Winners meet judges at The Alan Peters Furniture Award 2022 prize-giving ceremony

From left to right: Tom Inman – Highly Commended; Robin Johnson – Commended; Matt Tyson – second prize; Jeff Maker – first prize; Philip Gay – third prize; Freya Whamond – guest judge; Jeremy Broun – organiser/judge; Andrew Lawton – judge


Assistant store manager Lee Stokes presents first prize winner Jeff Maker with a £1,000 Axminster Tools voucher

Marking the end of the Alan Peters Furniture Award 2022, a prize-giving ceremony was subsequently held at Axminster Tools’ Nuneaton store on 12 October. The top five pieces – featured in the November issue – were delivered by contestants that day – around late morning – and following a flurry of self-assembly, the quickest exhibition display I’ve likely ever witnessed took shape, surrounded by an array of impressive tools and machinery, in a perfect space provided by first prize sponsor, Axminster Tools. Lee Stokes, Assistant store manager, was there to present Jeff Maker with a £1,000 voucher, and as this was the first such event I’d organised, I managed to forget that awards are typically announced in reverse order...


Robin Johnson shares images with fellow furniture makers

Sharing & caring

It was a friendly atmosphere, with a group of like-minded people mostly meeting for the first time, and to my surprise, all of a similar generation despite the award being open to all ages. One thing I immediately observed was how interested entrants were in each other’s work. Of course, the mobile phone was never far away when it came to sharing images as well as photographing pieces on display. This was a far cry from my experiences over four decades’ exhibiting at major group events where hardly anybody even said so much as hello – the Royal College of Art dominated the designer-maker scene – in fact, Alan Peters and myself were the outsiders!

I soon realised the dominant influence of social media, which urges everyone to tell their story, and how this is impacting furniture design today. However, I think that whenever we see a piece of furniture, it tells its own story by the associations we project onto it.


We discovered that Matt Tyson’s ‘Cirrus’ desk is full of subtle detail, which needs to be seen to be appreciated

A closer look

This was an occasion when judges and winners interacted. Philip Gay alleviated any doubts that fellow judge Andrew Lawton had concerning the use of metal runners on his ‘Less is more’ cabinet, which received second prize.

The modest Matt Tyson revealed further subtleties in his impressive ‘Cirrus’ desk, that weren’t so apparent in the piece’s application, and which I luckily managed to capture on video during the event.


Guest judge Freya Whamond tries Jeff Maker’s winning ‘Luna’ chair for size

The judging process, which was conducted online using reference images and video, highlighted some doubts concerning the strength of Tom Inman’s cantilevered open lattice table, owing to the fact that coffee tables can be sat upon. A big cliché is that ‘design is subjective’, but surely not when a piece is used differently to how the designer intended.


Intricate latticework on Tom Inman’s Japanese-inspired kumiko table

Design concerns how a piece of furniture stands up in every eventuality. IKEA, despite its cheap public perception, has rigorous testing procedures in place. It was only on close inspection during the ceremony that we realised the table looked stronger than in the photos supplied, and Tom explained to me how he’d veneered over some of the complex halving joints in order to hide the grain.

Guest judge Freya Whamond commented that: “It was a real pleasure to get together with fellow woodworkers, and I’m grateful to have been able to see all of the winning pieces in person, and speak with the talented makers behind them.”

Andrew Lawton told us how, following the event, everyone decamped to a local pub where topics such as pricing, batch production potential of furniture, and other issues relating to furniture makers were discussed.

Kit to take home

The exhibition area was surrounded by enticing tools and machines and I asked participants to choose, theoretically, the piece of kit they’d most like to take home. Starting with Andrew Lawton, his reply was a medium-sized disc sander; second prize winner Matt Tyson pointed to a combination machine – reminding me of my space-saving era – which guest judge Freya Whamond had also spotted.


Axminster’s Lee Stokes with award organiser Jeremy Broun

Robin Johnson chose a beefy drum sander to which Jeff Maker shared the same choice, but his take away would in fact be a shooting board hand plane; Philip Gay had his eye on a small lathe, and Tom Inman wanted the biggest and best table saw, although currently doesn’t have the space to house it. As for me, I spotted a vertical panel saw, which would be ideal for quickly reducing manufactured sheet materials – hang on, I thought this award was about using solid wood? Well, not exclusively!


Freya Whamond and 2022 award contestants reveal the kit they’d most like to take home from Axminster’s Nuneaton store

Open-source culture

The social media revolution has created an open-source culture. No sooner had I arrived home and hardly having time to announce the exciting news on the Award’s dedicated Instagram page, that I realised this was already a trending topic, initiated by some of the winners themselves!

We’ve come a long way from furniture makers often experiencing isolation in rural workshops in pursuit of their passion, and that today, collaboration can coexist with competition.

Our thanks to Axminster Tools for hosting the event as well as English Woodlands Timber – Ben Sharman presented the second prize.

Jeremy Broun has produced two award documentaries on his Woodomain YouTube channel and the award is also featured on his website