This September, we’ll be celebrating London Design Festival in Walthamstow with the William Morris Design Line, who generously funded our free Summer School collaboration with Ercol Furniture and Store Projects.
The objects made during the Summer School will be exhibited for LDF at the Salvation Army in Walthamstow from 18th – 26th September, an organisation who supported Lucian Ercolini in his early years of arriving to the UK and becoming one of the most famous furniture designers in the world.
This month the workshop welcomed 10 students aged 14-18 from Walthamstow and beyond, who all shared an interest in designing and making. The four day summer school included a visit to Ercol furniture and the chance to meet Ercolini’s grandson, Edward. Then students carried out a design workshop at Store Projects HQ in Coal Drops Yard, followed by 2 days of making here at Blackhorse Workshop.
Read on to see what we made!
DAY 1 – ERCOL FACTORY
The Ercol design and fabrication team welcomed the group at the Princes Risborough factory for guided tours around the showroom and factory space. It was fascinating to see the various processes that go into making each piece of furniture. From prototyping, to cutting, steaming, drilling, assembling, finishing, spraying and packaging, we lost track of how many stations were required to make one piece!
Seeing how many individuals work on creating such a quality brand, including the designers, accountants, salespeople, as well as the craftspeople, helped us understand why Ercol’s price point is higher than average high-street furniture. Built to last generations and often re-sold by owners online, it was amusing to hear the factory joke that their biggest competitor is themselves.
Ercol kindly donated the above reject pieces from the factory towards the summer school, which students spent the week re-designing into useful household objects under the guidance of Stine Keinicke and Liang-Jung Chen of Store Projects.
DAY 2 – STORE PROJECTS
Stine and Liang set the brief for students to design a brush, based on the idea that during the pandemic there has been a trend for people to spend more time at home – and becoming more house-proud. Without being able to travel for holidays or work, some people are choosing to invest time and money into making home a comfortable and clean space to enjoy.
We learned the various types of brush that exist in the world, and how they are tailored to specific functions. Students spent a day in the sunshine of stylish Coal Drops Yard choosing their reject pieces and deciding what task their brush would be designed for. They sketched ideas with the help of the brilliant Zak, a furniture designer for Ercol, and decided on one to begin prototyping in the wood workshop.
DAY 3 – BLACKHORSE WORKSHOP
By Day 3 students were ready to dive into making! With the help of Stine, Liang, and Xenia, they began assembling pieces of wood together. They applied their learning around ergonomic design and considered how the size and shape of the object would affect how much it may get used. It was great to introduce the students to skills around drilling, sawing, and finishing – witnessing their imaginative designs become beautiful, functional objects.
DAY 4 – BLACKHORSE WORKSHOP
On Day 4 we learned about how to make a brush, using natural materials such as coconut coir and tampico. It was a delicate task, with some of the holes drilled for bristles just 2mm in diameter. It was very satisfying to see each of these reject pieces of wood be reborn in terms of materiality and function, with each of the student’s brushes developing their own personalities.
It took a little time to get the hang of inserting the bristles into the holes, twisting the fibres together to make them more compact and sit better in the glue. By lunchtime all the students were working hard to complete their brushes – with the medal for biggest brush going to Jenny!
We will be exhibiting these pieces next month at the Salvation Army shop opposite the William Morris Gallery, with the display designed by Stine, Liang, and the participants. We hope to see you there!