Details & Cataloguing

Design: Living in a Material World


Joseph Walsh
olive ash, burr olive ash, white oil
74 x 322.5 x 106 cm (29  1/8  x 127  x 41  3/4  in.)
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Oliver Sears Gallery, Dublin, Ireland
Private Collection, Co Cork

Catalogue Note

An interview with Joseph Walsh:

Sothebys: In this sale, we pay extreme attention to the materials used by designers and the reasons of their choices. What is the importance of the material used in the design of a piece for you personally?

Joseph Walsh: The Erosion I dining table was in fact the very first in this series. At that moment I was developing my ideas for the piece, I went to the wood I knew best, Ash. Ash was a wood I had worked with from my earliest days making when an elderly neighbour gave me an Ash tree he had watch grow in his lifetime. He chose the tree carefully from the farm and explained why [he chose this particular tree]. I was 15 at the time, and I made a few pieces from this tree. Ever since, I have continued to develop my appreciation and understanding of the Ash tree. Within this series I was exploring and emphasising the relationship between layering and time – through Erosion, Equinox and Enignum.  Ash seemed like the ideal material to create these first pieces. It has a good open grain which meant I could create a solid form and carve it to the desired shape, finishing it with white oil. The white pigment in the oil emphasises the sculptural form of the table but also the grain.

 S: The majority of your work has its foundations in wood. Why have you chosen to employ this material as the basis of your designs?

JW: It’s like a reflex. I am curious and enjoy to work in many different materials, however because I started early on working with wood, it seems like an intuitive medium for me through which to express an idea.


S: You have a very sculptural approach in your work. As design pieces, how important is the functionality in your work?

JW: I feel like I am more committed to creating a sculpture than a piece of design, however I very much appreciate the user engagement that a function gives to a piece. On this basis, I pursue the functionally to a greater or lesser extent. Sometimes while the form is [initially] sculptural, it becomes comes a design process of refining iterations. Sometimes with my purely sculptural work, I have the freedom to pursue the expression in form and material without the constraints of design performance.


S: You often work on unique pieces. Is it important for you to create unique works of exceptional craftsmanship, or is it mainly the result of the fabrication process that prevents multiples from being created?

JW: I like my work to be a reflection of the life of my studio, of my experience and ideas as they evolve, and of my team and the skills that surround me. All of these elements are constantly evolving, growing and developing. For me it is richer for the pieces to be an expression of this.


S: Is the concept inextricably linked to the material you use?

JW: Very much so. My work is very much a material expression. I try to develop my understanding of a particular material and its compositional make up first. and from this bring to life the material alive within the finished work.


Design: Living in a Material World