Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Stewart Linford chairmaker

Stewart Linford is a bit of a legend in furniture making circles. He started making Windsor chairs in High Wycombe home of the English furniture trade 35 years ago when there were 40 other businesses employing over a thousand makers. Whilst that trade has declined drastically in the face of cheap imports Stewart has built a world wide reputation and a business employing 40. He does it through an emphasis on quality, craftsmanship and making the buying experience a pleasurable one for the customer. He is a simply a genius at marketing quality craftwork in the 21st century. An early picture.

Stewart is also an inspiring speaker and will be sharing his knowledge and experience at the HCA spring conference March 19th When I fist saw him speak I was mesmerised and captivated. In front of the audience were 5 large objects covered with pure white sheets which he unveiled with a magicians flourish at opportune moments through the talk. These were his limited edition chairs. This is an idea which has worked very well for Stewart and could work well for other crafts. Of course everything we make is very limited compared to the production runs of factory made luxury objects but how do we show the customer that?
Here is an example. The Battle of Britain pilots chair.

Designed to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
"Stewart Linford has created a limited edition run of furniture, with only 114 sets being made - one for each day of the battle. The set consists of a pilot's chair and a map table. The pilot’s chair is made of specially selected maple timbers and includes hand-carved details, upholstered leather from flying jackets and an intricate carving of Winston Churchill’s famous “So much owed by so many” speech.
As a special touch a secret compartment includes a verified fragment from the engine of the Second World War Hurricane destroyed in battle.

The map table is made in a choice of timbers from wartime buildings and features an intricate inlay of the Fighter Command emblem and handles inlaid with metal from a Battle of Britain Hurricane engine.
Secret pullout sides are inlaid with marquetry depicting battle scenes. Both pieces come with a certificate of authenticity signed by a Battle of Britain pilot.

Previous limited editions have been the Shakespeare range, Churchill range, Nelson range and a new range celebrates Sir Steve Redgrave's sporting achievements. Often the timber is linked in some way, recycled oak from Nelson's Victory or a tree from Churchill's home at Chartwell. When the limited edition is sold out Stewart throws a party for all the lucky buyers at an appropriate location linked to the range. It may all seem marketing spin but it works and the customers feel they are getting something very special. To meet Stewart and share his inspiration book yourself in for a great day celebrating craft at the V&A.

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