The son of Josiah Gimson, an engineer and iron founder, founder of Gimson and Company, Ernest Gimson was born in Leicester in 1864. Between the years of 1881-5, he was articled to Isaac Barradale, where he worked at Grey Friars. In completion of his degree at Leicester School of Art, Gimson had acquired considerable architectural experience, and his meet with William Morris two years prior to this had allowed for correspondence between the two, whereby Morris wrote his letters of recommendation on his pursuit of gaining further experience in London.
Two years were spent working for John Dando Sedding. Here, he was driven in to focusing on textures and surfaces, predominantly under the theme of nature. The Sedding offices were located nextdoor to the showrooms of Morris & Co., allowing for the perfect viewpoint with which to see Arts and Crafts design flourish before him.
It was at Seddingís studio that Gimson was acquainted with Sidney Barnsley, with whom he set up partnership with in 1900, forming a workshop and employing cabinet-makers.
In 1889, on Gimsonís return to London after experiencing a little more of Europe, he joined Morrisís Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. The following year along with Barnsley, Powell, Lethaby, Macartney, Mallet and Blomfield, he founded the furniture company Kenton and Co.; working amongst this team of designers rather than craftsmen, enabled the development of their concept regarding the articulation of traditional arts, and the strive towards individually designed and well made furniture.
He undertook lessons from Philip Clisset in 1890, a very skilled chair maker based in Herefordshire, in order to revive the ancient craft of making ash and oak chairs with rush seats, in line with the Arts and Crafts Movement.
The Barnsley brothers and Gimson settled in Cirencester in 1900, where Gimson set up a furniture workshop at Daneway House taking sole control of the business, where he stayed and practiced until his death in 1919. It was here that he hoped to form a Utopian craft villiage, whereby the community was both inspired and took to working in the crafts. His chief cabinet-maker was Peter van der Waals.
"Work not words, things not designs, life not rewards were his aims."- Lethaby.
Gimsonís craftwork and furniture is considered a supreme achievement of its period. It can be found on display in the principal collections of the decorative arts in Britain and in the US. Other venues include the New Walk Museum in Leicester, and at the Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum, including both Rodmarton and Owlpen Manors.
Researched and written by Tony Geering & Kristy Campbell.