Peter Fleming’s favourites
A few weeks ago, I talked with Peter Pierobon about his favourite pieces of furniture.
Fleming has been the head of furniture at Sheridan College in Ontario for the past 15 years and has just retired to focus more on his furniture-making work. I contacted Fleming, who was very pleased to not only be mentioned by Pierobon, but to also play along with this “Name Your Favourite” game I’ve been playing with furniture makers over the past six months.
When it came to singling out his favourite Canadian-made piece, Fleming mentioned Heidi Earnshaw and Gord Peteran. After I let him know they had both been mentioned previously, he selected another young maker to add to the conversation.
Favourite piece you’ve made?
Peter Fleming: “Mark 1 Stool”
Fleming: I’ve become increasingly engaged in the intersections between digital and manual design and fabrication processes, as I feel that both have an equal and complementary role in the future of fine furniture making. A case in point is the stool series that I worked on during my sabbatical as a fellow at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Maine. I designed this piece through traditional means (sketches, manual drafting, full-scale mockups), as well as in Fusion 360, a powerful 3D digital modelling platform that supports CNC tool-pathing. All the parts were cut on the CNC router, with the exception of the bent laminated footrests, however the forms for those bent parts were made on the CNC router. I was able to easily create a four-leg version from the original three-leg version with essentially a click of a mouse. It still required a lot of final fitting and hand shaping/sanding/assembly to complete, however! While I can’t say that this is the piece that I am most “proud’ of, it certainly is the one that I am most engaged by right now, and most makers would say the same, I think.
Favourite Canadian-made piece?
Gord Peteran: “Boardroom Door”
Fleming: Heidi Earnshaw comes to mind as (in my opinion) the most thoughtful and lyrical designer/maker in the country, however I retain a special respect for the density of thought presented by Gord Peteran in all of his efforts. Gord applies a meticulous attention to detail and flawless adherence to traditional furniture-making techniques to what could be called a restless and sometimes alarming conceptual scavenger hunt. He’s the furniture-making equivalent of David Byrne: Always relevant, but it takes some effort to get all the references. His early work “Boardroom Door” was commissioned by Craft Ontario in 1990. It’s a seminal piece that presents all his remarkable skills in a series of obscure vignettes, housed in small squares within a traditional quarter sawn white oak frame and panel structure. At once very intimate and imposing, it is a road map of his obsessions that continue to this day.
Jake Whillans: “Coracle”
Fleming: Jake’s work is flawlessly made, and thoughtfully designed, with a masterful attention to detail from the first sketch to the completed piece. “Coracle” is a great example, pairing moulded leather with white oak to create a supremely functional and luxurious object that will age gracefully as it accrues a patina of use. Inspired by traditional Irish skin boats, the abstraction of form and the virtuosity of construction make this piece highly memorable. jakewhillansstudio.com
Favourite internationally made piece?
David Nash: “Cracking Box”
Fleming: This question is more challenging, as the international field is so wide open. If I had to pick something, it might be a work by the British sculptor and woodworker David Nash, one of an ongoing series of pieces called “Cracking Box.” It presents the timeless material qualities of wood fabricated with the most elementary means of construction. At once it alludes to the history of human interaction with natural materials and the effect of time on everything we do. It’s a pretty powerful piece. Is it furniture? Not sure. But it is very moving in its unruly ugliness.
“Mark 1 Stool”
Peter Fleming has been spending a lot of time recently using CNC machinery to assist him in producing furniture. Other than the bent-laminated foot rests (their bending forms were made on a CNC router), this three-legged stool was made entirely using CNC processes.
“Mark II Stool”
Very similar to his “Mark 1 Stool,” this version has four legs.
“Mark II Stool” detail
This is a view of the underside of the stool’s seat.
Gord Peteran designed and built this large door for Ontario Craft.
“Boardroom Door” detail
It’s not until you start looking closely at Peteran’s door that you see all of the fantastic details he’s added to it.
Fleming mentioned Jake Whillans’s “Coracle” as one of his favourite pieces of Canadian-made furniture.
A detail view of Whillans’s “Coracle,” showing the seat in the open position
David Nash, a British maker, built this as part of a series showcasing the natural ability of wood to change over time