• Transmission illuminated sculpture
  • Transmission illuminated sculpture
  • Transmission wall mounted illuminated sculpture
  • Transmission illuminated wall mounted sculpture
  • Transmission illuminated sculpture
  • “We so enjoyed the process from beginning to end. It was a journey that encompassed and introduced us to your world. A world of creativity, passion and perfection. Such a privilege to be able to enjoy your stunning creations in our home.”

    Joanne and Russel

  • WELCOME

    I am a designer and artist creating original, contemporary furniture, wall art and sculpture. I make both open and limited edition pieces to my own design, as well as working closely with clients on bespoke commissions.

    All my designs are made to order, ensuring that whether you choose a piece from my existing collection, or commission something wholly unique, it will have been created for you, by me, with intense focus and attention to detail.

    I believe that by introducing beautiful things to the home, whether furniture or art, offers benefits that far exceed the aesthetics. The poet John Keats said: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Owning something that makes your heart leap a little at every sight, bringing a future heirloom into your home, is an eternal pleasure.

    I find my inspiration primarily in the natural world and regularly use themes of movement and flow, characterised by clean lines and gently undulating curves. My work is predominantly handmade and blends traditional craftsmanship with digital design and production.

    My creative journey began in Barcelona in 1996, where I originally trained before returning to the UK, in 2002, to gain two further years’ experience in two of the country’s leading fine furniture workshops. Here I learned the precision and attention to detail that characterises the work of the best names in luxury, bespoke cabinetry, from Thomas Chippendale to David Linley.

    In 2004 I established my own business, and now work from a converted barn in rural Cheshire.  Since setting up I have provided furniture and art to some of the most beautiful homes in the UK and overseas, as well as in businesses, churches, synagogues and schools.

    To discover how we might work together to create a beautiful and unique piece for you, call me on 0161 928 5647 or email me

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    • When working with a designer-maker is worth the extra money

      Whether you are a multi-millionaire or somebody living on the bread line, everybody wants to feel like they are getting value for money. So when you compare the price of individually made items, usually created by an artisan, with those made in a factory, the price difference is often so significant that it doesn’t seem worth exploring further. Generally speaking, larger scale production runs will bring economies of scale which can then be passed onto the end consumer. So surely only larger companies can survive in a world of supply and demand? As a designer and artist myself, creating bespoke designs as well as both open and limited edition pieces, I wanted to shed some light on why it may be worth delving a little deeper before dismissing products, based on price alone.

      Creativity as a driver

      Larger companies will often choose designs that are relatively straightforward to produce in order to keep their costs down. For example curved surfaces are much more time consuming to produce than flat ones and very often don’t lend themselves to minimising costs. However the artisan may put creative expression very high on their priority list (I certainly do) and therefore keeping costs down by not producing curved work would feel like too big a compromise.

      Sidewinder sculptural coffee table

      Sidewinder sculptural coffee table

       

      Customisation or bespoke designs

      Whilst the business model of the artisan may not be about economies of scale, the fact that they make each piece one at a time, may allow them more flexibility to customise their work to your specifications. Customisation comes in many forms, it could be as simple as offering you an exact paint colour to match your wall tiles or creating a longer version of an existing design. The most complex form of customisation would be to create a completely new, bespoke design tailored to your exact needs. Generally speaking, the smaller the company is, the more likely they will be to entertain some degree of customisation. Whilst a cost will usually be associated with any changes, it is easier for a small boat to change direction than an oil tanker.

       

      Exclusivity

      Not all of the larger companies will choose to over simplify the end product to keep costs down. However what the micro business offers is exclusivity by the fact that they can only produce a limited number of items every year. If your uniqueness is expressed not only by your personality but also by the items you buy, then this must be worth considering.

