“I believe we can enhance the quality of our lives by surrounding ourselves with objects that possess values beyond their function or aesthetic,’ professes Irish designer maker Joseph Walsh ‘Objects that possess intelligence in their creation, that one can interact with and that will stimulate senses each and every time one engages with them.’
A purveyor of unique handcrafted furniture pieces blurring the boundaries between art and function with sweeping, curvilinear wood forms, Walsh showcases conceptual ideas that draw on the undulating landscapes of his native Irish landscape challenging technical boundaries in the creation process.
Entirely self-taught, Walsh founded his County Cork studio and workshop in 1999, crafting limited edition and one-of-a-kind handmade pieces, and in 2015 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by University College Cork in recognition of his contribution to design.
Described by Wallpaper as ‘a master of sinuous forms carved and bent out of wood’, Walsh is a man who takes immense pride in the quality of his output; his intricate but grand-scale pieces are extraordinary examples of wood manipulated by an artist to produce unique collaborations between man and nature.
His impressive portfolio is packed with sculpted olive ash canopy beds that resemble natural sailboats; tangled chairs made from olive ash, copper and silk woven textile; round native yew dining tables balanced upon on enormous wooden garlic bulbs surrounded by a circle of curved chairs; an olive ash and suede two-seater recliner that could almost be mistaken for a wooden hammock; geometric cabinets crafted from ash, French walnut and glass.
With the help of an international team of supremely talented artisans, Walsh uses his workshop as a place to explore the properties of wood, and how it can be sympathetically used to create newer, bolder and more innovative structures. Experimental to the core, Walsh is obsessed with pushing boundaries, resolving technical challenges and overcoming the seemingly impossible to create woodwork that is not only functional but also aesthetically stimulating, stirring, emotive and beautiful. There is functional woodwork, and then there is form-first wooden art; Walsh sits firmly in the latter camp.
Though wood – namely olive ash, pearwood, French walnut, sycamore and yew – will always be his first love, Walsh is currently experimenting with alternative materials.
‘In the Lumenoria series I introduce resin to my palette of materials,’ he explains ‘These works are handcast resin surfaces over free-form wood sculptural bases. The resin is slowly handcast, allowing the liquid resin to respond to the wood form beneath, and the result is the creation of this sinuous, sensuous, undulating, organic form. ‘This new work continues to honour and reflect my guiding principle of allowing a piece to evolve and grow through the creation process rather than insist on a form or structure and results I believe, in truly innovative and provocative work.’
Images courtesy of Joseph Walsh and Sarah Myerscough Gallery, London. ‘Enignum Desk IV’, 2016, Olive Ash, 280 x 110 x 74 cm by Joseph Walsh. Photos by Andrew Bradley.