Suzanne Hodgson- 'A space like Artisan Alchemy opens up your mind.'

Suzanne Hodgson makes contemporary bespoke furniture for clients all over the world, and 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, with the textures of the elm contrasting with the lines of the mirror. Her Monolith Ambient Floor Lamp features scorched oak and inset LED lighting, which is touch sensitive. Originally a physiotherapist, Suzanne turned to furniture making in the 1990s, and her training and work in the NHS still informs her ethos today. ‘Function comes first,’ she says. ‘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.’ In some ways, moving from designing 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, so 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, as 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. Taught by leading designers Ashley Cartwright and Hugh Scriven, Suzanne was able to develop her own minimalist style at a time when there was a definite move away from mass production and in favour of individually designed pieces.
‘It was the ideal place to start, learning from Ashley and Hugh, who were there to give guidance but who also stood back and let me make mistakes, as it is the only way to learn.’
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. ‘The Monolith lamp came about because a lighting designer came to me with an idea, and I had some offcuts in the workshop I had turned into book ends. He was interested in the textures of the burnt oak, which I’d scorched, and he 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.’
Her designs are at the higher end of the scale, but she says 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 finds herself fully absorbed in the process of making, spending hours in her workshop working with native and sustainably-sourced exotic woods. 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. Images: Top to bottom: Image copyright Kenneth James. Materials: Scorched Oak, LED lighting, Patinated brass base. Dimensions: H 1250mm x W 110mm x D 155mm. £1495 Portrait of Suzanne Hodgson. Image copyright Dewi Llyod.
Materials: Image copyright Dewi Llyod. Mirrored glass, Burr Elm, Burr Elm veneer. Dimensions: H 1100 mm x W 830mm x D 290mm. £1450.