O.C.S. Bench - American tulipwood
Ben Percy believes great design is functional, beautiful, sustainable and also individual. Inspired by nature and driven by perfectionism, Ben’s biggest goal for his furniture is making people comfortable. His appreciation and understanding of the innate qualities of timber is palpable and his handcrafted furniture showcases both the timber and his adept skill at handling it. By analysing the grain, cut and tone of each board, each and every component is not only beautiful but serves a purpose—nothing is hidden. His furniture is a fluent expression of this process and it reflects his succinct design aesthetic that Ben defines as “clean lines and good bones.”
Ben has found a fine balance between making furniture and teaching the craft to others. “It’s not a career that you can disengage with when you leave the workshop at night,” he reflects. “You are constantly creating, seeking inspiration and learning. It’s your passion, your life.” Ben currently teaches furniture classes at Heartwood Creative Woodworking as well as teaching emerging furniture makers at Freshwater Senior Campus in Sydney.
Materials I work with most…
As a designer and maker of fine furniture, I work mainly in timber, our most natural and beautiful resource. No two pieces of timber will ever be exactly the same and this is the beauty in creating handmade work. For me design is all about clean lines and good bones and through the use of timber each and every component is not only beautiful but serves a purpose—nothing is hidden.
What I like about wood…
The timber is crucial to the success of the final piece and in many cases will dictate how a piece is actually made. Each board is analysed to establish what component it should become; where it should be placed; and how it can be shaped. Careful selection by looking at grain direction, type of cut, tone and features for particular components will emphasise shape, form and overall beauty of the piece. High production furniture does not have this luxury of selection. I strive to showcase the timber I use as a clear example of handmade furniture.
The Flex chair is one of my pieces which making process is really enjoyable. This design placed me as a finalist in the Australian Timber Design Awards and I have made a wide variety of them now. Two which really stand out are an American black walnut version which I did for an exhibition and my most recent one out of American hickory donated for a charity auction. I thought I would have more trouble bending the hickory but it went around the former perfectly. I’m in love with both of those species; the grain is mesmerising and the quality of the finish is just too good.
What was the inspiration for the O.C.S. Bench?
The design is a progression of the Ash bench which I created for AHEC in 2013 and was on display in the Galleria at Sydney Indesign. The shape of the benches is designed to emphasise the natural beauty and individuality of every piece of timber which goes into them. By using specific angles to create the form, my goal was to minimise wastage and use the timber as close to its sawn state as possible.
The Ash Bench was very well received and I had been looking for opportunities to develop the design as a range which could be used in large communal spaces. The beauty of using American hardwoods means that not only are the benches suited for indoor use but if constructed from thermally-modified hardwood (American ash or tulipwood) then they would be perfect to go outdoors as well. I also wanted to create a shape which would be versatile for this purpose so the half circle allows for individual circle pods to be set up or they can be arranged in an ‘S’ shape which can be repeated for as long as desired.
pictures by Tom Ferguson