Labelled with love
Bronte country is famous for its romantic heroes and heroines, most of them fictional and well over 150-years-old.
While they may not compare with Cathy and Heathcliffe or Jane and Mr Rochester, Anthony Hartley and his partner Nell have their own 21st-century love story.
The couple, who live in Oxenhope, met online, fell madly in love, moved in together within weeks and have a shared passion for making. She bakes cakes and he designs contemporary furniture.
“It’s amazing really. I was very settled in York at the time and within a month I was living here. She has changed my life in every way for better,” says Anthony, who now has a workshop in Haworth.
Their home, an end terraced house, flanked by woodland, is full of their creative endeavours and reflects their contrasting tastes.
Anthony loves modern design and he brought the Italian designer sofa and his own design tables. Nell likes vintage items, which suit the property’s stone floors and open fireplaces.
“We have slightly different tastes but she’s starting to appreciate contemporary design more,” says Anthony.
Their favourite shopping haunts are The Home Store at Salts Mill, Saltaire, which they describe as “design heaven”. The Imaginarium in Haworth and Unto The Last and Labour and Wait in London. Apart from the sofas, Anthony makes most of his own furniture.
He crafted some country-style wood cabinets for Nell’s vast collection of bakeware and bought her a bright green, modern KitchenAid mixer.
In return, she built him a website to respond to the burgeoning interest in his work.
Anthony describes himself as a “jumped up joiner” and it’s true, that’s exactly what he is, though he ought to add: “with knobs on”.
He learned the trade before making the leap into furniture-making at the age of 30.
“I’d been working on flats in London doing kitchens and floors and it got to the point where I felt I couldn’t do another kitchen. It was a now-or-never moment. I’d always loved drawing and designing furniture and that’s what I really wanted to do,” says Anthony, who enrolled at the Leeds College of Art in 2000.
“I wanted to go to art college to do furniture design when I left school but it wasn’t an option. I’m so pleased I did I finally got there because I absolutely love what I do.”
When he left, he devoted as much time as possible to designing and making prototypes in birch ply, supplementing his income with joinery jobs.
Much of his bespoke furniture is based on forms and colours that describe motion, giving each piece a sense of force and movement tightly constrained by the strong shapes and materials.
The technical integrity has been achieved through his years of experience of joinery and an understanding of his materials that enables him to push the stress of woods, ply and laminates to the limit.
His first collection wowed visitors at the Tent London design show in 2011. The sensational Mr and Mrs Smith chair and table, inspired by Paul Smith’s trademark stripes, and the fabulous Big Edna drawers caused a sensation that led to an prestigious commission.
The London Transport Museum asked him to create some pieces for their 150th anniversary and he has made a collection of cable tie furniture featuring the tube map. The money from that job has helped him to buy more equipment for his workshop at Damside Mill, which is rented from the Merrett family. The late Mrs Merrett was very supportive and was keen to see the former textile mill revived.
“She was a wonderful lady and I am very thankful to her. Getting the commission has been really helpful too. I’ve been able to buy some CNC equipment,” he says.
He can now make more of his innovative and affordable Cable furniture, which includes tables, chairs, shelving and stools made from birch ply and cable ties.
The colourful range, which starts at £85 for a stool, looks set to be a best-seller and has already been snapped by glossy magazines and stocked by shops in London.
“The idea was to make something more affordable and very flexible. You can choose colour sequences and you can flat pack it and reassemble so it’s easily stored. You can also swap the seats and table tops round,” says Anthony.
“The secret is the cable tie joint. You just put a coloured cable tie through the pre-drilled holes, tighten up and cut through them when you want to flatten them again. I’m really pleased with it and I’m also very proud that it’s all made in Yorkshire.”
The mill also has features gallery space, where he showcases his own work and that of other Yorkshire makers including the sculptor Sam Shendi and lighting designer Laura Wellington.
It is also offering creative workshops and courses, in upholstery and rush seat weaving.
“It’s a great space and I’ve got lots of plans for it,” says Anthony, who still can’t believe how much his life has changed over the last two years.
“Nell is very organised and has helped with the business leaving me to concentrate on design so everything has come on in leaps and bounds. I still say it was my Big Edna drawers that brought us together. I sent her a picture of me stood next to them and that’s what caught her eye. She fell in love with them first.”
www.anthonyhartley.com or www.damsidemill.com
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Weather for Yorkshire
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North east