       

      The limitations of digital production

      Digital production has made huge steps forward in the last 10 years and machines can now carve or 3D print some of the most complex forms. However there are still objects that only humans can produce. For example there are times when the thickness or profile of a piece can be too delicate for a CNC milling machine to tackle. I know that making the fine end detail on Genie (see profile picture and below) would be impossible by CNC as both the vibrations of the machinery as well as the grain direction, would cause the tip to simply shatter into smithereens.

       

      Genie sculptural floating wooden shelf

      Genie sculptural floating wooden shelf

       

      Lost in Translation

      Working with a designer-maker for example, who owns their own business, means that each client is important to them. If there is one person responsible for sales, design, making the item and shipping it, your wishes are less likely to be lost when passed from person to person. Having this direct contact with the designer and maker will give you more of a sense of connection to the final piece.

       

      Accountability

      Finding an employee who cares about the quality of production in same way as the “one man band” is like finding a needle in a haystack. Whilst any successful company will make sure that quality control is part of their process, only the person making the piece will know whether all the procedures have been followed correctly.

      By way of example, a standard woodworking glue needs to be clamped within 10 minutes of being applied to a woodworking joint, otherwise the glue will not be as effective. On the surface, the joint of the chair leg may seem fine. However a few years later, when your child tries his balancing act on two legs, the joint may fail.  The designer-maker will be far more invested than an employee in a larger company in ensuring that the piece is made to last a lifetime.

       

      Precision furniture making using a Japanese marking knife

       

      Pride and job satisfaction

      If accountability is the proverbial “stick” to ensure that standards are kept high, then pride and job satisfaction are the “carrot”. Having direct contact with the end consumer and knowing that they are pleased with my work, really motivates me. People sometimes ask me if it difficult to say goodbye to one of my creations, especially if it has taken many days if not weeks to make.  The positive feedback I get from clients makes all the hard work worth it and knowing that it brings pleasure to a wider audience is a fantastic feeling.  Some of the work will inevitably go unnoticed: when gluing boards of wood together, side by side, I will mock up various permutations and to see which the best match in terms of grain figuring and wood tone. The client will only see the end results and will be unaware of the thought that has gone into it but knowing that I have done the best job I can provides me with job satisfaction.

       

      The story provides meaning

      By working with one person, you not only know that your wishes won’t be lost in translation and that they are accountable for their work but it doesn’t just end there. By understanding more about the journey of the artist in not only their development but also the creation of each product, it brings more meaning to what you are buying. Perhaps their back story is particularly inspiring and helps you to feel more connected to them as a person and this will bring extra value to your purchase. Social media has become an increasingly popular way for businesses to communicate with the public and show some of the behind the scenes information which will help to give you a fuller picture.

       

      David Tragen Instagram screenshot July 21

       

      Final thoughts

      Just because someone is an artisan , an artist, or a designer-maker doesn’t necessarily mean that they are invested in creating the best piece they can every time. As a client you may need to do a little more work to look further into their website and social media to see the quality of the pieces they create and read the testimonials. However if you feel reassured by their ethos and have taken a little more time to consider why their work is priced as it is, then you are in a better position to assess whether that price is worth paying or not.

      Feel free to get in touch by email for more information about the commissioning process or if you are interested in exploring ways of creating an original piece of contemporary furniture, wall art or sculpture.

      Posted on July 23, 2021
    • Introducing Transmission – a groundbreaking illuminated sculpture

      The pandemic has undoubtedly been a challenging time for all of us. I am very grateful that I have been able to throw myself into work as a distraction and this new piece has really been at the core of helping me get by. It took just over a year to develop, with large breaks to keep on top of my commissioned projects. Now it’s completed, I wanted to share some of the process of how the idea came together.

      Since starting as a woodworker in 1995, I have always found the making process to be extremely absorbing and calming. Coupled with this is the energy that a new piece creates for me, derived from the excitement I get from turning an intangible idea into something physical. In turn my hope is that the viewer will also experience some of the joy that I feel for the piece.

