Designer-maker Lloyd Anderson on his seamless transformation from musician to furniture maker
It was a book by arguably the greatest 19th century designer, William Morris, that was the catalyst for musician Lloyd Anderson to embark on a new career as a designer and maker of fine furniture. Living in Melbourne and making a living performing in the eponymous band ‘Lloyd Bosch and Woodcutter’, Anderson was introduced to Morris’ ‘News from Nowhere’ at his book club. “I was captivated by it and it sparked something in me” he says “He paints these pictures of a world where craft is the most important thing and the way society interacts is a reflection of that attitude and that got me thinking about working with my hands again”. Exposed to woodworking at a young age through furniture pieces made by his grandfather and great grandfather, Anderson grew up in a household where creativity was respected and valued.
Anderson started simply, challenging himself to make a dovetail joint: “It took me all day and it was a terrible, terrible, terrible dovetail joint but then that was the beginning of working with hand tools, fostering a love of hand tool use and getting to know different timbers” he says of his beginnings.
Working with a friend, a poet from Melbourne with whom he says he knew from performing ‘outrageous shows and parties of poetry, music’, the pair started a modest business creating timber tabletops from a carport. From there he claims to be enthused “it was what’s the next step, and the next step…how do I do a mortice and tenon, how do I make a cabinet, now how do I make doors for the cabinet?”
From there Anderson built a steady flow of orders for bespoke pieces and, returning to his native New Zealand mid-pandemic, was welcomed on his return with an array of customers excited by the new talent in their midst. He says that he prefers to work collaboratively with his clients and gets his inspiration from them “They often have the awkwardly shaped room, or the big windows with the light from the side. It’s the idiosyncrasies of those people’s homes that drive you to come up with creative solutions”.
American walnut and New Zealand grown blackwood are his ‘go-to’ timbers. The latter he sources from a farmer nearby who recently won an environmental award for his work relandscaping his inherited land from which he harvests trees. This echoes the forestry methods that have been employed in the US for generations. More than 10 million private individuals own the hardwood forest in America and they selectively fell trees at their peak life, allowing growth to outstrip harvest each year.
Anderson regularly works with American hardwoods. His last design before leaving Melbourne was a bed made from American cherry. “It’s a fantastic mix of hardness and softness which I get from walnut as well. For me they are the best timbers for working with hand tools. With a soft wood there are challenges with denting and how the chisel hits the timber – it’s tougher. The very hard timbers, like Australian natives, you have issues with your hand planes. You need to keep them very sharp and take very, very thin shavings. With a timber like walnut I can easily work with the hand plane and it holds its shape nicely for the dovetail joints and it’s crisp and it’s got a beautiful shimmer when you take a close shaving off it” he says. His popular Elodie tables are created from another favourite, American hard maple “a hard timber but the finish is excellent off the hand plane and the grain is predictable. With eucalypts there is reversing grain and it’s very challenging to work with” he adds.
Anderson’s upbringing and experiences of pieces of furniture created by his ancestors has meant that he has learnt about sustainable design almost by osmosis “The most important thing from a furniture maker point of view is how long will that piece be around for. A good example would be my great grandfather’s display cabinet. My parents were moving to a new house and they gave it to me. They said they couldn’t throw it away, there is so much meaning attached to that piece of furniture. I say my furniture has a lifetime guarantee, it’s not going to break but more importantly, when I’m working with a client I try and involve them at every decision along the way. I give them progress shots as it comes together. One client I’m building a table for at the moment is putting together a little book of pictures so he can remind himself of how that process unfolded which is a lovely idea. It all serves to attach as much meaning to that piece. The more meaning that piece carries the more that piece can’t be thrown away”
Find out more about Lloyd Anderson HERE