In 2012, while working as a tattoo artist in Brighton, Jason embarked on a chairmaking course that gave him an epiphany. He switched careers and, today, with his eye for unique design and a passion for using locally sourced materials, Jason handcrafts traditional Windsor chairs from a workshop at the end of his garden. Here, as he tells H&A, he likes to add a touch of the Orient to his creations…
Tell us about your background
It’s primarily art based – I’ve always made things. I studied at Brighton Polytechnic in the late 80s, and afterwards spent some years travelling, mostly in the chaos of India, where I started to paint on a larger scale. I then had a career as a tattoo artist for 20 years in Brighton up until 2017, when Hopesprings Chairs was born.
How did you discover the art of chairmaking?
I made my first chair in 2012 on a course at Westonbirt Arboretum in Tetbury. I have always loved woodwork and wanted to try something new. This course popped up and I loved every minute – I can still recall the deep sense of satisfaction on completing the final piece.
What inspires your work?
Windsor chairmaking has such a rich tradition – it has roots all over the world. I’m influenced by Japanese furniture and European folk art. I love the creative process and drawing the designs. There’s
a limitation of working on a functional object – the chair has to feel good to sit in.
Do you take inspiration from other makers?
There’s a strong community of chairmakers (made closer by Instagram) and we all bounce off each other. I’m particularly drawn to the work of Curtis Buchanan – he has a terrific eye and is hugely skilled.
Tell us about your process
I start with freshly felled timber, and I split the logs into the component parts. These get turned on a pole lathe and made into legs, stretchers, arm and back posts. Spindles are shaved using a drawknife and seats carved using an adze scorp and a travisher. Curved pieces are steamed and bent onto forms. The chair is then assembled. I like my seats to have a strong, sculptural silhouette, so I paint and oil them. I use locally felled ash and the seats are made from ash, elm, oak or anything that catches my eye.
Could you describe your workshop for us?
My studio is built in the leafy depths of my garden. It’s comprised of a small timber frame and an outdoor timber space, where I tend to work in the summer. I built it myself using a lot of recycled glazing and timber. It’s quite cluttered, but organised. There are chair parts everywhere, and myriad tools hanging on the walls, but my lathe and shave horse are outside. The workshop is surrounded by large mature trees, and there is a lot of birdsong. I like everything about it – it’s my space.
What are you working on?
I’m building an asymmetric table for a friend and I’m developing a ‘kompakt’ desk chair. I’m also starting to experiment with finishes.
Any plans for the future?
I’d like to teach more courses – they’re developing well and are really fun yet challenging to host. I want to continue to make beautiful chairs that are comfortable and strong, and I’d love to take on an apprentice when the time is right – but I don’t want to turn into a factory! Bespoke, creative and elegant furniture – that’s what I want to make.
You can see more of Jason’s handmade chairs and other pieces at hopespringschairs.com and instagram.com/hopespringschairs