       

      The first steps

      Over the last three years I have sought to move my work further into the realm of sculpture, pushing functional constraints to one side to be able to fully express my creative interests. With this has also come the desire to adopt new techniques and materials and my workshop has slowly adapted to my newly learned mould making and resin casting techniques. Cold cast bronze has become a new go to technique and material, as seen in Abstract #1 and Convergence (left and right respectively below).

       

      Abstract #1 & Convergence

      In my longer term picture these two pieces were always going to be stepping stones before moving onto to a much more involved project, even though at the time of designing these pieces I didn’t know what that would be. However the choice of the apparently unimaginative name Abstract #1 was deliberate, as I wanted to have a clear and outwardly visible reference point from where this new direction had started.

       

      Early ideas

      By January of 2020 I was playing with new ideas for a sculpture with a radial theme but when the pandemic broke it soon became a ‘lockdown project’. Over the course of the Spring the themes were expanded to include wave forms, a firm favourite of mine, and at the same time linking the ideas with another interest – The Op art movement . As the theme of flow features in my work a lot yet the objects I create are static, introducing the moiré effect into the design was a way of artificially creating this perceived movement via visual distortions.

      A favourite Art book of mine

      As an admirer of Bridget Riley’s curve paintings, I wondered what would happen to the waves in her early work when they left the canvas. Was there a way I could keep the flow going by joining the start and the end of the wave in a circular motion?  At the same time I was curious to see how bringing the visual distortions of the 2D world into a third dimension would work.

       

      Initial sketches

      The sketchpad has always been the starting point for ideas and the initial drawings combined the ripples from Bridget Riley’s paintings with a circular twisting motion. The motion needed to start from the centre and the wave effect would increase as it travelled outwards. At the point that I felt the ideas required fleshing out in more detail, I turned to the computer to bring them a bit closer to life.

       

      From sketch to computer

      The first few iterations created on the computer were designed purely as a sculpture. Abstract #1’s convex form was still floating about in my psyche, so my initial direction was to create the waves on a convex, yet much flatter surface. To minimise the work involved, I had envisaged a diameter of about 300-325mm.

      A render of one of the early iterations

      Whilst I liked the “flowery” edges , the idea seemed so much more complete with the wave energy dissipating completely but trying to squeeze all of that detail into 325mm simply wouldn’t work. This is the point when one needs to flip from the constraints set by a designer and adjust to what the narrative requires. To bring an end to the life of the wave, the piece would have to be larger and the next version expanded to 425 mm in diameter. “In for a penny, in for a pound”.

      The whole creative journey is one of constantly jumping from right to left brain and then back again. Some of the decisions are made subconsciously using instinct and the logical left brain needs to kept at bay and only put in gear once the play has been allowed to happen. Once I had altered the design to finish with a round edge, I played with the idea of building the waves onto a concave dish and it soon became apparent that this form really lent itself to introducing a way of lighting the surface to exaggerate the peaks and troughs. After a few more experiments, the final idea (below) crystallised.

      Transmission rendered in a brushed bronze finish

      Posted on June 28, 2021
    • Bespoke Furniture – Exclusive Luxury (Part 4)

       

      A bespoke design

      In the first three parts of this series I have looked at the factors which play a part in determining the price when you want to customise furniture to your tastes. The choice of materials, the finish, the size of the piece and its location will all cause the quote to fluctuate, however the factor which could  have the greatest impact on price is the overall design itself.

       

      It’s all in the brief

      Asking a designer to come up with ideas for a simple minimalist, rectilinear table could be solved with a big slab of wood and four block legs. A few simple sketches and a discussion about proportions could settle the brief quickly.  If the brief is for an organic table which is a nod to the clients obsession with sharks, then clearly this will involve a lot more head scratching during the design phase. Most artists and designers will charge you a fee for coming up with these solutions and the fee will often depend on how elaborate your brief is.

