Self taught designer maker Joseph Walsh of Cork, Ireland, has an intimate relationship with his unique pieces of wood furniture. His deep understanding and appreciation of the material allows him to create wild and wondrous forms from wood, with surprising and slytherin shapes not often found in classic home decor.
The Enignum Collection is part of an evolving collaboration between Walsh and his team and the ubiquitous material wood. Working primarily with Ash, the wood is stripped into thin layers, then manipulated and reconstructed into free form compositions. Only a very light oil is used as a finish, so the grain and character of the wood is a crucial element of the design. The pieces that emerge from this process are undulating, almost lifelike structures, that evoke flowing movement despite their static nature.
Two canopy beds, one of which resides in Chatsworth House, Derbyshire (which houses one of the worlds greatest collections of decorative arts), are imposing examples of the expressive forms of the Enignum Collection. Large, tusk-like arms overhang and encapsulate the bed, framing a graceful ribbon of wood that makes up the headboard. Delicate white silk hangs from the top of the arms to create a simple cocoon and a feeling of protection within the strong frame.
A series of chairs are included in the collection; one as a stand alone object, and two exist as a harmonious pair. They each share the same masterful technique and magical aura of the canopy beds, but the chairs exhibit a particularly lifelike character, almost alien in nature, as they crouch low to the ground on long, sinewy legs. Walsh uses green suede for the cushions, evoking a leafy organic pattern as the layers from the legs flow into the seat bottom.
A desk and dining table round out the collection. Like most of the pieces, each was commissioned for a specific space. The desk was made to occupy a contemporary library in Monaco, and designed for a single user within the space. A triumvirate of rounded layers descend lightly from the edge of the desk to the floor, enveloping the sitters legs, and creating an interesting weight in contrast to a single thin, tapered leg at the opposite end. The top is formed by two large pieces of Olive Ash in the shape of leaf, the burl of which creates a map of the mystical region where such ethereal furniture might originate.
A provocative balance emerges in the Enignum Collection between the scale and materiality of the pieces and the illusion of weightlessness created by the elegantly layered organic shapes. Derived from the Latin 'enigma' for mystery, and 'lignum' for wood, the title beautifully sums up the series - "the mystery of the composition lies in the material."
Photography courtesy of Joseph Walsh Studio