• Sidewinder II sculptural coffee table
  • Genie sculptural floating wooden shelf
  • Aguaviva high table
  • Corona wall lit art lamp
  • “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

    David Tragen is a designer and artist who helps people inhabit more inspiring spaces by creating original, contemporary furniture, wall art & sculpture. He makes both open and limited edition designs as well as working closely with clients on bespoke commissions.

    He is inspired primarily by beauty found in the natural world and regularly uses themes of movement and flow which are characterised by clean lines and gently undulating curves. His made-to-order work blends traditional craftsmanship with digital design and production.

    Award-winning David’s creative journey began in Barcelona in 1996 where he initially trained before returning to the UK in 2002 to gain two further years’ experience in two of the country’s leading fine furniture workshops. His clients appreciate the attention to detail which goes into creating an exclusive product and since setting up his business in 2004 they have spread from Manchester and Cheshire to the rest of the UK and overseas.

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    • 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
    • Bespoke Furniture – Exclusive Luxury

      Bespoke, it’s a funny term isn’t it?  Most when hearing it would think of expensive Savile Row tailors or the time-served makers of hand-crafted shoes. While that’s true it’s also a general term that when applied to any product or service should assure the buyer of quality, exclusivity, luxury and uniqueness. You can certainly expect these benefits when commissioning bespoke furniture for your home.

      The term bespoke furniture (known as custom furniture in the US), can refer to a variety of types of customisation. It could be something as simple as a minimalist floating shelf, made to fit an alcove in your home. At the more complex end of the spectrum, for those who want something genuinely unique, then creating a one-of piece of bespoke furniture can be an involved and enjoyable affair. The design may be created especially with the client in mind to ensure the product meets their every aspiration. Time will be spent tweaking the design and could even involve a prototype being made. And those willing to invest the time and funds into the process are guaranteed to get a piece of art furniture that is utterly inimitable.

      Given that the term will be used in a variety of ways to reflect different elements that can be tailored, with varying degrees of complexity, this blog series aims to give you a little insider knowledge to give you a clearer picture of what might be involved. By understanding the different elements and processes better, my aim is to give you more confidence to explore your bespoke furniture ambitions.

      Gaudi bespoke double chair commissioned for Casa Batllo

      Gaudi bespoke double chair commissioned for Casa Batllo

      Bespoke?  It’s Complicated

      When chatting to potential clients at exhibitions about their bespoke furniture aspirations, occasionally there’s a hesitancy on their part to ask whether they can tailor one of my designs. Are they concerned they’ll offend me I wonder? After years of buying “off the shelf” from high street stores the notion of asking if they can make any design changes suddenly seems awkward. But if they want something that will wow their friends and family, that process starts with a wish list and ongoing dialogue with the artisan provider.

      Some providers offer no customisation whatsoever, as their business model is based on economies of scale and replicable manufacture. For others, like me, it’s their main selling point. It is therefore useful to have a sense of where your provider sits in this continuum before asking whether you can have sprinkles on top.

      Vitulus customised floating shelf

      Vitulus floating shelf, available in a variety of lengths, timbers and colour of detailing on request

      It’s vital to appreciate that at its core bespoke furniture is as much about design and aesthetics as it is function. The most sublime examples of handmade furniture are often considered works of art. How far the client wants to explore these ideas is entirely related to level of funding, the clients wishes, the input of commissioning agents like architects or interior designers, the feasibility of the design and the skills of the craftsperson.

      Assuming none of these criteria compromise the client’s aspirations for their commission then the result will always be an astonishing piece of fully customised bespoke furniture.

      And even with some limits the possibilities for excellence remain.

      To discuss your unique piece of bespoke furniture contact me at david@davidtragen.co.uk or call 0161 928 5647. From there, we can discuss your bespoke furniture goals and start to create antiques of the future.

