Joseph Walsh is my design discovery of the day, and I am in awe. I had read about visual poetry, but still wasn’t sure that I would recognize it if I saw it, until now. This young Irish self-taught designer/craftsman with a family history of woodworking creates objects of both craftsmanship and art, and to top it off, they’re also functional.
Walsh begins by studying the individual characteristics of each piece of wood, usually local, that comes into his studio. A final piece of furniture may emerge two and a half years later, or a design may remain in the exploratory phase for longer. Some of the techniques that Walsh has explored include cold-press bending (as opposed to the more common steam bending), lamination of many layers of wood, and hand rubbed natural oil finishing.
Walsh’s latest collection, Formations, is an exploration of form, material, and colour which attempts to emulate those forms in nature that have a timeless presence, owing to millennia-long processes of formation and erosion. The result of this heightened sensitivity to form is a completeness within each object… though owning several of them is a very appealing concept as well.
In the Enignum bed, I see everything from a stag lowering his head to charge, to spider-webs sagging with the weight of morning dew, to centuries of use of the classic ‘arabesque’ form in designs all over Europe. It speaks of sleds and snowdrifts, dunes and protective overhangs… and also looks like it would be right at home in Tolkien’s Rivendell. But that’s in the second glance. On first glance, it is a completely new creation, the like of which has never been seen before.
Likewise, the table, simply called Enignum, simultaneously recalls rock formations and ribbon dancers. The Enignum chair curves gracefully in emulation of the human spine. Sinuous and spare, it appears to offer support in all the necessary places… now to find one to test out!