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‘Thinking Big’ with Ash & Plumb

Ash & Plumb’s solo exhibition Archetypes goes live online on 22 Nov and then can also be viewed at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh from 2 – 23 December 2021. Barnaby Ash and Dru Plumb have recently also been scaling up their practice in all kinds of way, so what better to time to ask them to contribute to our blog theme ‘Thinking Big’.

Design-Nation asked: Please briefly describe your practice and what it is that you design and/or make.

Ash & Plumb answered: Ash & Plumb is a Sussex-based woodworking studio created by myself (Barnaby Ash) & Dru Plumb. We specialise in crafting sculptural forms and functional works from locally and sustainably sourced British timber through the traditional craft of woodturning.

D-N: Where do you work and what are your most essential and.or valued tools?

A & P: We are currently working out of part of a greenhouse at McBean’s Orchids nursery in Cooksbridge, East Sussex. It’s hard to narrow down to just a few tools but the lathe itself, the chisels and gouges used for turning, and the machinery required to quickly sharpen them would be the most essential. Add in a chainsaw and there’s little we can’t create from what we already do!

D-N: Tell us about your most recent large project: how did it come about? What did you create and where/for who?

A & P: Our latest and largest project to date is our upcoming solo exhibition with the Scottish Gallery this December. We’ve previously shown with them as part of a group show in late 2020 which went well, and they invited us back for a larger show this year. For the exhibition, titled ‘Archetypes’, we have created over 70 pieces in total, from some of the smallest vessels we have created, to by far the largest ones ever.

D-N: Is this project typical of your practice? Have you done anything else at this scale?

A & P: Whilst we hope to do more of this sort of work in the future, this is the largest project we have worked on yet. With the show opening in the very near future, we are excited to see how it looks in the Scottish Gallry’s space. That said, earlier in 2021 we had the privilege of working on a commission of 37 vessels for a private customer, at a beautiful living space just off Portobello Road in London. It was a very enjoyable project to work on and while this is a relatively new way for us to work, we very much hope to continue growing and working on other projects at scale.

D-N: What are the challenges, and what gives you satisfaction about working at large scale?

A & P: For us working in the context of maximising a living or gallery space brings the challenge of curation: it’s one thing to create a singular piece but to curate a selection of works together that tell a striking visual narrative is quite challenging. As such that is what can be the most satisfying part of the process, seeing a concept fully realised within a space.

D-N: Does ‘thinking big’ require a different mindset in the development phase? Is it more or less demanding than other work?

A & P: I guess it really depends on your personality: it definitely requires a different mindset and in many ways it’s more demanding but then for us it offers a lot more in the way of stimulation and excitement so that also becomes a motivating factor. But it’s important to fully think an idea through before you commit to it on any kind of larger scale.

D-N: Do you have a dream project, place, process, or material that you’re longing to try?

A & P: We’d love to continue scaling up our gallery work, both in the context of larger individual pieces but also coming up with other innovative ways to play with turned elements at scale. But on a more left field note, we have also been wanting to explore lost wax glass casting when we have the chance. We could turn the forms in wax on our lathe and it would be a fun way of using turning in a different context…but we will see if we get round to trying it!

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Laura Jacometti


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