Dan Higgins has been a member at Blackhorse for a couple of years, using both the metal and wood workshops for the bespoke furniture he makes, his latest being a steel staircase for a client’s home. But like many of our members, Dan is self taught, creating his own aesthetic, drawing influence from the Arts & Crafts movement, enhancing the utilitarian by adding splashes of colour and playful details.
Coming from a family of painters and antique restorers, Dan graduated in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Art before taking on some ad hoc work which led to his first commissions. ‘When I left college I wanted to get working and I would often work for private galleries, building shelves and then through word of mouth I would make a set for another gallery or friend, so that continued and I kind of fell into making like that.’
An interlude of eight or so years came about when the band Dan played for, The Duke Spirit, became successful enough for it to become a day job. Then followed a period of being a stay at home dad to his daughter. During this time he painted oil canvases, including still life and portraits and worked on his own home before he eventually came back to making part-time.
‘I got a job doing a full fit out for a small houseboat. I had no connection with boats previously and through word of mouth I just got more and more commissions. Everything on boats is bespoke because of the weird angles, so it has to be made to fit the space.’ Dan ended up specialising in building for confined spaces, making bespoke pieces using wood with welded metal. An architect friend recommended the workshop to Dan a couple of years ago, and it was here that he was able to develop his work using the equipment available, ‘Being able to use the all the equipment was amazing, I was able to achieve a professional finish which you can’t achieve anywhere else – having a good welder and table saw, you can make noise and mess. There is a sort of unity of all the equipment that makes it possible to do everything here.’
Plans for a small run of tables and homewares are on the horizon, a collection that will be unified in shared design principles and recurring themes. He hopes to combine ceramics, screens and furniture using his full breadth of skills including painting. ‘I like utility but I like a splash of positivity and happiness.’ So expect to see playfulness and colour.
But before that he will be working on fitting out a two bedroom wide beam boat which will be a home for Dan and his family. Work has already started, we cannot wait to follow Dan and his journey transforming the 60ft vessel.
What is the best thing about Blackhorse Workshop?
I like the way you can turn up with any project and nobody says you can’t or shouldn’t do that, generally really accommodating. And the community is really good, because a lot of people like me work on their own, and it is quite a solitary, lonely sort of work so it’s really good to have some community. The technicians and other members are amazing for the amount of skills and knowledge they have. It is a very essential place. Without Blackhorse, there would be a lot of people with badly equipped small studios.