Favourite things: Garden chairs with a Far East twist

We’re still having a backwards peek back at some of the wonderful pieces of furniture that our students made this year, underlining the comprehensive skills that our students learn on our professional course.

There’s no formal entry requirements for the Chippendale school, although all our students have a creative streak and want to work creatively with wood.

Some have been hobbyists, others have no prior experience in woodworking.

Matt Hanley, from Herefordshire, was different being a former arboriculturist, who therefore brought an enormous respect for the raw material of the woodworking trade to his furniture designs.

His signature pieces reflect his philosophy of working with the natural form of the wood, rather than shaping or veneering it into something else.

His single and double garden chairs were influenced by the Japanese-American furniture designer and architect, George Nakashima, who distained industrial methods in favour of revering the natural beauty of wood.

Matt’s tables are therefore a celebration of live edge form, using slabs of unworked cherry to form the chair seats.

But he also adopted another Japanese design approach, using a process called shou sugi ban to fire the chestnut legs and spindles. This process of burning the wood is a way of preserving it and, strangely, making it fire resistant.

It’s an unusual process that is gaining popularity with Western furniture designers and architects because the finished result (called yakisugi) is a blackening of the wood that produces a wholly-contrasting patina of light and shade and reveals the wood’s inherent textural beauty.

Matt’s interest in the Far East has extended beyond his garden chairs.  For example, he also made an eclectic array of wooden bowls made from off-cuts of lime, sycamore, and olive ash – all subtly different in shape and dimension, and reflecting the contours of Japanese pottery.  He’s also made a sculptured table in olive ash and sycamore.

Matt previously worked in large public gardens including Edinburgh’s Royal Botanical Garden and, before coming to the Chippendale school, was an instructor at an agricultural college in Hampshire.

His design skills, with an open mind to absorbing influences from across the world, make him a very exciting woodworker and fine furniture maker.

Matt is now back in his native part of England and setting up Matthew Hanley Woodworker.

Scroll to Top