'Dynamic, Tactile, Pragmatic' - Interview with Alan Flannery

A long introduction here is not needed . . . Alan Flannery has already done the hard work and provided you all with a great insight into his designing and making practice. The Artisan Alchemy gallery is lucky enough to be the current home of his 'Retrospect Sideboard', 'Tephra Console Table' and more recently the 'Amplex Chair' and 'Red coat Rack'. All pictured below!   

Without further a do I hope you enjoy reading his interview responses as much as I did!

Considering the experiences, you have had over the years - if you could go back and give yourself a piece of advice for the start-up phase, what would that be? '

If I had to opportunity to give myself one piece of advice for the start-up phase it would be that perseverance is even more important than I thought it was at the time. The start-up phase can be along one and the inertia of getting a craft business moving can be tough going. I would tell myself to keep going, even during the difficult times, and have faith in what you are doing, and that in time things will get easier, but it does take time.'

What do you wish more people knew about your work?

'I wish more people had the opportunity to see my work in real life. This is even more difficult at the moment during all the goings on of Covid-19 but I really enjoy the thought of people interacting with the pieces personally either at an exhibition or in the Artisan Alchemy Gallery. I do not think that seeing an image online is a substitute for being able to walk around a piece, viewing it from every angle, touching it or getting the smell of wood, leather etc.'

Can you describe briefly the method behind the making?

There are many different methods employed in the making of a piece and the collection of processes changes from piece to piece. One of my most favourite processes is shaping curves, contours into a piece created a more organic, softer aesthetic. There are many different ways of shaping a piece of wood, for example traditional methods such as spoke shaving, filing surforming, where layers of wood are removed either through a slicing or abrasion action until the desired shape is achieved. A more industrial and aggressive approach is the act of “power carving” where an angle grinder fitted with a toothed wheel is used to remove layers of material much more quickly. Much of this shaping work is done by eye and for me this is when I feel at my most creative.'

Why have you stuck with furniture/wood over other mediums, what is it about furniture/wood that excites you?

'Furniture design and making is the medium of creativity that excites me most as I feel it is an art form where form meets function. It is very much a visual creative pursuit but the object which you create also has to serve a purpose, to be a functional item. Wood as a material is very versatile, and its properties lend themselves very well to the making of furniture. It is a warm, tactile material and, as a piece of furniture is an item you interact with, you can make the most of this tactility. Also as wood is a natural material, no two pieces are the same giving each piece of furniture a “fingerprint” and a uniqueness.'

When you start making a new piece what is your process. How much of it is a pre-formulated plan and how much do you let the material spontaneity lead you?

'The process of creating a piece of furniture, for me, starts with sketching out concept ideas. This is a free flowing practice and is the most spontaneous part of the process. Once an idea is settled upon the process becomes much more pre-formulated and regimented. It takes a lot of planning and forward thinking to refine the design and to decide upon the best way to make the piece. This can often include making scaled models, mock ups and test pieces if a certain, joint, section or process needs to be tested. Sometimes during the making process changes are made to the design if a better/ more interesting alternative presents itself. It is very much a matter of analysing and appraising the piece as you go.'

What do you do when you are lacking in inspiration and ideas?

'Normally if I am lacking in inspiration or ideas, I look back through previous sketchbooks where I have documented ideas I have had in the past. I find it very important to keep a log of ideas you have as you go along because in the future when you need an idea it is a great way of jogging your memory of previous thoughts you have had. Often I find that the older ideas may trigger new avenues of thought and inspire you to create something new.'


What would you do if you saw a very similar piece to your work during your development process?

'Just like in the case of writing music, there are only a certain amount of permutations and combinations within the world of furniture design. There is also the old adage of “great mind think alike” and this can be very true when creating furniture. You may be very proud of the originality of a piece only to see something similar that may pre dates it by a number of years. Sometime this is inevitable but if I were to see something similar to one of my designs before I had made it, it would make me want to change elements of the design or not make the piece at all. I take great pride in endeavouring to be original in the pieces I produce and so thinking I was making something that was too close in design to an existing piece is something I would do my best to avoid.'


What/who is the biggest influence in your career?

'Visually I love the work of designers Luigi Colani and Vladimir Kagan. The furniture designs produced by Kagan are some of my favourites. I particularly admire the fact that they were forward looking, futuristic at the time whilst still being elegant, practical wood based pieces. Colani was very much a multi-disciplinary designer whose work spanned areas such as furniture, cars, trucks and electronic devices. His work was very futuristic, forward thinking an in my opinion timeless.'

The last work, book, film, city that moved me was...

'The last work that moved me is the recent poetry of Rye Aker, a poet who commissioned to document the city of Galway through its tenure as the European city of Culture in 2020. Due to the coronavirus the events have been curtailed enormously but instead Rye is documenting the area and its people’s journey through the current pandemic. For me the work he is producing is so moving and in my opinion more powerful and possibly more important than the work he was tasked with initially.'

Describe your personality in 3 words, describe your work in 3 words.

'Me: Laid back, Positive, Inquisitive. My Work: Dynamic, Tactile, Pragmatic'