Top class designer delights global market from Laois farm

A 27-year-old architect, whose wood designs are captivating international gallery owners and households, crafts his work on the family farm in Co. Laois.

Alan Meredith’s appreciation for wood goes back to his childhood on the family beef, sheep and tillage farm at The Oak, Mountmellick, which he helps to run, working alongside his dad and brother.

The designer is currently working on an abstract installation, commissioned by a firm of architects, for the 16th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice, Italy, called ‘La Biennale di Venezia’.

His vessels will also be exhibited in Quebec, Canada.

Meanwhile, closer to home, he has won a competition as part of the Per Cent for Art Scheme, to design a piece for the Holy Family School, Portlaoise.

Image source: Roland Paschhoff

Alan’s base is a restored stable, cow house and restored grain loft on the family farm.

Although he practices as an architect, his main focus is sculptural furniture vessels which sell as sought after art works. They regularly feature as standout designs for public spaces, such as parks.

Growing up on a farm, you’re making things. There is always something to be made or fixed.

“You get an understanding of an intuitive way of working as there are so many situations on a farm. You are constantly challenged to come up with solutions – even if you are not dealing with massive problems.

“Also farming involves different materials that I like, such as wood, concrete and steel,” said Alan.

Old farm buildings

“Most farms have workshops and in summer, you have empty sheds. There are lots of old farm buildings all over the country; but with newer farming methods, they are not as useful for farming anymore.

“In many cases, they are derelict. They have character but don’t have a purpose,” said Alan.

If the buildings don’t have a function, he says there is no motivation to keep them in good order.

“They need constant maintenance. However, they could play a role in providing premises for small enterprises. Furniture manufacture is the type of business that tends to be found in an industrial estate which can be very characterless,” he said.

Image source: Roland Paschhoff

“The type of work I’m doing is about craftsmanship and character, so these types of old buildings are very suitable for it. Plus, the wood grows in the surrounding countryside.”

Steam bending

The Laois designer’s high-end organic furniture collection frequently includes striking tables and chairs.

The furniture and vessels are created for a largely international market, including the UK, the US and Switzerland.

He will demonstrate his technique of steam bending while in Canada.

“This is where wood is put into an insulated box and steam is pumped into the box over three hours. The wood is in a chamber that heats up. Moisture penetrates the wood which makes it very flexible, allowing it to be reshaped,” said the Mountmellick-based designer.

His public space creations include benches which have been bought by Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council, Bloom – the country’s leading gardening festival – as well as some schools.

Helping out on the farm provides a welcome break from the proliferation of emails and deadlines, he said.

“It’s nice not having a commute too,” he concluded.