Introducing Sarah Davenport – Co-founder and Director

Sarah Davenport-9695

A specialist in bringing together unusual ideas and people to establish new works, Sarah began her education at her old family company Davenport from the age of 17 working in the time-honoured way with natural materials and a renowned team of master craftsmen. Each piece of furniture was designed and hand-made individually for the client, so she developed her own technique organically, bringing together unique combinations to deliver tailor-made solutions. Part of a three year project working with the Nottingham Trent University required delving into the wider design industry, and it was here that Sarah discovered a love of collaboration, becoming the youngest board director of British Design Innovation and working directly with legendary pioneer Maxine Horn. Inspiration from the Milan Design Show led to a project bringing together the most innovative of Nottingham talents – including Philip Watts Design, Fiona Heron, Eternal Spirits, Lief Design, Jon Burgerman, Dilk, Lindsay Devine, Louise Hunt, Dr Jim Shorthose, Louise Hunt, Vaas and Joff + Ollie, with an extended challenge originally delivered by Marcel Wanders to show ‘not what you do everyday, but what you really can do’. The event which took place in the old Davenport workshop would not have been possible without sponsorship from Actons Solicitors, and drinks from the Nottingham Brewery who supplied ‘Inspiration’ on tap, and Casciani Salicetti (who exported their exquisite wine for the first time from Montegioco especially for the event). ‘Unleashed’, as it was called, celebrated conceptual works from all collaborators, and it was here that Sarah launched her first signature piece, ‘Chichi the Rocking Piano’. The event travelled from the launch in Nottingham to the Nicholls and Clarke building in Shoreditch (to exhibit with Designersblock as part of the London Design Festival), and this leg was sponsored by Nottingham Trent University with support from Jeremy Hague, Paul Hough and Lynn Oxborrow.

The event acted as a catalyst, and Sarah continued to work through Davenport with local, national and international pioneers – often including members of the original team – creating signature projects and events and also delivering works for individual commissions. In particular, the company worked closely with designer Yashmit Amin and Suzanne Mizzi to deliver beautiful works for London and French homes. Great support was received by Designersblock and Icon Magazine, which became media sponsor. A key event was created in collaboration with Justin Turford to unite for the first time over thirty artists of studios Moot, Tether and Oldknows to explore the brief ‘What is Beauty?’. The one night only event took place in an abandoned jail on Station Street, and nobody could quite believe their eyes when the doors opened to display the Dalai Lama who had as it happened just arrived by train to Nottingham.

The challenges leading the family company to close in 2010 made Sarah and her Mother Mig more passionate than ever to find ways to help creative talent flourish, and so for one year (with launch help from Dominic Corder and team) they opened a shop and collaborative space in Flying Horse Walk in Nottingham to showcase the work of over seventy multidisciplinary creatives. From there Sarah concentrated on working with others to deliver individual commissions. She also developed experience-based events as a Marie Curie Research Fellow working closely with Dr Marina Candi of Reykjavik University and Johann Riedel of Nottingham University, whilst private consultation work took her to Maison  D’Objet in Paris working for Charlie Smallbone and Damien Lawrance to launch their new company Rock and Bone. She also went to China to work with master glass-sculptor Steven Weinberg, which included lecturing at the National Academy of Fine Art in Hangzhou.

A milestone was marked by a project Sarah had wanted to make happen since she had the idea in 2008: to fill empty shop windows in Nottingham City Centre with works of creative brilliance. The idea minimised waste on a number of levels by showcasing available space in a positive way for the property owner or agent, by giving creatives the opportunity to communicate works in prime locations and by establishing cheerful and inspirational scenes for the public. The idea was finally given the go-ahead for Christmas 2012, with sponsorship from the Nottingham City Council and the BID, and crucial help from Ben Tebbutt of FHP, Bildurn Properties and also from Lambert Smith Hampton, Savills, Nottingham City Council Property Plus, Nottingham Regeneration, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Futures, Bruton Knowles, London & County, The Exchange and the Park Plaza. The finished pieces celebrated the works of Splant, Adam Spinos, Debbie Bryan, Eternal Spirits, Elefair, Rikki Marr, Rob Howie Smith, The Golden Cage, Philip Watts, Dom+Em, Dr Valeria Passetti, and Webs Furniture Training.

Signature items created over the years have included, the ‘Design Playground’ Rainbow Bench and Muse Desk designed with Yashmit Amit as ‘seriously playful’ furniture for exhibition at Nhow Milano; ‘The Restoration Throne’ designed by Sarah and handmade by craftsman Patrick Turk (which featured prominently in both the Evening Standard and the Independent as a highlight of the Milan Design Festival 2013); ‘Hello Stranger’, a book (image featured – many thanks to Hue of Two) written for art director Elisabetta Scantamburlo and exhibited at Nhow Milano as a giant ‘novella tavolo’ handwritten on tracing paper, bound by St Neots Picture Gallery with a Feature ‘foot’ by Phillip Watts Design, and illustration by flower sculptor Susie Bernhardt Phillips. Works have been featured widely on BBC Television, including Regional News, Working Lunch and Inside Out as well as in publications including The Guardian (where in 2015 Chichi the Rocking Piano was listed as one of the 10 best re-designed Pianos), the Sunday Times Style and Vogue. Works have been exhibited within the Museum of Modern Art Milan and the Museum of Science and Technology Milan.

Sarah is now joint Artist in Residence at Bestwood Lodge with her partner Charles Beauclerk, where they are working together to develop the Shakespeare Academy.

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