David Haig: master of simplicity

Author: Rob Brown
Published: October 22, 2021
Rocking chair
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When I’m planning Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement I stick with Canadian writers, photographers and illustrators. We feel there’s a solid benefit in having only Canadians on our pages. Giving a Canadian perspective on woodworking is something we’ve heard our readers appreciate, too.

One of the nice things about this weekly column is that I can pull woodworking stories from around the globe. There’s a strong preference for Canadian-based stories, but over the past nine months I’ve mentioned projects based in Japan, China and the U.S.

One of my favourites

There’s a furniture maker in Cable Bay, New Zealand, who makes some of the most amazing pieces of studio furniture I’ve ever seen. David Haig (davidhaig.co.nz) is best known for his “monogram rocking chair,” made from steam-bent, air-dried lumber. The flowing curves that make up most of the chair are incredibly beautiful. I’m a sucker for flowing curves.

Rocking chairs, as you can imagine, aren’t easy to make. There’s an obvious functional requirement, in terms of both strength and movement. And with all of the angles associated with a rocking chair, it’s sort of like a dance when all the dancers have to come together at just the right time to produce just the right effect. The lines of this chair are similar to a well-choreographed dance. It’s fairly easy to make an ugly rocking chair, but to use only (by my quick count) seven workpieces to produce such an incredible form makes it even more impressive.

Other pieces

Speaking of minimal yet gorgeous, one of Haig’s hall tables is likely my favourite piece I’ve seen of his. With two tapered and curved sides, a top and a center drawer, it’s quite surprising he was able to add so much style to this table. The drawer has a small, contrasting piece of curved wood on either edge of the front, which I was really drawn to. Sometimes it’s the little things that can be the most beautiful.

If I’m talking favourites, one of his desks would come in second for me. To describe it makes the design seem almost boring: a rectangular writing surface and top, four slightly curved legs, two slightly curved sides, a wide drawer below the writing surface and six rectangular cubby holes. The curved, tapered legs, which all mate with the curved sides, are understated, yet they’re the focal point of the piece. And there’s only a small amount of figured wood on this, but it comes through loud and clear. Adding more figured wood might detract from the simplicity of the overall design.

It’s fun checking out David’s Instagram feed, as he often shares videos of work-in-progress, so you can get an inside look at how the pieces that come out of his studio are made. He can be found at @davidhaigfurniture.

Samples of David's work

David Haig chair detail

David Haig rocking chair

David Haig desk

desk and chair

chair

box

seating

desk and chair


Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.

6 Comments

  1. Rob, don’t know if you remember but the rocker I made and published in your woodworking forum was inspired by David’s Rocker. I sent him a picture and he replied he liked the changes I made particularly the vertical arm support change
    Can’t seem to send a picture though.
    Edward G Robinson

  2. Beautiful!
    There’s a Hobbit feel to his work, perhaps endemic to New Zealand?
    The tree leaf chair may be over the top however.

  3. I see what you’re saying about the hobbit feel, Denis. I think it might be in the way David uses curves, and possibly the fact that these are photos we’re looking at, and not the real thing. Sometimes we’re fooled by the proportions / dimensions in photos. Just my guess though.

    I like the lines of that leaf chair. I do wonder how stable it is. Likely fine …. for anyone but a 4-year old!

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