Bridport & West Dorset News, Views, Videos & Curiosities

Dorset maker Guy Martin opens up for Dorset Art Weeks

THE SCUPLTOR and furniture maker Guy Martin is taking part in Dorset Art Weeks every day between Saturday, May 26 and Sunday, June 10. To mark the occasion here is a piece about him first published in 2002 in a handsome little booklet produced as part of a project called TM1 (short for tenminusone). TM1 featured nine artists based in West Dorset, each of whom had a little essay written about them by Sara Hudston, although her name didn’t appear.

The scheme (as far as I can remember) had two aims. First, to try to promote the careers of individual artists. Second, to improve the economy of West Dorset by showing it to be an attractive, creative place – somewhere worth visiting and worth doing business.

The scheme was funded by West Dorset District Council, South West Arts, and the South West of England Regional Development Agency.

The whole project has now been almost entirely forgotten, and the TM1 booklets are extraordinarily rare pieces of printed ephemera.

Now, clearly I’m biased, as I’m married to Sara Hudston, but it’s long seemed to me that her short essays were excellent pieces of work that deserve to be re-published and read.

The first piece to reappear on this site was about Amanda Wallwork. Next up, after Guy Martin, will be Carolyne Kardia, who is also taking part in this year’s Dorset Art Weeks. 

Parnham College, incidentally, was just outside Beaminster. It was set up by the furniture maker John Makepeace, who now lives in Beaminster itself and, yes, is also taking part in this year’s Dorset Art Weeks. In fact, he pretty much started them, if I remember right, but that is another story. Jonathan Hudston

Guy Martin: A “beautiful thriftiness”

Good design should serve the needs of humankind and the interests of the environment, believes furniture maker Guy Martin.

Using renewable local materials and ecologically sound methods of manufacture, Martin produces pieces that reject market-led criteria in favour of the needs and desires of individual people. His entire philosophy of making is founded on his belief in the value of purity and integrity. Martin’s faith in sustainable practice is governed by a strong sense of spirituality and service as exemplified by vernacular craft communities.

A chair called Cathedral made by Dorset furniture maker and sculptor Guy Martin from ash and stripped willow. It has a rounded bottom.

"Cathedral" by Guy Martin. Ash, Stripped Willow.

For six years Martin was design tutor at Parnham College in Dorset. His time there brought him into contact with desgners and business theorists of international repute, inspiring change and a rigorous reappraisal of values that enabled him to develop a unified philosophy of lifestyle and artistic practice.

Bench made by the Dorset sculptor furniture maker Guy Martin from lime-waxed birch and stainless steel

Bench by Guy Martin. Lime-Waxed Birch, Stainless Steel.

All Martin’s woods are sourced locally from renewable supplies. Cultivated willow from the Somerset levels was one of his favourite materials but supply difficulties have prompted him to make greater use of ash thinnings. He harvests the ash himself, selectively thinning as an essential part of woodland management. This choice of material displays a beautiful thriftiness since these small diameter poles would ordinarily be wasted or burnt for firewood.

Martin’s awareness of environmental issues also influences his practice in the workshop. He avoids using adhesives or other harmful chemicals and never disguises his core materials with veneers. Embellishment is restrained by functionality, emphasising the essential honesty of every piece. The result is a quality product where function has controlled the form, but works in balance with the possibilities of modern technology and other small-workshop constraints.

Storage tower made by the Dorset sculptor and furniture maker Guy Martin from lime-waxed ash and stainless steel

Storage Tower by Guy Martin. Lime-Waxed Ash, Stainless Steel.

Although Martin’s work is rooted in traditional English methods and influenced by the historic precedent of the medieval craft guilds, there is nothing sentimental about his approach. He uses machine processes where necessary and is not afraid to let the effects show on the finished item. He rightly views over-emphasis on hand techniques as an irrelevant attachment to suspect notions of authenticity, rather than a properly informed craft choice.

It is a measure of Martin’s range and skill that his elegant and original pieces avoid parochialism and yet speak so distinctly of a particular rural area. A recent development is the inclusion of stainless steel, which has made his work less explicitly rustic and lent his structures added modernity.

Guy Martin: Brought up on a converted torpedo boat

Guy Martin was brought up on a converted motor torpedo boat moored at Hayling Island. He studied at Portsmouth School of Art and St Martin’s School of Art in London, where he took a BA Hons in sculpture. In 1984 he started a contemporary furniture design practice. From 1988-94 he was design tutor at Parnham College in Dorset, during which period he developed a strong interest in ecology and global environmental concerns.

He has since established his own independent practice in Dorset, making interior domestic furniture, as well as teaching and lecturing. He says: “Design is a listening process, a responsibility and a service and it should take account of the environment and its resources.”

Guy Martin & Dorset Art Weeks 2012

Guy Martin’s Crown Studios at Old Crown Cottage in Greenham on the B3162 near Drimpton in the far west of Dorset are open every day during Dorset Art Weeks from 10am – 5pm between Saturday, May 26 and Sunday, June 10. On May 31, June 1, June 7 and June 8 he’s also open from 6pm to 8pm.

Mr Martin is putting on a joint show with Anne Quick – number 190 in the Dorset Art Weeks (DAW) brochure.

“Please come and enjoy our studios, garden and home with a cup of tea,” says the DAW entry. But note: no wheelchair access.

For more information, call 01308-868122, email guy@guy-martin.com or visit his website at http://www.guy-martin.com

Anne can be contacted via email on anyaquickmartin@talktalk.net or visit her website at http://www.annequick.co.uk

In total, 100o artists are taking part in Dorset Art Weeks at 360 free venues: http://www.dorsetartweeks.co.uk

Or look out for a free printed brochure (actually, more like a book these days): Tourist Information Centres normally have a good supply.