Angus Ross is exhibiting with Craft Scotland
at Gallery 3.3, Saatchi Gallery, London SW3
Thursday 28 February – Sunday 3 March
Angus make things because he finds the process immensely satisfying.
However when making a speculative one off piece for Collect it is special as there is a much more freedom and a looser process than with the commissioned work. Angus calls this “sketching with wood”.
Our workshop and woodland are on the banks of the River Tay and rivers are a great source of inspiration. Historically and psychologically rivers connect rural places to the wider world and they have a unique energy, movement and light. For this bench Angus turned his thoughts to the River Spey – famous across the globe for whisky and salmon fishing.
Over half the distilleries in Scotland are in Speyside in the north east of the country. The river and it’s tributaries provide plentiful water required for whisky (both for the drink and for the cooling required in the process) and the surrounding fertile plains produce the barley. Speyside was also a remote area with easy access to the sea which will have made it attractive to the illicit distillers and smugglers in past centuries.
The Spey is the fastest flowing river in Scotland but is also shallow with a gravel river bed that makes it perfect for wild salmon and it is widely considered to be the best salmon fishing river in the world. The Spey cast is a particular technique used in fly fishing to allow a fly to be cast a long distance onto fast flowing water.
The Spey Bench started with the physical process of steam-bending – literally coaxing and pushing planks of steamed wood over formers to create the desired line. The elements were then traditionally jointed but this process was quite complex due to the angles involved. The form of the bench evokes the flowing river, the angle of the rod and the loops of line formed during fly casting.
Angus is interested in dynamic flowing lines and the interface between a person and a piece of furniture. When nestled on this bench the interface is keenly felt. It is also a lovely place to savour a glass of whisky.
Dr. Mhairi Maxwell, Assistant Curator at V&A Dundee has written a lovely article
Modern Alchemists at Collect 2019
“The makers in the Craft Scotland showcase at Collect 2019 are the alchemists of our time; carving, casting and creating new traditions, ideas of value and material possibilities across all disciplines. This showcase is craft and design at the boundaries and should not be missed!
Drawing on a range of different influences and fusing together very different techniques, all 15 makers represented are working to create striking new forms and materialities which deliberately defy definition, including furniture maker Angus Ross and his super-natural use of folding and steam bending……”
Read the article
Local ash (Fraxinus excelsior) was used for the bench. Angus likes to use ash as it is usually disregarded for fine furniture making – but considered an excellent firewood- hence its name. Ash is considered a plain wood aesthetically but our Scottish wood often includes a deep pinky tone referred to as olive ash. Angus finds ash to be the best wood for steam-bending.
Ash is an important woodland and non-woodland tree with an important ecological niche which is currently threatened by a fungal disease, “ash die back”, causing the loss of many trees. In a week, when the potential catastrophic loss of insects is being considered, it may be worth a moment to pause and reflect on the complexity of tree habitats.
“Ash has a unique position as it creates a nutrient-rich, rapidly degradable litter …which contributes to the high pH of the soil compared to that typical of other UK tree species. Furthermore, the ash canopy has high light penetration. Such ecological functions create ash-specific assemblages of species, both above- and below-ground, thus contributing to, and enhancing, UK biodiversity.
1,058 species are associated with ash trees: (from smallest to largest numerically): birds, mammals, bryophytes (mosses, liverworts and hornworts), fungi, vascular plants, invertebrates and lichens. These species may utilise the ash trees themselves, and/or the surrounding habitat created by ash trees. Out of the 1,058 species, 44 were ‘obligate’ ash-associated species, in that they have only been found on living or dead ash trees. These obligate species include fungi, invertebrates and lichens. Sixty-two further species were highly associated with ash, and include fungi, lichen, bryophyte and invertebrate species. The dependence of at least 106 species on the ash tree and the habitat these trees create, demonstrates the importance of the ash trees’ contribution to UK biodiversity.”
Lawrence, R. & Cheffings, C.M. (Editors) 2014. A summary of the impacts of ash dieback on UK biodiversity, including the potential for long-term monitoring and further research on management scenarios. JNCC Report No.501
What this means is that if we lose all ash trees we will lose 44 species and 62 more will be threatened. Some trees are proving resistant to disease so we are unlikely to lose all ash however they provide a similar niche to elm which was almost been wiped out. Therefore it is easy to see how insects and other species can be dramatically reduced – almost without most people noticing.
Research is in progress to understand tree diseases and how to best support small mixed woodlands and large scale forestry. In general the tree environment is improved by reducing over-crowding – this is what we do in our woodland.
Modern forestry with mixed species and mixed age of trees is more likely to increase resilience than our traditional monoculture forestry in the UK.