Meet the Maker | Hugh Miller

Each week we ‘meet a maker’ from within the Walpole membership, shining a light on the highly skilled craftspeople creating British luxury products and experiences. Today, introducing Hugh Miller, designer and furniture maker, and one of the exceptionally talented mentees on this year’s Crafted programme.

Tell us what you do?
From my studio in Liverpool, I design and make contemporary studio furniture in wood, Japanese bamboo and brass. I create collections for exhibition, and bespoke commissions for private clients in the UK and abroad. I trained as an architect and see my furniture as small pieces of architecture, where the concept is embedded within the intricacy of the detail.

In 2015, I was awarded a Winston Churchill Memorial Fellowship, in order to travel to Japan to research the unique woodworking arts culture there. This transformative experience led me to develop a set of design principles, inspired by Japanese applied arts philosophy, that now underpin my work.

My latest and expanding collection of work, titled ‘The Coffee Ceremony’, uses the everyday ceremonies of life in Japan as the inspiration for one of my own, based on my ritualistic attitude to coffee. Within this context, the process of crafting my work and the process of making coffee emerge as the same: both are ceremonies of making.

I’ve recently finished a piece called ‘Coffee Cart no.2’ (pictured, with Coffee cart no.1), which has been shortlisted for the John Ruskin Art Prize. The piece will be on show at the Millennium Gallery in Sheffield from June 21 – October 8th October 2017.

What do you love most about your job?
I love the speed with which I can translate a concept, through designing, prototyping and making, into a finished piece. It’s a real joy to see your ideas come to life in front of your eyes.

I also love my material. Wood is the most amazing medium to work and, as a staunch atheist, it’s as close as I get to a ‘spiritual’ connection. It has a dichotomy of priorities – it’s strong and structural, but really light; it’s hard, but workable with hand tools; it’s stable, but organic and can move and distort with moisture and the seasons; and every piece is different, and has unique colours, grain and working characteristics. It can also be a frustrating, enigmatic beast if you misunderstand how it works but, when you do understand it, and meet it on its own terms, it’s the softest, strongest, most beautiful and most versatile material in the world.

Find out more