Master craftsman Angus Ross designs and creates furniture from bending and shaping wood, working with a small woodland he jointly manages.
For Angus, his designs respond to the natural environment – and to the quality, and varying character, of the wood he grows in Highland Perthshire. “It has been immensely satisfying to work out designs and ways of working that celebrates this timber,” he says.
Some of his most celebrated work involves the ancient technique of using steam to bend wood, a “very physical process” which demands that you “work very quickly as you only have a couple of minutes to get the wood into the desired form, and clamped into place, before it starts to cool and set”. The finished effect is incredibly beautiful, creating smooth, sweeping curves from rough timber.
“Most important is the correct preparation of the timber and this ties in with us cutting our own timber in the woods,” Angus adds. “At the tree cutting stage, we can choose the most appropriate wood for bending, and cut it and prepare it appropriately to change a living tree into sensual furniture.”
Before retraining as a furniture maker, and eventually moving to rural Scotland, Angus studied industrial design at Napier University. “I have always been interested in making things and understanding how things are made,” joining in from an early age with woodwork and metalwork with his father, and cooking, sewing and knitting with his mother.
He was “overjoyed” to discover that his passion for art, materials and technology could be combined in studying design. His early career in product design focused on “mass producing products in
plastic – potties and toys for Mothercare, and drug delivery systems for Glaxo” before the career change.
“I wanted to physically make things, and to design in a more personal and engaged way to make things that people will love,” Angus adds. His work now sells internationally, and was featured in the V&A Dundee Northern Lights exhibition at the 2016 London Design Festival.
“There is a tactility about wood, which we try to celebrate both when making, and in the finished piece,” he says, with his work mixing traditional skills which “allow for the fact that wood is a natural material that continues to move in response to its environment” and a desire to “innovate new techniques and create new designs appropriate to our contemporary life”.
For Angus, design is fundamentally important to living a good life. “Everything we use on a daily basis is designed,” he adds. “If things are well designed, in good materials, and are well made they are beautiful and a joy to use.”
He thinks it is “very exciting” that V&A Dundee is preparing to open next year, creating “such a high-quality institution celebrating our rich heritage of design and innovation”. “Without doubt it will inspire our designers, engineers and manufacturers of the future.”
Angus’ commitment to working with natural materials from a woodland he manages, and his mix of ancient techniques and contemporary innovation, make him a worthy addition to V&A Dundee’s Design Champions.
To find out more, please visit Angus’ website.
The V&A Dundee Design Champions are inspirational designers creating high-quality work and helping to enhance people’s lives, or champions of the power of design to improve the world.
We will announce 50 Design Champions in the run-up to the museum opening on Saturday 15 September 2018.
V&A Dundee’s Design Champions project is working with Dezeen as its media partner.
Dezeen is the world’s most popular and influential architecture and design magazine, with an audience of 2.5 million unique visitors each month.