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In Conversation with Woodcarver and Architect Tom Wilson | Artisans Stories

In Conversation with Woodcarver and Architect Tom Wilson | Artisans Stories

Curio Studio was created in 2013 by practising architect Tom Wilson as a way to connect both his designing and making processes. It was during his architectural training that he realised how much he enjoyed working at a hand-held scale, making the models themselves and thinking of these as the final piece.

“Being designer and maker means you get to practise the intent (design) and action (making) almost simultaneously,” Tom explains.

Through his signature, geometric wooden birds and playful stackable toys and animal-shaped shakers, Tom manages to joyfully capture the personalities of the creatures he carves, expressing their unique characteristics through the elegant simplicity of their shapes.

To capture the personality of these energetic creatures in wood, Tom sketches their shapes “to exhaustion”, in order to pare back their forms as much as possible. 

“Sometimes the sketching takes this too far and so I need to go back a few iterations. On the one hand the wood is inflexible, but it can be worked to slender shapes, crisp edges and fine points and finished to a warm tactile surface.”

The first of Tom’s elegant bird pieces was inspired by the Artic Terns that Tom watched diving off the coast on a trip to the North Danish coast. 

“Birds tend to have a naturally streamlined shape which lends itself very well to the way I‘ve been making things. Smooth flowing lines are a joy to cut and finish. The assembly of the different woods can afford to be fairly crude in some ways, and so it’s not until the final cuts are made that you get the reveal of contrasting tones combined with the form.”

Modernism and simplified shapes are influences that also stem from Tom’s architectural education.

“Perhaps the biggest single influence on my wooden animals and birds has been the American illustrator Charly Harper.  He made wonderful images of animals and much more using minimal geometry and subtlety, but still showing off movement and character. I think his work has been heavily influential on lots of graphic work that’s around these days.”

Curio Studio was not just created to satisfy Tom’s desire to make, but also his natural curiosity, (hence 'curio') - he delights in the 'unexpected places' that his commissions can lead to. Tom points out that there are lots of ways to be curious and that it is an important part of the creative process.

“For me the question of “how?” rather than “what?” is the one that yields the most interesting stuff. It implies there is a problem to be solved and problem solving is at the root of design and making. I find it exhilarating when I’ve answered all the “hows” and the making goes swimmingly.”

Tom also enjoys the creative problem solving process when he works on commissions.  

“I loved making a ring box in the shape of a bear a few years ago. The bear form was based on one of the first animals I made, but there was lots more complexity involving concealed magnets, some delicate woodturning and felt ring cushions.  The piece was commissioned to contain 2 wedding rings and was used during the wedding ceremony - hopefully it's still with the happy couple. More recently I was asked to make a puffin following the customer's trip to Scotland where they saw them.  A puffin can’t do without its feet and proud posture so this meant a different approach to most of the previous birds I’ve made.”

Looking to the future, Tom hopes for many more of these fascinating commissions in order to continue testing his creative problem-solving skills. He also dreams of a new workshop which, in true Curio Studio style, Tom intends to design and build himself.

To see more of Tom's work you can visit his website or Instagram.

Also read 'In Conversation with Furniture Designer Will James' | Artisans Stories