George Ingham Designer Maker

Apr 11, 2010
  • Article by Online Editor
  • Designer

George Ingham Designer Maker
RLDI and Prue Ingham, limited edition 1000 copies
Available online at

Late last year I received a telephone call from Dr Rodney Hayward, head of Furniture at the Australian National University’s Wood Workshop, inviting me to attend the opening of the George Ingham retrospective. Much to my dismay, I was unable to attend, but was promised a copy of the ‘special’ book created for the occasion. The next week a package arrived and inside was my review copy of George Ingham Designer Maker. I was expecting the book, but not the beauty that has been captured within the pages.

From the outset this publication stimulates the senses. From its generous size of 340 by 220 millimetres, and at 129 pages, it is a luxurious addition to any coffee table; the simple pencil drawing on the blood red jacket of the publication belies the sophistication within. The book has been produced by George Ingham’s partner, Pru and their daughter architect/designer Kate Shaw, to commemorate the work of Ingham – furniture maker, teacher and founder of the Wood Workshop at the Australian National University.

From the moment I turned the pages I realised that what I had been sent was a gem. The singular beauty of Ingham’s designs has been laid out in full colour, almost an image to a page with photography that captures the sensuality of the objects. You can almost feel the smooth wooden arms and trace the curve of the sway back seats of the chairs or the rippling façade of the perfectly formed tall wooden cabinets. The fine craftsmanship of the objects is tangible.

To say that George Ingham was a gifted designer is underestimating a prodigious talent. Born in Lahore, India in 1940, he moved with his family some 11 years later to Yorkshire leaving behind the chaos of secession. He honed his craft first at the Huddersfield School of Art, then Leeds College of Art where he studied for the Final National Diploma of Design in furniture design. He moved to London to the Royal College of Art to study for the Designer of the Royal College of Art (DesRCA) in furniture design and then came the awards: the title of Royal Scholar bestowed in his first year at RCA, scholarships to Germany and Finland, a Royal College of Art scholarship and a Furniture Makers Guild Travelling award. He worked as design assistant to Antti Nurmesneimi in Helsinki, then David Ogle Associates in London and, after working with architect and designer Professor RD Russell, he lectured part-time at the Hornsey College of Art. In 1968 Ingham decided to freelance as a furniture and industrial designer and consultant in London, while still teaching and occasionally travelling to Japan.

In 1982 Ingham moved to Canberra – a lucky day for Australia. Having founded the Wood Workshop at the Australian National University, he was designated head and senior lecturer and so began the Australian period, time spent mentoring the up and coming designers in Canberra.

Although the book spends little time actually telling the story of Ingham’s life, the forward by Dr Rodney Hayward is compelling and intuitive while the essay by Dr Mark Woolston, one of Ingham’s past students, is passionate and enlightening.

With minimal text, the door is left open for a stylish arrangement of images, some full bleed, others large shots of particular details of joinery. Interspersed between the glossy images are Ingham’s drawings and sketches, doodles on school memoranda and comprehensive plans showing intimate details of his designs. The use of the textured papers for the drawings gives substance to the birth of Ingham’s designs and delights the eye. With every page there is a new discovery and credit must be given to Rob Little for the elegant design layout.

This is a publication that should be in every home, not just because it is beautiful, but because it celebrates a unique man, his vision and generosity of spirit.

George Ingham Designer Maker is a celebration of a world-class talent, who lived and worked among us. Now he can always be remembered.

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