Hugh Miller is an exceptionally talented wood craftsman based in the UK. He holds a Masters Degree in Architecture from the University of Sheffield and he utilizes his endless reserves of innovative creativity to make astounding, handcrafted furniture and cabinetry. His work truly highlights his expertise as both an intuitive designer and a highly skilled carpenter.
What fuels your fascination with working with timber?
I love wood. I’ve been fascinated by timber since I was young and I started making furniture in my shed when I was 15. I love the colors and grain dynamics which can vary hugely, even within an individual board of timber. Wood is a natural material, and each piece has a personality of its own when it comes to how it will move with moisture and the seasons. I’m self-taught as a cabinet maker, so when I first started the business, I tried to wrestle with the timber in order to tame it into behaving the way I wanted. Over the years, I’ve learned that you have to meet it on its own terms. This means being sensitive to grain direction and designing furniture that can breathe and move with changes in humidity. I’m romanticizing it here, as moisture movement is the bane of my life, but it gives timber an incredibly visceral quality which you can only reconcile with experience and tacit knowledge.
How does your architecture degree influence the designs you create?
My architectural training colors every decision in the designing and making of my furniture. When I was at university, I became interested in early 20th century architects like Greene & Greene from Pasadena in California, and Charles Rennie Mackintosh who was a brilliant Scottish architect most famous for the Glasgow School of Art. They lean heavily on an Arts & Crafts aesthetic which really celebrates the beauty of joints, processes and technique. I find this kind of architectural detail seeping into my designs all the time.
What propels your creations more – is it function or the overall design aesthetic of the finished piece?
I think, with my architectural training, it’s difficult for me to separate function from aesthetics. Good design has to answer both questions, and to simply focus on how something looks would be sculpture more than design. The challenge, and the goal, is to create designs where the function and utility of the piece is bound together with the aesthetic intent. I don’t think I get this balance right every time, but in some of my work, like the Folded Record Bureau and the Isosceles Dinning Table, I feel I’m getting close.
Are there any exciting projects coming up in the near future you are really excited about?
I’ve just started a really exciting piece, which is called the Calligraphy Study. It is a commissioned piece for a lady who practices calligraphy, and her husband is fascinated with cabinetry and timber. The design features lots of special details like a desk which tilts forward, drawers with dividers for hundreds of quill barrels, and a pen groove motif which is repeated throughout the piece. I also have plans to expand the audio range of which the Folded Record Bureau is the first piece.
The other exciting project coming up is that I’m in the process of moving my workshop. I’m taking over the second floor of a Victorian warehouse in the center of Liverpool, UK. It’s a beautiful space with original features, and everything has to be hoisted up and down an alcove in the building’s facade. It’s much bigger than my existing workshop, and will be a mixture of huge challenges, but also a lot of new opportunities.
For more information, visit: www.hughmillerfurniture.co.uk