       

      Visualising the concept

      Ordinarily, you will need to see some representation of what the artist is proposing to create before giving the go ahead but the complexity of this may also affect the design fee.  This can be done in many forms: rough sketches, 2D “flat” technical drawings, perspective drawings / watercolours , computer 3D render, 3D computer walk through / tour in video form or finally a scale or full size model.  If the concept is relatively straightforward then a simpler representation may well be sufficient. However you may not be able to translate technical drawings in your own mind as easily as a designer can so this also need to be considered.  When it comes to seating, it is not uncommon for a designer to make a prototype first to double check that their solution is comfortable for you.  As I mentioned in the third part of this series, it is worth remembering that the designer / maker’s time is usually much more expensive than the materials.

      Initial sketches of bespoke dining table

      Initial sketches of bespoke dining table

      2D technical line drawing

      2D technical line drawing

      Computer render of dining table

      Computer render of dining table

       

      Producing the design – Straight v Curved

      The complexity of the design often translates into complexity of making and it is useful to know that,  generally speaking, straight edges and flat surfaces involve much less work than curved ones.  This is because machines and tools are designed to deal with rectilinear work in the quickest time. As soon as a curve is introduced, however shallow it may be, it will change the maker’s approach.  Not only may the tools used require a more freehand (and sometimes less predictable) approach but custom made templates and jigs will often have to be made to guide the tools or hold the piece whilst it is being worked on.

      Flat surfaces and straight lines will minimise labour costs

      Flat surfaces and straight lines will minimise labour costs 

       

      Conclusion

      The word customisation can sometimes be associated with the excess of having too much choice and a good designer or artist should tell you that by adding hundreds and thousands, raspberry sauce and a chocolate flake you will no longer appreciate the salted caramel.

      Be guided by the experience of the designer, but also listen in to your gut instinct as you know yourself best. To hone in, ask yourself , how does their proposal make you feel? If their initial ideas don’t quite hit the mark, don’t be afraid to ask questions about tweaking their proposals.  Creating a bespoke design together can be a very rewarding process and when it clicks, the results of this collaboration will be something that you and other generations will cherish for many years to come.

      Posted on February 6, 2021
    • Bespoke Furniture – Exclusive Luxury (Part 3)

      Sizing It All Up

      In the previous blogs in this bespoke furniture series I looked at the ramifications of customising materials and the finish when commissioning bespoke furniture. In this article I will touch on how the size and the location of the piece may affect the process and this in turn will provide you with more confidence when discussing your needs.

       

      A change of dimensions

      If you would like to customise an existing design, the way the piece is made will have a knock on effect in terms of changing dimensions. For example, it is straight forward to lengthen or widen my design Comet (pictured) as it is carved out of one solid piece of timber. Genie can be made between 900 and 1200mm in length, however the thickness or overall form cannot be changed without having to undergo the time consuming process of making a new two part mould. Furniture makers often use templates and jigs (a custom made tool which aids the making process)  to produce their work.  With my design Onda,  even ordering a shelf which is only one cm longer will require a new set of templates to be made.

      Onda sculptural floating shelf in Walnut

      Onda sculptural floating shelf in Walnut

       

      You may be offered customisation in terms of the dimensions and if the furniture involves fabricated board materials such as plywood, then customising the dimensions will often affect how efficiently the material is used. The most common form of boards is 8 foot by 4 foot and whilst other sizes are sometimes available, not all table saws can accommodate bigger boards. Therefore if your proposed project  involves a large volume of oversize boards,  cutting each board with a hand held power saw will add more time. Generally speaking, the maker’s time is much more expensive than the materials and whilst a green approach to material waste is an important factor to consider it may simply not be worth the company’s time.

       

      Free-standing or fitted

      Fitted or built in furniture is probably the most commonly found form of bespoke furniture. You may be  looking for a desk to fit in an alcove which measures 1300 mm across and if the nearest ready-made size available is 1000mm in length, you will need to have something tailor made. It is worth asking yourself  if it really needs to be scribed to fit the three walls that surround it and whether it can be designed so that the legs will clear any obstacles such as skirting boards. The more of a project that the craftsperson can undertake In their workshop, the quicker the job will be. Having to set up temporary work stations and move components up and down stairs to trim in the garden is therefore a slower and more costly process. Providing your wall is relatively flat, a free- standing piece made to 1280mm in length may be the perfect fit and should you move house it can still come with you.

