"It's great to use the traditional way of bringing the goods up to the workspace" Hugh Miller said as he swung open the huge weathered steel doors to reveal the 2nd floor view down onto the street below.
Directly behind the main pulley access to this impressive Victorian Liverpool warehouse is the entrance to Hugh’s workshop. Two large panelled wooden doors welcome you into a expansive room of timber in all shapes and sizes. There are neatly stacked planks of wood, wooden floors, walls and cabinets. Tools and worktops for the construction and adaption of wood and an office space neatly constructed inside the workshop. The office flows naturally over two levels, combining a clever use of various woods, elegantly placed glass and a brilliant use of space. The current space took 6 full months of building and fitting out to get it to where it is now. A space he shares with his brother, an architect. “We wanted to use relatively cheap materials but make them look quality. It forced us to think creatively to get the most out of the wood.”
Hugh knew from an early age that he wanted to build things, asking for a shed for his 15 birthday. He recalled the first piece he made "I went out and bought some green oak. I made a writing desk. Not knowing the nature of timber, it dried and warped all over the place, I was fascinated by the material and I’ve been obsessed with timber ever since."
He studied architecture at university to masters level, giving him a great overview of the process from initial concepts through to build. “I loved the MA but it also showed me that I didn’t want to become an architect.” After a short time in London he started the workshop in Chester, then last year moved to the current space in Liverpool where he takes on a variety of projects with timber saying "I like to do one architectural job a year. My main work is commissioned furniture and the newest string is speculative pieces that I will be exhibiting next year." For his speculative pieces he likes to use home grown timber from the UK, sourcing from a number of specialised saw mills.
Walking around the workshop there are number of handmade pieces that immediately caught our eye. One such piece was the record bureau made from Iroko wood with a 1985 Bang and Olufusen turntable seamlessly sunken into the top. The console, like other stunning pieces have a folded aesthetic creating a flow and natural movement. Hugh said “The grain is a sign of where the timber is strong so my designs follow this. I love timber. There is something haptic and visceral about it. It’s light enough to pick up but strong enough to hold things. It’s a cruel mistress if you don’t use it in the way it should be used. There really isn’t two pieces the same.”
This passion for timber is clear to see in all of Hugh’s work. Maybe it's the architectural training that allows him to produce these unique shapes and experiment with different timber. Maybe it's his obvious love for the materials. Or just that he’s an exceptionally talented wood craftsman. Whatever it is, he is producing beautiful pieces of handmade furniture that are as unique as the wood that flows through them.