ON THE SHELF
A serendipitous collection of things that have caught Hole & Corner's attention
No.1 Robert Welch Design
Since the Hole & Corner office is in the Heal’s building, we’re lucky enough to live with Robert Welch’s legendary designs every day. And we don’t just mean we walk past them in the store: his iconic cast-iron Hobart candlesticks – part of his Heal’s collection – sit on our office table, while a framed print of his instantly recognisable silhouettes hangs next to the door.
When Welch passed away in 2000, his status as one of the giants of 20th century British industrial design was already firmly established. The company he set up in 1955 is still based in the same former silk mill in Chipping Camden in the Cotswolds, and is today run by two of his children, Alice and Rupert Welch.
Design: Craft and Industry, a new retrospective of Welch's work, now sits proudly alongside his candlesticks in the H&C HQ. Serving as a blueprint to his simple, modernist approach to design (including countless fascinating work in progress sketches), the book is an indispensible guide to anyone who appreciates what Sir Ambrose Heal described as ‘fitness for purpose’ in design. Like Sir Ambrose, Welch was influenced by the Arts & Crafts movement and the thinking of Ruskin and Morris – but also by the utilitarian approach of 20th century Scandinavian design. (He made several trips to Scandinavia while training as a silversmith at the Royal College of Art, including a period working under Norwegian silversmith Theodor Olsen.)
The designer Margaret Howell, a longstanding Welch fan – and no stranger to the power of simplicity in design herself – remembers visiting his studio in Chipping Camden and being ‘excited by the creative chaos of paper sketches, wooden moulds, hand tools and trial samples’ in his attic. If anything, this book offers a tantalising glimpse inside that attic…
Robert Welch – Design: Craft and Industry by Charlotte and Peter Fiell (Laurence King Publishing, £30)