TOAST Magazine

John Hollington | New Makers

STYLE & STORIES

It is a perfect balance of art and nature that inform the designs of John Hollington. Engineer turned designer, his works for the garden are driven by a wealth of material knowledge, combined with a love of Modernist art and architecture. John uses traditional sculpture materials such as oak and steel to create sculptural yet entirely functional pieces.

After a 30-year career working in consulting engineering, John chanced upon the open day of a local university near his home in York. Within two weeks of looking around, John was enrolled onto a degree in Product Design. With an extensive and diverse knowledge of materials that working in construction taught him, he applied the same rigorous thinking and planning to his design projects.

Each piece John creates is purposeful and designed to last, guided by his deep-rooted understanding of longevity. The oak is treated through Shou Sugi Ban, an ancient Japanese technique that involves carefully charring the surface of the wood. “I use a seasonal oak, which means it will be less likely to warp and split in the warm, summer months,” John says. “The charring process is a natural and sustainable way to make the wood weatherproof, whilst lending it a beautiful blackened patina.” To give warmth to each nest box, John uses a rusted Corten steel façade that has been weathered with harvested rainwater. 

On first glance, John’s nest boxes appear to be a piece of contemporary art. His restrained use of colour, angular shapes and careful consideration of form have a minimalist feel, stripped back to the essentials. An original nest box sits on the gables of John’s own home in York, providing a comfortable place for blue tits to nestle in each spring. The boxes create a beautiful and subtle contrast to the natural surroundings they sit in, and the geometric habitats attract anything from wrens and goldcrests to little house sparrows.

John creates small batches of each design, and works with local craftspeople when he needs to ensure quality. A cradle-to-cradle philosophy follows each piece John makes, from the materials he uses down to the low impact packaging. “Slowly, over time, the boxes will age well, and I hope that they will also increase in personal value, too,” John says. “If taken care of, they will last for many seasons to come.”

It makes perfect sense that the designer John most appreciates is Dieter Rams. ‘Less but better’, Rams once famously said, referring to the timeless quality, honesty and usefulness that good design requires. “His design principles are more relevant today than ever,” John says. Afternoon trips to the nearby Yorkshire Sculpture Park and The Hepworth Wakefield also feed John’s taste for design. The simplicity of shape and form he sees there continues to inspire his own designs, whilst positively encouraging wildlife into the garden.

The Nestbox by John Hollington is made from blackened oak with a pre-weathered, Corten steel façade. It has a rounded opening for small garden birds to nest and shelter. 

Please note, due to delivery restrictions, we cannot send this item outside of the UK/Europe. We are very sorry for the inconvenience.

Over the next couple of months, you can view the New Makers Collection in our Bath, Edinburgh, London Notting Hill and Oxford shops.

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