      Posted on July 16, 2020
    • The reluctant extrovert

      There’s no question that when it comes to expressing myself, I find it so much easier to do through a physical object than through words. But that is far from the only reason why this is my first blog in almost two years. I have naively believed that my work should do all the talking and in a push to expand my portfolio over the last few years, communicating with the public has been neglected. But avoidance rather than neglect is probably a more honest view of things. Talking about myself in front of an audience (on a page / screen or in person) is something that fills me with dread. When teaching languages or woodwork, talking in front of a group of people is straightforward. However I prefer to share aspects of myself only with a close circle. Much to my shame, I was reminded of the paucity of my blogs by the editor of Living Edge magazine who recently interviewed me and it led to some more introspection. This isn’t the first time I have been forced to ask questions of myself.

      At a spring exhibition last year a back-handed compliment also made me stop and think; “With work like that, no wonder you are so smug!” I have always preferred to treat people who come onto my stand in the same way I would like to be treated when I enter a shop. I generally know what I like and don’t want someone else to try to persuade me to buy something that I may not want.  As soon as I feel the sales assistant hovering, I’m out of the door quicker than Usain Bolt. Therefore I was surprised that someone could view my wish to allow them thinking space as self-satisfaction.  I am by nature a self-critical person so her assessment felt very far from the truth. It is so easy to incorrectly read a book by its cover, but perhaps that was mostly what people were getting to see – the cover but not the content so much?

      Society has changed over the last 15 years. Reality TV has introduced the idea that anyone can be a celebrity and being famous is now more of an aspiration than ever. This is particularly relevant when a lot of today’s youth feel that their prospects aren’t great and that fame is the only way to get ahead. Despite not being a fan of these shows, nor of the idea of fame, I have to confess that I almost succumbed to the pull myself. The desire to be a bit more open and more visible led me to throw caution to the wind and apply to take part in the recent  BBC series, The Victorian House of Arts and Crafts. After the initial phone interview followed by a recorded Skype call there was a four week wait before hearing back from the casting department. Plenty of time to ask myself, do I really want to expose my weaknesses, limitations and be potentially be revealed as ”an imposter”? Objectively, I can stand back and assess that after twenty years of doing what I do I have accrued a lot of skills and knowledge and also developed my own style. However I am acutely aware of the fact there will always be people out there who are better than me in all these aspects and this is what has inhibited my sharing process. By the time the email arrived to say that I was still in the running, I had convinced myself that it was bad idea and politely made my excuses and withdrew.

      A client recently wrote a lovely email thanking me for her Genie shelf. She also commented that she’d love to know more about what goes on behind the scenes both from a making perspective but also my thought process behind the work . This felt like another reminder that people are interested not just in the product but also the creative process and it was time to remedy this.

       

      A benefit of this introspection

      Self-reflection is a positive thing providing it doesn’t stray too far into the realms of navel gazing. It gives us an opportunity to see how our personality and patterns of behaviour can be an obstacle to moving forward. A combination of avoidance, introversion and possibly imposter syndrome had caused me to reveal  little content and show primarily the cover of my book. So by starting to write about my approach (I have a few themes I have started and then put on hold when the introvert took control again) I have had a chance to put into words my own internal process which I had so far taken for granted. Opening this dialogue with myself has helped me recognise more easily how ideas are born and what ties my work together, things that have been happening on a very subconscious level previously. This knowledge is helpful in informing future decisions about my work and therefore something so crucial in my development as an artist.

      So, with all this in mind I am looking to do things a little differently. I am about to publish an e-newsletter which will go to subscribers, most of whom I have met in person. This contains more information about the making and thought process behind my work. Some of the content will be exclusive or will be published well in advance of social media / my blog. If you’d like to be added to my subscriber list please email me with the subject “Subscribe to newsletter”. Please be assured that I won’t be sharing your email address with anyone or over filling your inbox with news about what I had for breakfast (a bowl of bran and a cup of tea if you must know).

      I still won’t be pouncing on people at exhibitions, but intend to deny my naturally introverted self from running the show. However, please feel free to approach me if you’d like to know more about my work. Despite valuing the time I spend working on my own I always come away from shows reflecting on how much I enjoyed the interaction with the public!

      Posted on July 1, 2019