About Peter Southall
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"At the age of 17 I came back to live in Norway. Walking the fjords, I found and learned from the old men still building traditional wooden boats. The sources for my designs are the shapes I steam bend in wood. Using this ancient boat building technique on beautiful renewable Northern European timber, I make shapes and forms that are practical, ecological and pleasurable for contemporary use. "
At the age of 17 I came back to live in Norway after a childhood of many moves including Morocco, Paris and California. Walking the fjords, I found and learned from the old men still building traditional wooden boats. After boat building school I was one of eight taught to build the Oselver Faering, now acclaimed as Norway’s national boat with a thousand years of history.
Ten years and many wooden boats in Norway plus a super-yacht in Maine brought me to the College of the Redwoods to study Fine Furniture Making under the intuitive cabinetmaker James Krenov. In 1989, I came to Dorset and joined John Makepeace’s forward-looking sustainable design college at Hooke Park. There I started to design and make my steam bent furniture using innovative combinations of boat-building and cabinet-making techniques. Now I lecture at universities and colleges include the Architectural Association.
The sources for my designs are the shapes I steam bend in wood. Using this ancient boat building technique on beautiful renewable Northern European timber, I make shapes and forms that are practical, ecological and pleasurable for contemporary use. Aerodynamic lines spring naturally from my sense of curves and proportions. Natural finishes and textures with very little glue and no composites or MDF make healthy tactile furniture that should last and enhance life for generations.
My first commission in this country was a dining room for the sculptor Elisabeth Frink and I have gone on from there, making for clients in private houses, gardens and work spaces. Public commissions have included the directors’ dining room at the National Gallery; boardroom furniture for the Barbican Art Gallery; reception furniture for 2 Temple Place, London (awarded 3 Guild Marks of Excellence from the Furniture Makers’ Guild), the Adelphi Building on the Strand, Bomlø shipping company in Norway and Bridport Town Hall. Public art includes the final piece in the Wessex Ridgeway Sculpture Trail, Sanctuaries in Newton Abbot and Minehead Hospitals, a range of benches for the Macmillan Garden at Hereford Hospital and benches for the Cambridge Science Park.
In 2002 I was very grateful for a major award from the Arts Council England. After running a showroom on the Pimlico Road, London, in 2006 my wife and I converted a Georgian rope warehouse into Sladers Yard art, furniture and craft gallery, West Bay.
My work has been called ‘deceptively simple yet utterly sophisticated’ by the Financial Times and Paul Atterbury has remarked on ‘a range of furniture exquisite in its simplicity’.