English aristocrat, furniture maker and chairman of the auction house Christie’s UK, David Linley, talks about his latest project with art supplier, Winsor & Newton.
David Linley, son of Princess Margaret and 18th in line to the British throne, can get excited about wooden boxes. “Well, we are box-makers,” he says. “And a neatly finished box is a very pleasing object.” Linley is, of course, more than his aristocratic connections: the son of photographer and architect Antony Armstrong-jones, he followed his father’s creative leanings in learning to become a cabinet maker and then, 30 years ago, established a business making bespoke and off-the-peg furniture and homewares.
But he’s uncommonly enthused by his latest offering: a collection of compendia - portable boxes that open to reveal drawers, holders and stands - designed in conjunction with art supplier Winsor & Newton.
“It’s particularly exciting because, when I first started in business, I worked with an artist - Matthew Rice - who used Winsor & Newton paints,” says Linley. “He was a trained watercolourist and he’s made our ideas reality in watercolours. That was what you did, despite the availability of CAD systems now. I don’t use watercolours myself but I do still like to sketch ideas out.” That, indeed, is the thinking behind the compendia: a recognition of the fact that creatives of all kinds often use what today can seem rather out-moded means of expression to give first life to their notions. This is, admittedly, a rather luxurious expression of that contention, mind: while the new range starts at £250 (S$447) for an ink drawing set in walnut, the top of the range weighs in at £12,500. Yes, it may be made with a ripple sycamore veneer bleached to mimic the colour of primed canvas, and have a
“I don’t use watercolours myself but I do still like to sketch ideas out.”
marquetry colour wheel of 12 handdyed birch, tay and bolivar veneers, not to mention the 13 brushes, 96 watercolours and various other bits of kit inside - but clearly this is not for the impoverished artist.
“We get that of course,” laughs Winsor & Newton’s creative director Ben Hovanessian, “but still feel artists of all levels would appreciate the craftsmanship that has gone into these watercolour boxes. We actually sold the first one to a practising watercolourist.”
Nor is this the only new launch for the 184-year- old company. Following a brand overhaul in 2015, this year will see the relaunch of its watercolour paper and canvas ranges, as well as the introduction of a patented device that allows a painter to ratchet up the tension on a canvas (canvas being prone to sagging over time).
Winsor & Newton hopes the Linley compendia will be the first of a number of such collaborations, with ones with fashion and product designers being planned. “Because,” as Hovanessian puts it, “these are all tools and materials that aren’t restricted to fine artists in their use - they’re enablers to creative expression of all kinds.”
That’s certainly a sentiment Linley would echo. Increasingly a champion as much as a purveyor of crafts, 2016 saw him launch his first summer school, in which eight students from furnituremaking courses around the UK were invited to study more rarefied skills
This is not the only new launch for the 184- year- old company.
with a master. It is, he hopes, a small contribution towards arresting a decline in the number of those learning various crafts just as consumer appreciation for them has turned a corner.
“I love the idea of craft skills being handed down,” says Linley. “Craft used to be a term of derision, but that’s changed and people are so much more craft-aware now. And what they want is the opportunity to make things themselves. It’s something human beings crave.” www.davidlinley.com ≠
“I love the idea of craft skills being handed down.”