School 21 – A Chair for a Generation

Over the past few months we have had the pleasure of hosting students from School 21, a pioneering new school in Newham. Together with Navjot Mangot and Becky Knott from V&A East they came to us to help facilitate a design project.

Ten students came to the workshop as part of their Real World Learning programme to work on designing a chair in response to the Furniture collection at the V&A, with their final design being part of the permanent exhibition at the V&A East Storehouse opening in 2024. Blackhorse Workshop tutor and furniture maker Katharine Daish headed up the weekly sessions, guiding the students through the processes of designing the chair, through to the making of the chair.

Their collaboration with Blackhorse started with a visit to the workshop in October where they met some of the resident makers including Adam Azmy and Richard Ellis to find out more about furniture design. Following their visit they then met with Katharine at their first session, discussing and developing the concept for their chair. After exploring myriad chairs, the students found themselves drawn to the comfort and familiarity of the office chair, and began their focus on how their interpretation of this might look. The group decided that they wanted their chair to have a message, incorporating the subject social injustice and issue that they felt strongly about, from racism to international conflict.

From learning basic joinery to screen-printing, each session took them through a different element of the design and build of their chair. As a group they had to agree on the design and how the final product would look. From sketching designs to choosing their materials to constructing a prototype, the group worked together with Katharine and the V&A team to realise their original concept.

After 8 weeks they presented a finished chair, using the techniques and skills learned, the chair was made from metal, wood, and upholstered by the group in their own screen printed fabric. The fabric was emblazoned with the slogans and socio-political messages that they felt were important to them. So creating a chair for our time and crucially their time, to be forever displayed as part of the V&A to be seen by all.

For Blackhorse Workshop, collaborations like this are so important as it allows us to build new opportunities for people and inspire making. You can read an interview with Harriet and V&A East here on their blog.