Scorched: a celebration of wood at London Craft Week

Contemporary designs showcasing the beauty of scorched surfaces conjure a sensory spectacle at the fifth edition of London Craft Week

David Gates and Helen Carnac’s elm, ash, quilted maple, cedar of Lebanon, vitreous enamel and steel GYC 2, 2018
David Gates and Helen Carnac’s elm, ash, quilted maple, cedar of Lebanon, vitreous enamel and steel GYC 2, 2018

London Craft Week hits town from May 8 to 12 this year with a programme of events celebrating the diversity of contemporary craft: from painting Japanese ceramics with artist Miyu Kurihara to a spectacle-making class at Cubitts King’s Cross. For design devotees, Scorched, a showcase “demonstrating the creative depth and infinite possibilities of working with wood”, promises to be among the highlights. An extravaganza of scorched surfaces, it will be housed within the ornate Fitzrovia Chapel and is curated by gallerist Sarah Myerscough.

Alison Crowther’s acacia Charred Pod I & II, 2017
Alison Crowther’s acacia Charred Pod I & II, 2017
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A diverse collection of designs (£6,000-£30,000) is presented at the exhibition – from David Gates and Helen Carnac’s eroded industrial cabinet, proposed in wood and steel, to Alison Crowther’s elemental Charred Pods and Gareth Neal’s Georgian-inspired Hack Chair II, formed using both a CNC router and traditional hand-carving tools.

Gareth Neal’s oak Hack Chair II, 2019
Gareth Neal’s oak Hack Chair II, 2019
Eleanor Lakelin’s horse-chestnut Scorched Work 1, 2018
Eleanor Lakelin’s horse-chestnut Scorched Work 1, 2018 | Image: Jeremy Johns

The art of charring wood originated in Japan in the 18th century (as a method of preserving timber), where it is known as shou-sugi-ban or yakisugi. In east Asia, the process has strong cultural significance, but this show takes a western perspective, focusing on charring’s sensory pleasures: the deep black tone that highlights the complex texture of the grain, revealing every crack, fissure and line (a feature both Eleanor Lakelin and Christopher Kurtz explore in their vessels), and the rich aroma of fire and smoke that emanates from the work. Indeed, it is this sensory aspect of the show that has Myerscough fired up. “The musty smell that typifies most church interiors will be mingled with the scent of scorched wood. The overall ambience will be haunting – like a burnt wood landscape,” she says.

Christopher Kurtz’s American-black-walnut Smoked Vessel 1, 2019
Christopher Kurtz’s American-black-walnut Smoked Vessel 1, 2019 | Image: Andy Wainwright
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