Meet the Maker: Gareth Neal
We hear from experimental maker Gareth Neal about the work that gets him excited and where he will take his progressive practice next, having already produced what he has described as his ‘dream piece’.
Your work features on the cover of the new book ‘Craft Britain: Why Making Matters’. Could you tell us a bit more about the piece and why you think it was chosen?
The book is full of so many people I have a great deal of respect for and I’m sure a lot of their work would have looked great on the cover, so it’s just lovely to have been chosen for this spot. These pieces are slightly otherworldly and really question our notion and take on craft. Many would question that if something is made without the hand is it even craft? I love the fact that Chislett and Linley are open to exploring the evolution of making, including the tools and methods that craftspeople use. The book itself covers traditional methods of making all the way through to the most advanced technological methods, and these vessels demonstrate that journey from traditional to contemporary that is outlined in the book.
How does your experience as a maker feel during the process of 3D printing raw sand compared to working hands-on with wood?
What’s so wonderful about the process of printing directly from the computer is the ability to see what you think it’s going to look like prior to committing precious material and resources to its existence. The process is not only exciting, but gives me a real sense of freedom as anything is possible. The added bonus is that you can make endless variations with a few small detail changes. The piece’s form can be evolved by tweaking the drawings until we think we have something really special. From this point I make small prints to evaluate them in the flesh, though this is all divorced from the hand-making process, I get a great deal of satisfaction and pleasure from this ability to respond and not get caught up in the problems of (hand) making, this also frees me up to keep making in the wood workshop on new and experimental works. We will have a collection of wooden objects and sand vessels on display at the open studio to give people a flavour of the variety of work that goes on here at the studio.
A private client gets in touch regarding a new commission. What’s going to get you excited?
It’s not always the project itself that gets me excited but the type of client. If they love an element within my portfolio and are open to me and my creativity then this is how the best relationships are usually forged. However, I would love a project that worked with a magical and very traditional space where the client was keen to be respectful to its traditions but to put it strikingly on the contemporary map. I would also be interested in collaborating with an architect on a new build, totally developing a space and imagining what could be.
You have an experimental practice and have talked about pushing the limits of what’s possible to create your ‘dream piece’ with the SIO2 ‘1755’. Where do you go from there?
For the past year, I have been experimenting with recycled plastic and 3d printing polymer with a robot arm, through creating complex models that are inspired by the movements found in traditional craft techniques such as willow weaving and crochet. We have developed new and unique methods for using these tools to build complex open weave forms and structures. Some of the experimental samples from this recycled plastic project will be on show during the festive open studio over the weekend (26th of November) but to see the final things you will have to wait until 2023.
You are hosting your own Festive Open Studio this week; what other cultural happenings have caught your eye across the capital for this winter?
There are always brilliant cultural events happening across London, whether they are exhibitions, talks, shows there really is something for everyone. In the craft world we see the creation of more maker’s markets each winter, and more open studios taking place with the lead up to Christmas. These are a great place for creatives to show and sell their work across the capital. They are also a reassuring reminder in the number of people who are still making or starting their making career. An exhibition we are excited to see is ‘The Carpenters’ Line: Woodworking Heritage in Hida Takayama’ at Japanese House.
Gareth hosts his festive open studio at 57a Lawford Road on Saturday 26 November, 11am-3pm.
Si02 Twisted Pair Sand Vessel – photo by James Champion
Gareth making the Zaha Vessels – photo by Petr