Stepping into Henk Littlewood's studio at Exchange Place Studios is a little bit Narnia-like. The delicious and heady smell of wood hits you as soon as you open the door. There are tree trunks everywhere – propped against walls, underneath and on top of work benches – all waiting for Henk to begin his carving and shaping magic.
Henk makes furniture of all shapes and sizes, and to suit all tastes. When we stopped by he was carving an oak book case and he'd just taken delivery of an unwanted yew tree. We just missed the seven story posts and bench he'd been commissioned to make for Chelsea Park, but we're planning a trip to see them in situ. Based on Edward Lear's poem, The Owl and the Pussycat, Henk's story posts feature creatures and symbols from the poem carved into sweet chestnut, and an oak bench carved with waves to represent the sea.
A published scientist who specialised in zoology, Henk draws inspiration from evolution and nature, and these themes are ever present in his work. The shapes and forms of his work make a perfect marriage with the texture and warmth of wood. If you're in the market for anything woody, be it a spoon, table or pagan wedding arch, then Henk is your fella. And a lovely fella he is too, as warm as the wood he works with. Stop by his studio at the next Open Studios weekend, if only for a whiff of the wood stuff.
How would you describe your work?
Bespoke, hand made furniture in sustainable hard woods using traditional techniques to original designs.
What inspires you?
The living processes that shape trees, natural cycles and evolution, human desire and love.
What’s your workspace like?
Vast, dusty, full of groovy tools and lush pieces of timber.
What do you love about Sheffield?
Bumping in to people I know or who know me.
What would you do to improve the city?
Create some dedicated cycle ways along main thoroughfares – no more competition with cars, lorries and buses. I'm half Dutch, cycling is in my genes.
- Words by
- Claire Thornley
- Images by
- Gemma Thorpe