      Don’t be afraid to ask which parts of the design can be modified and what knock on effect that will have in terms of cost. To discuss your unique piece of handmade furniture contact me at david@davidtragen.co.uk or call 0161 928 5647.

      Posted on January 4, 2021
    • Bespoke Furniture – Exclusive Luxury (part 2)

      The Material Difference

      One of the major benefits of commissioning a piece of unique, handmade furniture is the freedom the client has in choosing the materials and finish of their design. To use their imagination and the expertise of interiors specialists to commission a piece that meets their individual needs and matches perfectly with the decor in their beautiful home.

      In this blog, part two of my bespoke furniture series, I’ll outline some of possibilities (and limitations) of making exclusive handmade furniture to exacting specifications and help you to understand that it is possible to harmonise the form, function and durability of your commission by making good material and finish choices during the design process.

      The Choice Of Finish

      Your provider will always offer initial options regarding the  finish but there are some important considerations to add to the mix. Things like the function of the piece, whether it’s an interior or exterior project or exposure to food, drink or people are key factors to mull.

      Whilst it may be straightforward to swap a lacquered finish for an oiled one, if a client wants a low maintenance dining table then this change may not work. That’s why how the client will interact with their handmade furniture in their everyday lives is a vital aspect to explore.

      Harmonise Form And Function

      Certain designs, due to their complexity or the materials used, may lend themselves more readily to one finish than another. For example, my Sidewinder coffee table, with its hundreds of intimate facets, suits a lighter oil finish rather than a glossy lacquered look.

      Sidewinder II in situ

      Sidewinder II sculptural bespoke coffee table

      Then there are the design aspects and what finish works best with the piece itself.

      A handmade furniture maker often has their preferred finish, and this will be the result of much thought and experimentation. Personally, I prefer a matt effect as this enhances the beauty of the wood to my mind. Should you wish to substitute a matt for a satin finish, this is straightforward.  However a gloss finish is much more time consuming and will impact both the price and could offset the aesthetic impact of the piece.

      The Difference Of Materials

      As with much in life, customising the materials in handmade furniture can bring complications. The original material choice may be down to its technical properties, it’s aesthetic considerations or its availability in the desired form.

      My specialism is in handmade wooden furniture but in many cases the base material used makes no difference as to whether any customisation adds extra manufacturing complications.

      For example, some furniture makers shy away from using Padauk as its natural oils can bleed into the grain of a pale wood.  European Oak is durable for exterior projects, yet American Oak will rot much more quickly. Some timbers bend more readily either with steam or by lamination and there are few viable alternatives.

      My Genie floating shelf is made in very flexible Ash which lends itself to being laminated into tight curves. It can be made with other wood, but extra work is required to heat steam and glue the layers around the tightest of corners.

      Genie sculptural floating wooden shelf

      Genie sculptural floating wooden shelf

      On a personal level, I often prefer less open or coarse grain timbers for some projects. A ‘busy’ grain can sometimes detract too much from the overall form. Take Yew for example, this by nature a very characterful wood and when used in a rustic project can look superb. However, its knots, defects and wild grain patterns may be totally inappropriate for a more contemporary minimalist form.

      In short, the devil is in the detail. Yes, material and finish customisation for handmade furniture is always possible but trust your provider in guiding you to making the right choices that make for a beautiful result that will last and give pleasure for many years.

      To discuss your unique piece of handmade furniture contact me at david@davidtragen.co.uk or call 0161 928 5647. From there, we can discuss your desired materials and finishes and make great choices that ensure your unique design stays that way, indefinitely!

      Posted on September 21, 2020