…

I am a designer maker who combines illustration with a love for making with natural materials. My work asserts value on curiosity and play through the objects we use, as I strive to redefine traditional archetypes of furniture in a playful and honest way. The workshops I facilitate, and the public speaking I do, provide opportunities to pass on practical skills and knowledge, as well as opening up new channels for discussion. My enthusiasm and wide skill-set have rewarded me with many exciting opportunities, e.g. attending the 2017 LINLEY Summer School, and shortlisted for the Wood Awards 2017 Student Designer category.

What inspired your blog This Girl Makes?

I started the blog in October 2016, after starting my course at Rycotewood. I found myself one of few women on the course and began to question why. I had also gone through my entire design education at school and college without having a single craftswoman as a role model. After stewarding at London Design Fair in September 2016, I spoke to lots of female designers and makers and pitched the idea of the blog to them. The feedback I received was really positive and I thought that if no one else is going to spotlight the amazing female talent in this industry, then I will. Since then the blog has developed a whole visual identity and is due to become a printed publication in October 2018. It now also has an events program with two making projects available.

You had two pieces on show at “Branching Out”, what can you tell us about them?

The design of Corkey’s Cabinet is a playful interpretation of the traditional collector’s cabinet, which follows on from a research project entitled: ‘A Maker’s Guide to Grief: how does craft provide solace during bereavement?’ My response provides users with a chance to retain memories through the ritual of collecting objects. The main design features are: the drawer ‘hand-le’ detail, which invites the user to engage with the piece, the hand cut dovetail joints on both the carcass and the accompanying collector’s box, and the cork-lined display drawer. Made in quarter-sawn English white ash and stained maple veneer, and finished with raw osmo oil.

HINNY was shortlisted for the Wood Awards 2017. It is an interactive seat that encourages children and adults to read together; it hopes to revive libraries by creating a more playful space. The zoomorphic form encourages the user to interact with the piece, meaning there is no right or wrong way to sit on this chair. The scalloped backrest demonstrates the beauty of natural wood grain through an ergonomic detail, which is also enhanced by reclaimed patterned paper decoration, to show how the seat can be customised. This is also possible through the upholstered pad, which makes use of pressed woolen fabric. The design explores a subtle contrast between soft curves and angular shaping. The chair’s form encourages users to sit in a position of their choice, so that stopping to read a book becomes both a physical and conscious decision. The use of solid English white ash allows traditional craft methods to be used, such as woodturning and jointing, however the resulting effect is approachable and modern.

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