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3rd September 2014, 3:30pm
Furniture designer’s one-off creation for Sir Terence Conran goes on show
Sebastian Cox, with “Getting away from it all” An award-winning furniture designer who developed his unique style at the University of Lincoln will showcase a piece of work specially-commissioned by Sir Terence Conran at the London Design Festival.

Celebrated by Grand Designs’ Kevin McCloud as being “at the very pointy end of showing us just how versatile and productive our coppice woodland can be”, Sebastian Cox is recognised as a pioneer of sustainable design in the UK.

He was invited by Sir Terence, one of the country’s best known designers, retailers, restaurateurs and writers, to create a bespoke item of furniture that will be exhibited as part of The Wish List installation at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The Wish List, which runs from 13th – 21st September 2014, is a collaboration between Sir Terence Conran, Benchmark, the London Design Festival and the American Hardwood Export Council.

It was instigated by Sir Terence when he asked some of the most illustrious names in architecture and design: “What have you always wanted in your home, but never been able to find?” Under the mentorship of these industry greats, 10 emerging designers were asked to create the elusive items.

Sebastian produced “Getting away from it all” – a distinctive enclosed desk, book-ended by two storage towers – for Sir Terence himself.

Sebastian, who completed the BA (Hons) Furniture Making and MA Design programmes at the University of Lincoln, said: “This has easily been my biggest challenge as a furniture maker. I only had a week to make it, and as it needed to be of immensely high quality, I tried to put into it every single thing that furniture makers are taught – from different types of joint, to creating a secret compartment.”

Sebastian was invited to take part in the exhibition after producing a range for Benchmark, the leading furniture company co-owned by Sir Terence Conran and Sean Sutcliffe, which has now been shortlisted for a prestigious Elle Decoration British Design Award, in the Best British Sustainable Design category. The range is created from coppiced wood – a sustainable material that Sebastian has been passionate about since his time at university.

He said: “My Masters really ignited in me the idea that it was possible to do this as a career. John Stocker, who led the course, really encouraged me to explore different materials, and this is where my interest in hazel coppicing stemmed from.”

Coppicing is a traditional method of woodland management which takes advantage of the fact that many trees make new growth from the stump or roots if cut down. In a coppiced wood, young tree stems are cut to near ground level, and then grow back again so that they are ready to be re-harvested after a number of years. The trees, as long as they are coppiced, will never die of old age and as only a section of the wood is cut each year, there are always trees ready for harvest.

Forests in Britain have been coppiced for thousands of years, and whole ecosystems of flowers, insects and birds have evolved to live in these unique habitats. An ethos of responsibility towards these habitats is a theme which runs through all of Sebastian’s work.

He explained: “When I started university I realised that everyone is responsible for making decisions about the materials they buy, and that these decisions affect day-to-day living on a much larger scale. We have a responsibility to consider and provide, as designers and makers, sustainable furniture - that is the core ethic of my brand.”

Sebastian has recently taken on two staff to support his business, which has grown from humble beginnings in a small stable within the Lincolnshire Wolds. He currently has one collection stocked in Heal's and another ready to launch for The New Craftsmen. He has been shortlisted for the National Wood Awards and is the driving force behind a new range from social enterprise, Out of the Dark, which restores salvaged furniture while training young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

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