James Latham supplies HIMACS, UPM and Valchromat for student competition at one of the UK’s leading furniture-making colleges

James Latham, is a long-time supplier for Rycotewood College (Rycotewood), Oxfordshire, one of the country’s leading institutions for vocational training for furniture design and making.

When the college approached James Latham to be involved as a partner for its 2022 student competition, they were delighted to donate the materials for it.

At the heart of the competition’s aims were colour and curve, inspired by guest mentor Fred Baier. So, to provide an extra level of challenge, James Latham suggested the students work with unfamiliar materials, using the resources available at Rycotewood, under strict timings.

Testing Creativity

Once the overarching theme of ‘storage’ was agreed, James Latham approached three of its premium supplier partners to get involved: HIMACS, UPM and Valchromat. All globally popular options for furniture applications, they were delighted to participate.

Following a 10-week entry period, in which 12 Rycotewood Degree students participated, judging took place during the end of year celebratory show and the winning and commended entries announced at a special event on Monday 13th June

Looking at the best in show from the 2022 competition…

High Praise for HIMACS

Commenting on working with HIMACS, Yuchen Liu, one of the joint winners, said, “Solid Surface was a totally new material for me and I was immediately impressed at how it can be worked in a similar way as bent, laminated wood, but hold a far better shape, with more consistent surface definition. I knew it had to become the centrepiece of my project.”

Yuchen’s cool and contemporary bar cabinet is a true celebration of HIMACS, using its bright orange tone complemented with stained European oak to create a visually arresting piece of furniture.

What made his piece stand out for the judges was the originality in its use of HIMACS, and the way in which he had formed the surface to create a seamless s-shaped curve. This feature ran across the top of the cabinet before cascading down its side and tapering off to create a multi-level effect.

Yuchen continues, “The beauty of HIMACS is you can create invisible joints. To look at the surface, few would guess it had been formed from four separate pieces, and it was great to be able to apply the same woodworking skills for timber to a completely different material.”

Making the Grada

Luke Rawlinson was the competition’s other winner, using UPM’s Grada2000 Birch Plywood to breath-taking effect in an elegant, biophilic-themed storage cabinet.

Taking advantage of the material’s thermoformability, he adopted an innovative approach to the design by accentuating Grada2000’s signature ability to curve and stay curved

Light and modern, the sustainable credentials of the material were further enhanced with, curved shelving and ribbing on each side of the central storage unit, creating a pleasant visual contrast. Furthermore, the ribbed side act as a trellis from which creeping plant life can prosper, enhancing the natural theme Luke intended.

Vivacity in Valchromat

Catherine Warsi was also singled-out for her clever and creative use of Valchromat, discovering the versatility of this popular engineered panel when aiming to create an ambitious spherical storage unit.

Seeking a through-colour surface, but realising the tools available on-site would limit her opportunity to work with HIMACS, Valchromat’s blue-hued board provided the perfect solution to this challenge.

As she explains, “The structural composition of Valchromat makes it easy to shape, meaning I was able to achieve the stepped spherical shape I wanted using the equipment available at Rycotewood. Furthermore, the product came in an amazing range of colours, which fired my imagination.

A Resounding Success

Commenting on the success of the competition, Josh Hudson, Furniture Lead at Rycotewood, says, “This competition really tested the mettle and imagination of the students who delivered incredible results under considerable time pressure. James Latham’s provision of a variety of different materials really encouraged them to think outside the box and discover the advantages and potential of a completely new range of products. We hope it inspires and encourages them. We look forward to working once again with James Latham on the 2023 edition of this award scheme.”

To find out more about Rycotewood School and its work click here.

For more information about HIMACS, UPM and Valchromat, as well as Lathams’ wider material portfolio, click here.