For the past 10 years, Dalston-based designer Gareth Neal has been honing the use of computer rendering to create fantastical pieces of furniture and decorative objects in wood. His Ves-el project won the Wood Awards bespoke category in 2015 and is something of a modern classic: a collaboration with Zaha Hadid, who commissioned Neal to create a water carafe out of wood. The result was something highly contemporary and wonderfully fluid that seemed to stretch itself out into space – craftsmanship by computer. It’s typical of his aesthetic, although other pieces look less obviously pixel driven, including the curved-back Hamylin chair (£2,620, available from The New Craftsmen) in collaboration with Bill Amberg, executed in oak with a handsome oak-bark tanned leather back.
Neal works primarily on edition pieces and on bespoke commissions (from £5,000), the latter something he says he is passionate about. His Oak Dining Table (£14,000) was originally created for an exhibition at Chatsworth House, using digital fabrication technology to bring out the natural characteristics of the wood while also showcasing the subtleties possible when using computer technology. Another recent commission was 12 pieces for the high altar of a church in South Kensington, which he undertook with artist and designer Chris Eckersley. “That whole process took around two years,” he says. Not all of his projects are so time-consuming, although for each bespoke piece he makes two or three computer models, and as many scale models as required. “Last year I completed a library space for a client, to house his vast collection,” he says. “The basis of all bespoke commissions comes down to listening.”