Adrian Swinstead: A Biography
Born in London in 1950 Adrian spent his early childhood in South Africa and Uganda in an environment that was influenced by anti-apartheid politics and the world of Fine Art.
He completed his secondary education in England before joining Hornsey Art School in 1968, finding himself once again impacted and influenced by acts of rebellion, echoing his childhood experiences. Adrian went on to complete his studies at the Slade School of Art, UCL where he worked with colours and forms in landscape settings.
His interest in studying how art can influence and be influenced by the environment in which it is produced led him to an interest in classical Indian music which was explored and developed over a period of twelve years. During this time he studied tabla each winter with Pandit Mahaparush Mishra in Calcutta and Pandit Chhote Lal Mishra in Varanasi. Under the auspices of Live Music Now, founded by Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Adrian gave concerts which not only embedded and developed his skills but also helped to fund further studies. He played in prisons, psychiatric wards, children’s hospices as well as more orthodox concert venues.
It was at this time that he also started to work with wood, developing a passion for the creative possibilities of the material, working predominantly on bespoke interiors in London, where he was living.
In the late 1980’s Adrian moved to Wendover Woods in the Chiltern Hills of Buckinghamshire and set up his workshop. Living in a beech forest he became fascinated with finding and exploring the fine tracery and random shading found in spalted beech.
The body of work Adrian created contrasting the unusual patterns and forms of spalted beech with the rich tones of yew and the strong white of maple was exhibited to critical acclaim at the Werner Krakora gallery in Vienna in 1995.
The following year Adrian moved to his current workshop in Maulden Woods in Bedfordshire where his fascination with the genealogy and history of trees continued to grow leading to a further exhibition in 1999 hosted at the 10th century Abbey in Cluny, Burgundy, France. Adrian’s starting point with each piece of work is influenced by the form and history of the timber he is using. Increasingly this fascination with ancient trees has focused on Bog Oak and the even rarer Bog Yew. A highly successful exhibition at The Gallery in Redchurch Street, Shoreditch in 2010 displayed Adrian’s powerful and personal vision in its most varied incarnation yet.
Adrian’s driving force is to explore the use of wood; creating pieces that are highly distinctive while respecting the natural beauty of its form. He mixes ancient timber with modern materials such as glass; he uses engineering techniques to create deceptively simple pieces and clean lines.
His work is a homage to the tree.
"There's little difference between making furniture, music or art, each needs a vision and the discipline to accomplish it. Cherishing a piece of ancient bog oak to become a thing of beauty after its five thousand years underground is my work, my art and a privilege"
Ancient Trunks, Modern Lines
The Wall Street Journal
By: Ruth Bloomfield
September 26th, 2014
Woodworker Adrian Swinstead crafts contemporary pieces from 5,000 year old bog oak, blending new and old materials... Download >
Going with the Grain
By: Angela Neustatter
November 26th, 2010
A new wave of craftsmen is seeking to capture the magic of old timbers and rustic beams... Download >
In The Studio with Adrian Swinstead
By: Meghan Edwards
October 25th, 2010
From Ancient Peat Bogs to Contemporary Furniture... Read More >
CAN’T FIND THIS ONE
How to Spend It
By: Lucia van der Post
August 11th, 2010
The Craftsman who uses wood to tell a story... Read More >