The Wilson Bench for Cheltenham Museum and Art Gallery
In 2015 I received an invitation from Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum (which had been renamed The Wilson) to submit ideas for a public bench for their new entrance foyer. The new name pays homage to local-boy Edward Wilson, the polar explorer. I went and had a look at the space, and also revisited their wonderful collection of Arts and Crafts Movement furniture - something I was familiar with as I was at college for three years in Cheltenham. I sent them some sketches; they had a short-list of about ten designers and then narrowed it down to two, of which I was one. They were very mysterious about who my competitor was.
One of my ideas featured a grid; this was a reference to some of the Barnsley furniture in their collection so I made scale model of a slightly curved bench with a compound-curved grid as a back. The shape of the back could have the feel of a billowing sail – from Wilson's ship Terra Nova maybe – with a further nod to Sidney Barnsley and Ernest Gimson in the chamfer detail to the back, and the arched effect to the top rail. Having said that, this is intended to be a modern piece and something, I hope, that will be well-used by present and future generations of visitors to The Wilson.
Afterwards I asked the Curator who the other final-stage designer was - they'd kept this a big secret - it turned out to be my old friend and fellow bodger Gitta Gschwendtner! This could have been another collaboration....