Just under a year ago, one of Leighton Park School’s current parents, an award-winning furniture designer, approached the Headmaster, Nigel Williams, offering to design and build a piece of furniture that not only celebrated the 125th anniversary of the school but also evoked the Quaker values upon which the school was founded. Enthralled by the concept designs Nigel was shown, he was delighted to accept the very generous offer.
In February a wonderful piece of furniture, designed and handcrafted by Kathryn Sumroy, a recent graduate from the National Furniture School, was presented to the school and its students by Kathryn in Collect.
The table is handcrafted from English “pippy” oak, which Kathryn chose because of its beautiful figuring and the resonance of the oak leaf with the heritage of the school. The whole design of the table from the sourcing of the timber, to the simplicity of form and even the material and stitch selected for the tapestry inlay were all chosen because they reflect some aspect of Quaker faith and approach to life.
Kathryn explained the design process to the students and staff in Collect and described how her vision for the piece had evolved from her research into Quakerism. “Simplicity of form was paramount, and the photographs I found of furniture from early Quaker Meeting Houses were a vital inspiration.” commented Kathryn “The inlay depicts the seven words Leighton Park uses to describe the core Quaker Testimonies. Once I found that the original Quaker Tapestry featured the Peckover building in one of its panels, making the inlay in anything else felt wrong. I managed to source the same tapestry fabric and thread that had been used in the original, tapestry and taught myself “Quaker stitch” which was specially designed for its text.”
Although the table will reside in Peckover and be used for Sunday Meeting, it will become an integral part of school life. The tapestry panels are removable which allows the design to change and reflect what is happening within the school. This was an intentional, key aspect of the concept and best described by Kathryn, "For me this is a living work. The Leighton Park students will be able to design and make their own inlays, in place of the tapestry testimonies, using whatever medium they choose: photography; ceramics; wood; paint or textiles. It’s this kind of interaction that will make the piece a unique reflection of the Leighton Park Community.”
On behalf of the community Nigel commented , “As a school we are very fortunate to be the benefactors of such a generous and meaningful gift. This table received in our 125th anniversary year will be with the school for many years and as the wood of the table matures and the panels change with each cohort of students so I am sure the table will be part of the 150th , 200th and more birthdays to come”.