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Graduate wins furniture design award


A University of Wolverhampton graduate has won an award for his furniture design in a national competition. 

Joe Geehan, who recently graduated with a Master’s degree in Applied Arts & Design in the University’s Wolverhampton School of Art, bagged the Bespoke Design and Innovation Award at the Young Furniture Makers Awards which were held recently. 

His design of a unique Aero Chair was recognised by the panel of judges. 

Organised by The Furniture Makers’ Company, the Young Furniture Makers exhibition is an annual celebration of new, awe-inspiring designs of furniture and furnishings from talented GCSE, A Level and university students, as well as recent graduates from around the UK. 

The Aero chair is designed to fuse together the risk of traditional craftsmanship skills with the certainty of high technology allowing them to coexist in a heavily digitised world celebrating two seemingly juxtaposing subjects.    

Joe said: “I wasn’t expecting this reaction to it, but it sums up the whole journey for me. Winning this award gives the piece real credibility and highlights the amount of work that’s gone into it.  It’s really nice to be recognised in this way. 

“Some of Aero’s inspiration has come from high performance aircraft and bicycles influencing the forms and choice of the high-performance carbon composite element. The black American walnut was chosen to complement the distinctive black tones of the carbon whilst providing warmth to the chair.   

“Aero is a premium design with luxury in mind. It was important to tailor the materials to ensure the user can interact with the contrasting textures and forms of the chair. The traditional craftsmanship element of the design is enhanced with the beautiful strong grain structure hand finished with finishing oil.”  

Jason Fernandes, 3D Design Lecturer at the University, said: “This is an amazing achievement for Joe. He has had a great year, having exhibited the Aero Chair at Dutch Design Week 2021 before winning this prestigious award. 

“Joe is only one of many talented students that are studying with us, creating all kinds of products that have more benefits than just being furniture.  He will undoubtedly put the University and the School of Art firmly on the map in his future career.” 

Design Summary 

Aero is a chair consisting of a carbon fibre cantilever arm that flows into the walnut front legs, the ribbon of curves flow seamlessly frozen in time are inspired from aerospace technology. The unmistakeable presence of the chair invites the user to enter. The hand cut seat form holds the occupant comfortably as the wide arms of the chair envelope the occupant giving them permission to relax and use their laptop or smart device. The form evokes the history of furniture making inspired from a Windsor chair. The carbon fibre begins as soft delicate woven fabric. The weave gives the feel of high-end couture. It also invokes the relationship of the fabric to the composite structure of the timber, comprised of small fibres all compressed and held together with resin. The structural brace pulls the chair together demonstrating the certainty of modern engineering with the aluminium components precisely machined. 
Materials Summary 

Inspiration is taken from aerospace and bicycle technology influencing the forms and choice of the composite elements. The Black American Walnut compliments the multi-faceted nature of the carbon whilst providing warmth. Tailoring the materials to ensure the user’s interaction with the contrasting textures and forms of the chair. The traditional craftsmanship is evident though the use of materials, hand craft, material choices and traditional finishes.  Aero has tested my technical and making ability as a designer combining wood, metal, and composites together. The notable manufacturing processes included the wet layup carbon fibre, off- taper turning and precision engineering skills. 
Craftsmanship Summary 

The carbon fibre arm presented a difficult challenge in the production of the carbon arm. 3D printing, CNC routing and multiple jigs were used to overcome. Machinery including a traditional milling machine and metal lathe were used to accurately create multiple copies of the metal work connecting the brace components. The use of jigs was paramount to assembling the final piece accurately. The use of hand tools included various gouges to form the traditional Windsor chair inspired seat form. Off taper wood turning enabled the tapered legs to form accurately on a wood lathe. The most complex issue undertaken included the accurate jointing of the carbon arm to the walnut base. This was incredible complex to ensure the cantilever was secured safely. 

See more of Joe’s design work on Instagram: @joe_geehan_designs and @equilibri8_design 

Anyone looking to study at the University of Wolverhampton should register for one of our forthcoming Open Days. 


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