The Edward James Table

Note from the Editor: Joseph Irving completed a West Dean diploma in furniture making in 2010-11, then returned to Yorkshire to work as a cabinetmaker. I asked him to write a guest post about a table he just made. For those of you who don't know the story, Edward James left his family house and estate to form the Edward James Foundation, with the aim of founding a school to support the arts and conservation. Joe left West Dean with a massive stump and a plan, and two years later we see the fruits of his labor...

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By Joseph Irving

The Edward James table was inspired by my time at West Dean College. The tree stood in the arboretum and was struck by lighting during the Great Storm of 1987. The stump had been left grounded until 2010 when this magnificent piece of cedar was originally cut for firewood but I saw huge potential within the grains. I counted 117 rings in total meaning the tree had been alive since 1870. With this in mind I was passionate not to let this beautiful cedar go to waste. Influenced by the life of the tree, I wanted to create a piece of furniture that will be admired for another a hundred years, giving the tree a new life and a story of its own.

My aim was to create a design with a purpose that would represent the beauty of the wood, while incorporating key dates of historical moments related to the tree and West Dean College. I have paid tribute to Edward James and have included key dates relevant to him and West Dean College within my piece. I was influenced by the concept of developing wasted wood into a beautiful meaningful piece of art.

Table Composition

The table top is made from cedar with weathered glass detail. Inlayed within the grains are nine brass plaques, which each represent a significant year that links to West Dean, Edward James and myself. The key dates range from 1870 to 1987. The base of the table is made from American rock maple. Each leg has been turned and shaped by hand including the carved initials and numbers.

The Story of the Tree - Brass Plaques Timeline

1870 - The tree was planted

1892 - Edward James family acquires the West Dean Estate

1907 - Edward James was born

1912- West Dean Estate passed onto Edward James

1964 - The Edward James Foundation was born

1971 - West Dean College is opened

1984 - Edward James died

1985 - Joseph Irving was born

1987 - The Great Storm

2013 - The table was made (engraving located on the legs)

Below are some pictures from the making, from stump to table!