This year Axminster Tools & Machinery is sponsoring the Somerset Guild of Craftsmen’s Furniture Prize for students and apprentice furniture makers.

Log Stack by Charles Byron 2015 Winner
Log Stack by Charles Byron (Williams & Cleal) 2015 Winner

In previous years the Somerset Guild of Craftsmen, together with Friends of Somerset Art Works, has set a challenge to the student furniture makers of Bridgwater College to create the finest piece of work for the year. Last year the competition was widened to include students from the City of Bristol College and the private school run by Williams and Cleal in Lydeard St Lawrence. This year the Guild is planning to expand the competition further to other schools and colleges.

Organiser and Guild Member Chris Tipple said: “Last year we put our toe in the water to try and expand the exhibition to students from additional furniture making courses, and this year Axminster Tools have agreed to sponsor and support the Exhibition, so we are able to offer more prizes to the exhibition winners.

“From our new gallery in Wells we’re trying to grow a big oak tree from a little acorn and, by taking a step at a time, develop and steadily expand the Guild’s Furniture Prize Exhibition to cover the South West and beyond. Through our Furniture Prize we hope to increase the profile of furniture design and making.”

Writing Box by Mark White 2012 Winner
Writing Box by Mark White 2012 Winner

Entries to the competition will be on view at the Guild’s Wells gallery from the end of June and throughout July. The judges are furniture maker Tom Kealy and Derek Jones, editor of Furniture and Cabinetmaking magazine, and they will decide the winners based on design and quality of workmanship.

Visitors to the gallery will be able to take an active part in selecting a winner for the Popular Choice prize.

Chris explained: “Students’ furniture will be displayed in the gallery and throughout the duration of the exhibition. The visiting public are invited to vote for their favourite piece and at the end of the exhibition all the votes are counted, and a prize awarded to the popular favourite. Quite separately, during the exhibition, the judges will arrive and do their completely independent assessment without any knowledge of how the public vote is going.”

The Somerset Guild also aims to build on its existing membership. Chris said: “What we’re trying to do on the back of this furniture competition is introduce young craftsmen to the Guild and offer them a stepping stone to a big wide world. I regard the competition as the first step on the ladder. We also want to grow as an organisation on the back of the furniture prize, and there will be other similar exhibitions where we will seek to discover more new talent and introduce them to the Guild.”

Blanket Chest by Chris Tipple 2013 Winner
Blanket Chest by Chris Tipple 2013 Winner

The furniture exhibition will be held at the Gallery of the Somerset Guild of Craftsmen, Broad Street, Wells BA5 2DJ from Saturday 25th June until Saturday 30th July.

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