Before storm Eunice blew into town, I journeyed to Warthalmstow to meet Elliot Barnes, the furniture maker. It was the brightest of cold days; Jasper (photographer) and I met outside the address, only realising that the Rear studio would probably mean the back of the Caribbean Food shop that we were standing in front of. There was Elliot, leaning out of the door, ready to welcome us in. It was exciting to meet Elliot. I have been following his work since around 2020 but had yet to meet him. The first piece of his work I saw was 'Obelisk, the moon and a cloud'; it is not hard for people who know me and my keen obsession with candlelight why this piece hit such a spot. Since then, I have seen more and more of his work, and each time been so very taken by the craftsmanship, form and imagination. This is only compounded when we start to talk, and I find out that he is self-taught. After a few years spent as a drummer in a band, he worked in a bespoke eyewear shop. His passion for furniture was clearly bubbling under the surface; when he wasn't helping customers, he would research furniture makers and designers. Later on, the generous shop owner let him take the back of the shop as his studio, and there Elliot started to experiment. When I asked how he started, I knew he is self-taught, but I never understood self-taught. I need careful guidance on every aspect, or a nail is going through my thumb. Not Elliot. He needs YouTube and the idea.
The phrase, 'useable sculpture" gets bandied about, but I mean it with all sincerity with Elliot's work. His range of designs are dreamlike, juxtaposed with heavy materials. Each piece stands firm in a room occupying the space of a lamp or a table, but instead of just being needed or decorative, you feel a curiosity about it, an instant affection in my case. For example, the Aterlie LK exhibition of last year is a true highlight in the design calendar. Ruby Keane and Lise Jones curated exhibition - No 43 at the former home of artist and dancer Ron Hitchins in London Fields, displaying a range of Hitchins's works alongside pieces from contemporary designers and artists inspired by either the space or Hitchins's life. Elliot had several offerings, but the one that instantly hooked me was the dining room table, a robust marble-topped table with column-like stainless-steel legs. It was a sight to behold and so well matched to the curation of the room.
As we talk about what is in store for Elliot in the future, it's easy to forget how early he is on his furniture-making career. His collection of pieces could make you feel like this has been a decade of work, yet he only started full time in 2020. So I imagine what is in store is more exciting pieces to behold, and that is ok by me.
Many Thanks To Jasper Fry For The Photography.