British craftsman David Bowerman makes all kinds of furniture, but showstopping wooden clocks have long been a particular passion. “I’ve been interested in the work of John Harrison – the inventor of the marine chronometer – since I was a child. I particularly love his early timber clocks, so when a friend asked me to create a wedding present for his sister, I suggested a wooden clock,” he says. “I came up with a wall-mounted, skeleton clock made of walnut – and that was it.”
Working out of a former dairy in Dorset, Bowerman has since made around 70 clocks (from £5,000), mostly for private clients in the UK. His latest is a unique take on the traditional long-case – or grandfather – clock. Standing Clock (£10,800) is made from tiger oak (ordinary English oak patterned by fungus into distinctive, variegated stripes) in an organic, feminine shape, which comes from Bowerman’s decision to bookmatch the timber. “Bookmatching is where you open out two planks that would have been next to each other in the tree to give a mirror image of the grain,” he explains. “In this case, the technique produced the outline of a woman.”
The engineering, too, is a thing of beauty – the wheels are made of fruitwood with box veneer facing, while the pinions are cut from solid billets of lignum vitae, an extremely hard timber. “This clock is all about seeing what’s happening,” he says, “and since a front plate would impede the view of the movement, I decided to get rid of it.” It is an unusual approach that means all the workings, including the pendulum, are cantilevered off the front of the central, upright piece of oak.
Such playfulness is a characteristic of Bowerman’s work. One of his previous creations, a fascinating piece of kinetic sculpture known as The Juggler, is operated by 23 steel balls rolling through a labyrinth of holes cut into a 6ft vertical trunk of yew. Every quarter of an hour, 19 of these balls are catapulted up inside a glass case to land in the top and so continue the process. “My design ethos is to make pieces of character to a standard that will outlast me,” he says.
Standing Clock is an eloquent evocation of that principal. Clock commissions require a minimum lead time of three months, with some other items more readily available.