Bobby Mills 2nd feature
Bobby Mills is a craftsman working from his studio in North Devon, England. He creates one-off handmade furniture and objects from locally and nationally sourced wood. His first exhibition in Japan will be held from May 21st at A&S DAIKANYAMA in Tokyo, and from June 4th at HIN / Arts & Science in Kyoto. We will introduce the universe of Bobby Mills centered on a collection of stools made for A&S.
In our first feature, we shared Bobby Mills’ background of how he came to work as a wood artist. In this second feature, Mills elaborates in his own words about his creative principles the meeting with A&S.
* Information about the exhibition schedule is posted at the end of this page.
From tree to stool
My work starts with the wood. Every piece I make celebrates the unique beauty of an individual tree. Many centuries pass and season’s ebb and flow to mould and shape a slow growing tree before my work begins. When the trees life comes to a natural end, I can explore its life and story as I uncover the grain patterns inside. I look to celebrate the tree by creating an object that will continue its story for generations to come.
I carefully source every piece of wood and work primarily with English oak and English walnut. Oak trees are at the heart of the British landscape and are wonderfully varied in character from mellow Honey Oak to wild Burr Oak. England is home to trees that live for over a thousand years and I’m awe of their beauty, presence and resilience.
Techniques and process
I often sit with a piece of wood for a long time before working with it. I’ll return to it over time to re-read its grain lines and to enjoy its unique patterns and colours before I begin my work. This process of familiarisation is important to me because every board from a single tree has a different personality. I want to understand what the wood can be.
I work freely, sometimes with a rough sketch but most often with no plans at all. I let the wood guide my hands and my hands guide my thoughts and feelings. It’s like collaboration with nature and my way of finding the design in the wood instead of making the wood fit a design.
I create all of my work with a small collection of hand tools and a woodworking lathe. Working with the inherent structures of the wood I’m able to reduce the aesthetic weight of the wood without compromising strength. If you watch a tree stand through a storm you will see it blowing in the wind as it tolerates large movements and stresses. It does this by spreading the stress along its continuous grain, from the root system to the tips of the branches. By embedding these natural structures into my work I’m able to load my work with the strength and tolerance of the tree itself.
The Story from Bobby Mills
Meeting with Arts & Science
In sharing my work, I am sharing myself, my thoughts and feelings and my love for nature so I’m careful to only do this with people I can trust. I met Sonya in February 2020 after being introduced by James Brown and Christie Fels of Blue Mountain School, London. James, Christie and I were having lunch and discussing my work when I asked if there was one person, they would introduce my work to they both immediately said, 'Sonya'. I trusted their judgement and a short time later I met Sonya in person to introduce her to my life and work.
I was immediately struck by Sonya’s calm presence and I could see that she and I shared an appreciation for wood and nature. I vividly remember when Sonya ran her hands over a stool and then a bench and I felt that she could feel the tree’s my work is made from. I know Sonya embraces my work on a deep level, and I'm thrilled to be introducing my work to Japan with Arts & Science.
This collection has been very special for me to create. It has given me an opportunity to work with a wonderful selection of wood from different trees that I’ve slowly collected over many years. In making this collection I have returned in my mind to the places where the trees stood, the edge of the field the Honey Oak stood in, ancient Pippy oak woodlands in Sussex and open flat countryside where the old brown burr oak tree stood for centuries. The variety and nuance found in this collection speaks of the unique nature of each tree. I hope these stools connect people with the trees they come from, when you touch them, you are feeling an ever-breathing material and connecting with one of our most important and precious natural resources.
I see these stools as more than pieces of furniture; they are objects that connect us with nature. There is a story from tree to stool that has taken many centuries to reach this moment, a story where time is necessary both in growing and making. My hope is each stool carries the calm and humble presence of the tree it is made from.
- Bobby Mills
- A&S DAIKANYAMA
2021.5.21 (Fri.) - 5.30 (Sun.) / 12:00 – 18:00
- HIN / Arts & Science, Nijodori Kyoto
2021.6.4 (Fri.) - 6.13 (Sun.) / 12:00 – 19:00
- Woodworker and photographer. Bobby Mills’ independent workshop resides in North Devon, England. He creates one-off handmade furniture and objects from locally and nationally sourced wood, made by a simple method only using a woodturning lathe. He taught himself how to handle and make wood at a young age there are also Scandinavian influences from his mother Denmark heritage. Mills has a first class honours degree in photography from the University for the Creative Arts, and all of his images of his woodwork are taken by himself personally.