VES-EL by Gareth Neal with Zaha Hadid


Looking at something with a fresh perspective or from a new angle is always a hard thing to do. Especially any work that involves traditional hand processes or crafts that have evolved over many thousands of years. To challenge an area like this is particularly complex, as a certain stigma has already been attached that’s hard to escape from. When I came across this project titled VES-EL by Gareth Neal it seemed almost too good to be true, and quite relevant for us here who sell handcrafted goods.

Initiated by the American Hardwood Export Council and Benchmark Furniture, Gareth Neal worked as part of The Wish List project which brings together a list of architects and designers for a unique collaboration. Gareth was paired with talented architect Zaha Hadid, with the brief being to create some form of tableware made from wood. Early on Gareth had the idea of challenging handmade goods by producing a digital imitation of a crafted object. With architecture in mind, Gareth used the architectural practice’s advanced computer modelling software alongside a CNC machine to cut the vessels from stack laminated solid oak. The result is a traditional form that’s been manipulated to dramatic extremes thanks to the carving method of the machine, alongside the unique elongated design.

Obviously the debate will go on, especially as industrial design becomes more prominent, but I like the idea of questioning the viewer’s perspective of craft and handmade. Visually these are quite stunning and push the envelope with what can be achieved, but I’m sure it’s just the tip of the iceberg and I hope to see more great work like this using digital tools in the near future. It’s almost as if these objects have movement and are warping in front of your eyes!