Journal

Gill—From Out in the Woods

When sculptor and typographer Eric Gill moved to the Chiltern Hills in the late 1920’s, the woods around his home would still have been home to ‘bodgers’—men who turned chair legs on lathes for the furniture factories in the nearby towns of High Wycombe and Aylesbury. Gill is famed for creating some of the era’s most celebrated stone forms and moments from his Buckinghamshire studio, highly skilled craftsmen converted logs into legs, from trees which had grown around them.

The Gill chair emerged from thinking around this creative confluence and a reassessment of the Windsor chair. What characteristics were at its core and could a more sculptural approach to Windsor design bear fruit.

“Gill attempts to distill in itself essential Windsor features—but these are filtered through an emphasis on form and a desire to explore the more overtly sculptural. Gill is an attempt to bring together two creative traditions which occurred in the same geography but at the time were conceptually and socially world’s apart.”

The feature ‘splat’ at the chair's centre, more typically a ship's wheel or fleur-de-lis on classic Windsor chairs, is refined into a soft and engaging tablet. The chair’s rear spindles, usually more numerous, are limited to two—and taper-out gently towards their base to compensate with strength. It’s Gill's seat which is the centrepiece—a thick stone-like slab, which has been honed into a beautiful, curved soap bar form. Underneath, a softened crinoline stretcher, a feature once employed to avoid damage to Victorian dresses, brings structure and interest. The chair's soft dome-capped legs taper-out from the seat where they intersect with split-tenon joints. While Gill is composed of traditional Windsor features, this is all worn quite lightly, in a petite package which feels sensuous, amiable and fun.

To celebrate the beauty of homegrown timber, the Gill chair is being launched in a celebratory trio of English timbers—olive ash with beech and sycamore. Gill is also available in a sweet chestnut and cherry combination or pale ash.

Charisma, in people or things, needs somewhere to go home to - a place of calm and stability. For the Gill chair, its matching table provides this. Certain features are echoed—the table-top with the same soft edge profile and the dome-capped legs recur—but the Gill table is more restrained and less playful in tone. Again, there’s a traditional Windsor under-structure for strength—but this time with the double-‘H’ stretcher configuration. Contoured bars act as supporting girders under the table-top and introduce a contrasting highlight, depending on the timber selection. To tie-in with the Gill chair, timber selections available are olive ash and beech, sweet chestnut and cherry or pale ash. The Gill table is offered in two sizes—Gill Round as well as a larger Gill Oval.

The Gill Chair and tables are available to buy now.

(Image: Courtesy of the Museum of English Rural Life, Reading University)