Restoration Station x Something & Son at Tate Britain
22nd June 2018
Restoration Station thrives on collaborations. We get to stretch ourselves further, learn from new people, access exciting spaces and achieve more than we can alone.
Artist collective Something & Son are transforming the gardens outside Tate Britain and running a series of activities in the re-energised space. Their studio manager Abdul invited us to work with their team to produce a batch of 45 stools for these events. And our team was given access to their fantastic workshops in Makerversity – a hive for London’s freshest creative businesses. What a lovely place to work!
When Abdul got in touch it just so happened Restoration Station’s senior carpenter Laurence was preparing to lead a new series of furniture design and joinery masterclasses for our newest trainees. This project presented the perfect opportunity to develop exactly these skills.
We loved sitting down and sketching out ideas with Abdul. The project themes drew us in: planting to reflect the diversity in London society, technology applied to stimulating interactions and voice sensors reacting to conversation to trigger fountains of bubbles. Fun and inclusivity – just what we like.
We explored these notions and how they translate into a design for stools. Some practicalities – three legs to stop the wobbles? Or four for a broader base? The right height for activities in the space; ‘makeability’. We toyed with different approaches and key elements began to emerge:
- Connecting the stools with bungee to encourage interaction between visitors was a priority for Abdul and Something & Son director, Andy
- A seat was inspired by our stock chopping boards, cut from salvaged worktop, referencing edible produce grown in the gardens
- 2”x2” redwood for the legs helps them nestle in alongside work by other fabricators using similar material for the site
- Andy suggested threaded rod spreaders, which give the stools strength, stability and a distinctive appearance
Could it be done on the budget? Just about. And income would be boosted by auctioning the stools after the event. Something & Son have generously offered all these proceeds to Restoration Station.
Most importantly, those trainees seeking new experiences and skills could get a huge boost from participating in the project.
When we were doing the whole drawing thing before this project even existed and Laurence was talking about once you start to draw it you start to build it in your head. All of a sudden you realise stuff you otherwise would realise while you were building it. So problems that will arise you get to them before they happen. I’ve built so much stuff before, but I just freestyle it until it doesn’t work, whereas here… So something is happening, even if you think nothing is happening!
Restoration Station Trainee
Laurence kicked off with his technical drawing masterclass which helped predict a lot of the challenges in construction. A rough and ready prototype followed soon after. Some tweaks here and there, and the team relocated to Makerversity for a workshop induction, learning to handle the tools needed to shape so many seats in the short time available and achieve the accurate lap joints needed to connect the seat and legs.
I very much like (Makerversity) ‘cos the workshop is great, you can use their tools which enables you to do pretty much anything, and also that it’s very inspiring that you get to share this space with other people that come in and do stuff. And people are generally open and friendly here so that’s nice as well. You can try stuff – it’s been great.
Restoration Station Trainee
An intensive four weeks at Makerversity involved:
- cutting 45 seats, 180 legs and 180 steel stretchers
- drilling 1040 holes and countersinks
- assembling the stools with 320 screws and 720 bolts
- sanding (and more sanding!)
- and lashings and lashings of our favoured finish – Osmo Oil – to keep the rain out (we’re preparing them for a British Summer after all).
We’re used to working with wood, but steel rod took us out of our comfort zone. A hired ‘bacon slicer’ (chop saw) cut them to length – each unique for slight variations to the stools timber legs. The sparks flew dring cutting – it looks great, but smells terrible.
After prepping all the parts, assembly gets underway and the workshop filled with a growing ‘herd’ of stools, lurking with their strangely bovine/equestrian vibe. The two ‘eyes’ on the handle give the sense of an animal presence.
The schedule put pressure on our team, but everyone put in the extra energy necessary to meet the tough deadline. The commitment and quality of work delivered by each of the crew is impressive. We’ve all had a huge boost from the Something & Son team offering support, flexibility and weighing in to lend a hand – which was usually holding a brush for all that finishing! And it was all possible due to the specialist expertise Laurence brings to the operation.
Now on the eve of the event, protective feet and a final coat of Osmo are being applied to the stools before the ‘get-in’ at Tate Britain. Come to A Common Ground see the fruits of our labour at, and the fruit in the garden. There’s bound to be a workshop that suits you…
If you like the look of these stools – drop us a line at email@example.com: we might be able to make you one to order.