Designer Suzanne Hodgson makes contemporary bespoke furniture for clients all over the world. Her intriguing Monolith lamp and beautiful unframed mirror with burr elm shelf are both regular talking points at the gallery. The mirror creates a sense of vastness, much like an infinity pool. Textures of elm contrast with the lines of the mirror. Her Monolith Ambient Floor Lamp features scorched oak and inset LED lighting...
‘The Monolith lamp came about because a lighting designer came to me with an idea. I had some offcuts in the workshop I had turned into bookends. He was interested in the textures of the burnt oak, which I’d scorched. He also liked the idea of dissecting the wood and creating the light. It was his electrical knowledge which helped bring the final design together. ‘The mirror design is all about the piece of wood, the naturalness of it. The edge of the mirror, deliberately left unframed, is veneered in the same wood as the shelf.’
A designer's journey...Originally a physiotherapist, Suzanne turned to furniture making in the 1990s. Her training and work in the NHS still informs her ethos today.
‘Function comes first. If it doesn’t work or fulfil a clear function then I’m not interested. The beauty of a piece is secondary, unless it is purely a sculptural work.’Moving from highly specialised NHS equipment to the high-end furniture market wasn’t as much of a leap as you would imagine. Suzanne trained with furniture designer John Makepeace at his internationally-renowned college in Dorset.
‘I like using my hands, and had already been designing and making for the NHS. I applied to John Makepeace, and it was just brilliant when I was accepted. ‘They liked me because I came without baggage. I didn’t have any bad habits. But I did feel like a fish out of water at first. Most of the students had furniture design backgrounds. I was quite intimidated.’She soon found her feet, bonding with the other students on the course – some of whom she is still in touch with today. Suzanne was able to develop her own minimalist style under the guidance of leading designers Ashley Cartwright and Hugh Scriven. There was a definite move away from mass production at the time.
‘It was the ideal place to start, learning from Ashley and Hugh. They were there to give guidance but also stood back and let me make mistakes, as it is the only way to learn.’
Sought-after designs...Once she graduated, she set up her own workshop in Northamptonshire, moving later to the north-west of England. Work flooded in from private clients across the world, and prestige names such as Harrods, and the Dorchester Hotel. A love of simplicity makes Suzanne’s designs perfect for the modern home.
‘I’m really pared down, all about clean lines. I’ve never been one for intricate adornments. It’s all about showcasing the materials used.
All about the work...Suzanne finds herself fully absorbed in the process of making, spending hours in her workshop working with native and sustainably-sourced exotic woods. Bespoke furniture can come with higher price tags, but Suzanne believes people will pay for something special, and urges potential buyers to visit Artisan Alchemy in person.
‘The quality of the pieces, and how they are made, only really comes across in person. Where you have a mix on the shop floor, you will be more likely to find something you like, as opposed to walking into a store where everything is the same, in one style. ‘A space like Artisan Alchemy opens up your mind.’Suzanne’s work has appeared at The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair, Manchester, the Liverpool Design Festival, and the Grosvenor Museum, Chester. She has received commendations for her work from the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers.