Born in to a family of furniture makers, Edward Barnsley is considered a fundamental British maker and teacher (Loughborough College)of the 20th Century British Craft Movement. He was the son of Sidney Barnsley, partner of Ernest Gimson;the three of whom had been wildly inspired by the father of the Arts and Crafts Movement, William Morris. Built upon Morris’s beliefs that one should love their craft, and that art should be fully accessible to all, they set to building their own houses, under the premise that all materials were locally sourced and traditionally applied. This was reflected in their practice, another recognisable feature being the exposed tenons and dovetails.
Throughout Barnsley’s schooling at Bedales, Petersfeld, in 1910 there was great stress on learning practical skills and craftwork. 1920 saw him working with Geoffrey Lupton in Froxfield on the construction of the new library, where just three years later he took over the workshop to continue the making of furniture. This furniture was typically in the Costwold Style. The business under his leadership with an abundance of employed craftsmen and apprentices made around seven thousand pieces. The introduction of electricity to the workshops in 1955 was welcomed with mixed feelings; Barnsley not dissimilar to Morris, employed the idea that it was the craftsmanship and handwork that gave each piece its individuality. The use of machines did have an effect on the craft market at the time, due to the increase of speed in the production line, needless to say the skill and time contributed by the maker did not go unnoticed.
Edward’s own style was a tenderly influenced by both his Father and makers of the 18th Century, formed of elegant curves and fine inlay lines, using exotic timbers such as blackbean and rosewood.
For services to design, Barnsley was awarded a CBE in 1945, as well as being a leading figure in the formation of the Crafts Council.
Researched and written by Tony Geering & Kristy Campbell.