Since first importing hardwoods into the UK in 1757, James Latham has championed the British furniture industry – so, when Rycotewood College (Rycotewood), Oxfordshire, one of the country’s top institutions for furnituremaking vocational training, approached it to support its student competition for the second year running, James Latham was happy to accept.
Building on the success of 2022, this year also challenged the students to focus on the dual concepts of colour and curve within the overarching theme of storage.
To assist the students, James Latham donated a quantity of HIMACS and Valchromat, providing them with the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and initiative when working with these non-traditional materials to meet a challenging creative brief.
Following a 10-week entry period, in which 12 Rycotewood Degree students participated, judging took place ahead of the college’s end-of-year celebratory show, on 18th June, where the winning and commended entries were announced.
Joe Fortune won the HIMACS category with a visually striking shelving unit for indoor plants. Pushing the material to its limits, the smooth, delicate twists within the piece, seamlessly joined, demonstrate the thermoformable nature of the solid surface and its ability to retain its original rigidity post-heating. He went further, using CNC to cut out a series of holes within the curved pieces to evoke the cellular structure of a leaf.
Joe says: “HIMACS’ ability to be heated and twisted without visual or structural compromise proved the perfect material to achieve what was, from the outset, a very ambitious design. The results speak for themselves. Personally, I was pleased with the seamless joins I was able to achieve, creating an appealing visual continuity within the finished piece.”
Benjamin Scott was the competition’s other winner, using Valchromat in a sophisticated storage cabinet. A fusion of yellow and grey Valchromat with oak, the modern-day parquetry on the cabinet has over 1000 precisely arranged, extensively sanded and polished Valchromat pieces, forming elegant herringbone-patterned panels. The judges felt the piece encapsulated Rycotewood’s growing proficiency in working with the material.
Benjamin explains: “Valchromat’s superior sanding and finishing capabilities are remarkable. It outshines alternative materials, effortlessly achieving a flawless surface. Additionally, it retains sharp edges when shaped by hand, offering a more refined look.”
Emma Harris was also commended for her chic drinks cabinet, which combined black HIMACS and solid oak, and featured a mirrored interior.
Josh Hudson, furniture lead at Rycotewood, comments: “We’re thrilled to witness the tremendous growth of the students in their ability to work with new materials, as demonstrated through the ambitious and captivating pieces submitted for this year's keenly anticipated and hotly contested competition. Partnering with James Latham has been fantastic and our ongoing collaboration allows the students to push their creative boundaries and showcase their talent to the full."
Pictured: Joe Fortune's winning entry