James Latham continues support for Rycotewood Colleage

James Latham is on a mission to empower student creativity by supplying HIMACS and Valchromat for 2023 Rycotewood College competition on colour and curve – and it’s not for the first time…

Joe Fortune sculpture on the wall_HIMACS

For the second-year running, James Latham is supporting Rycotewood College in its student competition focused on colour and curve in furniture design.

Since first importing hardwoods into the UK in 1757, James Latham has been a longtime champion of the British furniture industry. So, when Rycotewood College (Rycotewood), Oxfordshire, one of the country’s top institutions for furniture-making vocational training, approached them to support its student competition for the second year running they were delighted to accept.

Building on the success of 2022, this year also challenged the students to focus on the captivating dual concepts of colour and curve within the overarching theme of storage.

To assist the students, James Latham donated a quantity of HIMACS and Valchromat, providing them with the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and initiative when working with these non-traditional materials to meet a challenging creative brief.

Following a 10-week entry period, in which 12 Rycotewood Degree students participated, judging took place ahead of the College’s end-of-year celebratory show, on Monday 18th June, where the winning and commended entries were announced.

This year’s competition proved to be a showstopper, with a collection of remarkable pieces that perfectly showcased the students’ ability to adapt, experiment, and transcend traditional furniture design.

Joe Fortune, who won the HIMACS category, created a visually striking and artistically ingenious shelving unit for indoor plants. Pushing the material to its limits, the smooth, delicate twists within the piece, seamlessly joined, demonstrate the thermoformable nature of the solid surface and its ability to retain its original rigidity post-heating. He went further, using CNC to cut out a series of holes within the curved pieces to evoke the cellular structure of a leaf.

The judges were particularly impressed with the range of different skills displayed. From the seamless curvature, invisible joints, and extensive cut-outs they felt it demonstrated technical mastery without compromising structural integrity; a remarkable example of how HIMACS can surpass initial expectations, creating visually stunning and functional features.

Commenting on working with HIMACS, Fortune said: “HIMACS’s ability to be heated and twisted without visual or structural compromise proved the perfect material to achieve what was, from the outset, a very ambitious design. The results speak for themselves. Personally, I was pleased with the seamless joins I was able to achieve, creating an appealing visual continuity within the finished piece.”

Meanwhile, Benjamin Scott was the competition’s other winner, using Valchromat to breathtaking effect in a sophisticated storage cabinet. A stunning fusion of yellow and grey Valchromat with oak, the modern day parquetry on the cabinet has more than 1,000 precisely arranged, extensively sanded, and polished Valchromat pieces, forming elegant herringbone-patterned panels, showcasing Ben’s incredible attention to detail.

Ben Scott cabinet

Image credit: Ben Scott cabinet

The judges felt the piece truly exemplified the creative potential of Valchromat, representing a massive leap forward compared to its use in the previous year’s competition. Importantly, they felt it encapsulated Rycotewood’s growing proficiency in working with the material.

The designer explained: “Valchromat’s superior sanding and finishing capabilities are remarkable. It outshines alternative materials, effortlessly achieving a flawless surface. Additionally, it retains sharp edges when shaped by hand, offering a more refined look.”

Emma Harris was also commended for her chic drinks cabinet, which combined black HIMACS and solid oak for a cool, contemporary piece of furniture. Attractive, yet eminently practical, the addition of a mirrored interior adds an extra touch of luxury.

The judges praised its refinement and harmonious combination of textures and colours to achieve a cohesive composition. They also felt it demonstrated Harris’ keen understanding of HIMACS’ versatility, and its ability to complement and enhance other materials.

Emma Harris cabinet

Image credit: Emma Harris

Commenting on the success of the competition, Josh Hudson, Furniture Lead at Rycotewood, said: “We’re thrilled to witness the tremendous growth of the students in their ability to work with new materials, as demonstrated through the ambitious and captivating pieces submitted for this year’s keenly-anticipated and hotly-contested competition. Partnering with James Latham has been fantastic and our ongoing collaboration allows the students to push their creative boundaries and showcase their talent to the full.”

Aside from the winning and commended projects, all other submissions showcased the massive potential of the materials donated.

James Latham is one of our Recommended Suppliers and regularly features in our Supplier News section of the website. If you are interested in becoming one of our Recommended Suppliers, please email Katy Phillips.

Main image credit: Joe Fortune