Bowled Over: An ingrained approach to wood

22 March 2016 - 02:12 By Shelley Seid

Andrew Early's award-winning contemporary woodwork is on show at his new design studio in Station Drive. Large, hand-turned vessels made from salvaged exotics dominate the space. A couple of jacaranda surfboards lean nonchalantly against a wall, in stark contrast to Astrid Dahl's white, botanically inspired ceramics. Hanging on the walls are enlarged photographs by Carrie Byrne, printed on wooden pallets.The idea, Early says, is to create a platform for other original, high quality, three dimensional art- interesting ceramics or steel work for example - to showcase up-and-coming craftsmen.Early, a third-generation wood-turner, sold the Midlands farm where he and his father before him, fashioned and distributed their work. The time came, he says, to move off the beaten track and tap into the Durban market."There are more potential clients here; it's easier for my standing clients to visit me here and it's also easier to ship to my clients abroad from Durban."Early's works - modern sculptures rather than serviceable pieces - have won the Elle Decor International Design award and the Conde Nast House Style Award.He counts Donna Karan and Terence Conran among his clients, as well as the KwaZulu-Natal premier's office and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.Early's father started wood-turning as a hobby. Once the dining room and kitchen were filled to the rafters with bowls, his long-suffering wife demanded he get rid of them and so the business began.His son initially showed absolutely no interest. It was only once he began studying architectural drawing that Early junior realised he wanted to work with his hands.He joined his father and together they forged a formidable team, each with his own, distinct market. Early senior made the functional pieces; Early junior was drawn to ornamental furniture."I did simple shapes from the outset," he says, "and they took off. You don't need to complicate wood- the grain is everything - the simpler the shape the better."Given the size of the bowls the process of bowl turning is a physical challenge."The deeper you go the more difficult the wood is. You get wobbling and vibrations."But it's an aesthetic decision, he says, to create art rather than just a vessel to hold a salad.The new studio is an inviting space in one of Durban's most invigorating areas."I love the space and industrial vibe of Station Drive. It's going to be the place to shop, eat and relax. I see it as a destination, a space for like-minded creators."

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