For its second iteration of Make Good: Rethinking Material Futures,the V&A collaborated with environmental charity Sylva Foundation in Oxfordshire to create the Field Notes summer school. Now the work of the 12 practitioners taking part in the summer school is going on display in the V&A’s Susan R Weber Furniture Gallery.
So, what was the Field Notes summer school? Back in May 2022 the V&A and Sylva Foundation launched an open call to invite creative practitioners with an interest in wood as a material, and forests and woodlands as a place for learning and growing, to apply.
We received over 100 applications. After a selection and interview process overseen by the V&A and Sylva Foundation, with external support from designer and educator Huren Marsh, 12 practitioners within art, design and architecture were selected. They are: Georgina Bowman, Beatrix Bray, Rachel Cox, Krupa C. Desai, George Fereday, Hannah-Lily Lanyon, Nia Manoylo, Phoebe Oldfield, Henrique J. Paris, Matthew Rosier, Alisa Ruzavina and Adam Stanford.
There were two stages to the summer school, a week of online talks, seminars and mentoring sessions in August and a week in person at Sylva Foundation’s Wood School in Oxfordshire in September.
There were talks by curators, makers, conservators, foresters and arborists. There were forest walks, tree pruning sessions, milling of timber and hands-on making. All of these activities were underpinned by an open and ongoing discussion, helped by the fact that all summer school attendees spent five days together at Sylva Foundation. Every day started with the group assembling to share reflections from the day before, and each day ended with a communal dinner in Sylva Foundation’s Teaching Barn.
The brief for the summer school participants was to explore under-utilised, home-grown timber, and looking at issues of land use and ownership; management of forests; and questions of access and inclusion. As such each of the resulting projects was shaped by the practitioners’ own experiences.
All wood used for making during the summer school was sourced in the UK with the help of forestry charity Grown in Britain. As such the summer school connected with the wider ambition of the 10-year Make Good programme: to make knowledge around sustainable forestry and the use of locally grown wood more widely accessible to practitioners of design and architecture.
When the display of works from the summer school opens at the V&A the outcomes act as a collection of ‘field notes’ that gather comments, questions and critical outputs regarding the future of forests and forestry. Rather than complete projects, they can be seen as prompts that invite further investigation and discussion.
We would like to thank Gabriel Hemery, Joseph Bray, Phillip Gullam and George Dennison at Sylva Foundation; Huren Marsh, Dana Melchar, Sumitra Upham, Mac Collins, Hattie Speed, Lynn Jones, Anthony Dain and Rae Sellen for their support on this project; Dougal Driver and Rachel Lawrence from Grown in Britain who helped source timber from sustainably managed woodlands. As always, our gratitude goes to John Makepeace OBE for his support of Make Good: Rethinking Material Futures
Curator – Johanna Agerman Ross
Assistant Curators – Danilo Marques dos Reis and Maude Willaerts