27 February – 1 March 2020
Somerset House, London.
Collect is the most exciting gallery presented show of international contemporary craft held in the UK each year. For Angus it is a unique opportunity to challenge himself in design, material and technique. For Collect 2020 he is presenting the Sutherland Chair and Sutherland Cabinet inspired by Scottish vernacular furniture, the dramatic landscape of Sutherland and rituals around whisky drinking.
Angus is part of the Craft Scotland showcase along with seven exceptional makers working in silver, metal, textiles, wood and ceramics. To read more visit the Craft Scotland website here.
Collect is organised by the British Crafts Council, bringing together galleries presenting museum quality contemporary craft and design from over 25 nations. For more about Collect see here.
The Sutherland Collection is inspired by place, function and pushing the boundaries of his craft practise.
We love the dramatic landscape and cultural heritage of Sutherland and spent time walking in the North West Scotland Geopark last year. The landscape is the result of a unique geology that reveals what Robert Macfarlane calls deep-time. The dramatic sandstone island mountains (like Suilven above) have tops of hard weather resistant Cambrian Quartsite which have resisted erosion by glaciers whilst the surrounding sandstone has been eroded away during ice ages. The Torridon sandstone was formed from river sediment one billion years ago when simple life first began. Evidence of that life is found as fossils, in the sandstone.
Other rocks in the area are even older. Lewisian Gneiss rock was formed 3 billion years ago and as the earth was formed 4.5 billion years ago these are amongst the oldest rocks on earth. The Gneiss rock started as molten lava which was later thrust deep into the earth where it melted again and metamorphosed into the hard Gneiss. Incredible forces have moved this rock back to the surface where it has resisted the erosion by glaciers which swept away most of the softer rock.
The study of geology in the area has helped understand the formation of the earth’s physical landscape over billions of years. Super-continents and vast mountain ranges form, drift apart and erode away. Torridon sandstone started south of the equator became mountains higher than the Himalaya’s, then drifted apart into Norway, North America, Ireland and North-West Scotland to be eroded by ice ages.
Trees, animals and people only appeared in North West Scotland in the last 10,000 years. The Vikings appeared in Sutherland around 1,300 years impacting language, design and culture in the area. We saw evidence of this when when visiting ‘Am Fasgadh’ last year. We were granted privileged access to this remarkable collection, of over 10,000 items relating to highland life between 1700 to 1950’s. We visited with our friend and furniture historian David Jones, previously lecturer in Scottish vernacular furniture at St Andrew’s university. Angus liked a chair with a parallel back rail, finely spoke shaved spindles and a shaped seat. David knew that the chair came from North West Scotland and the design could be traced back to the Vikings. Other chairs from Sutherland, were very simply made for croft houses, using collected, naturally bent sticks. Other chairs of interest included Bible Chairs with little built in cupboards and shelves. The collection at Am Fasgadh has all sorts of objects used for preparing food (eg milk churns below right), tools for farming, for making textiles and clothing.
How inspiration effects a design is a nebulous thing, but expect to see a monumental chair which evokes a glaciated landscape with island mountains, but also has a comfortable shaped seat, folding shelves and storage.
The collection is made in local Scottish wood. Vernacular furniture makers in the past used local materials out of necessity but we use it to be sustainable. Thinning our over-crowded woodland improves the woodland, and by using Scottish hardwoods we help create a demand so that each precious tree can continue to lock in it’s carbon even when felled, as it will be milled and prepared for furniture making rather than firewood.
The Sutherland Drinks Cabinet has a lift off tray in oak and laburnum. The laburnum was an ornamental tree in an Aberfeldy garden which was gifted to the workshop after it had to be felled. After many years of drying we have cross cut the branches into laburnum oysters. The contrasting dark heart wood has a lighter edge and sometimes used to provide an attractive surface pattern in fancy furniture of the 19th C. We have added a contemporary twist by laser cutting the oysters into a tessellated pattern, then selected, matched and patched to produce a swirling pattern on both sides of the tray. The handles are bent oak.
The cabinet itself is made using our signature slats and beads method of constructing elliptical cabinets. The slats are characterful pippy oak and the beads and structure are in darker fumed oak. When oak is exposed to ammonia fumes the tannin reacts and makes the wood darker – this is very different to a surface stain. The handles are turned laburnum wood. This is very attractive but also a little joke as the whole laburnum tree is poisonous if ingested. The cabinet opens into an unexpectedly light interior with a skeletal framework, glass shelves, mirrors and lights.
In the 19th C a different species of laburnum was available (Laburnum alpinum) and this very dark wood was used in fine furniture making and for bagpipe drones. It was replaced with imported African Blackwoods and now seems impossible to find. If anyone has some Laburnum alpinum that we can use please let us know!
This year for the first time Collect will be in Somerset House. An iconic neo-classical building on the River Thames and now a vibrant arts centre. We had several years presenting work in the Origin pavilion in the courtyard and we have previously exhibited in one of the beautiful rooms with Crafted: Makers of the Exceptional.
To buy tickets Collect 2020 please go to
If you are planning to visit please get in touch.