Michael Brennand-Wood

I first encountered a book on Michael Brennand-Wood during my High School studies.  Having reviewed his work, I was immediately drawn-in and have admired his work ever since.  I found Brennand-Wood’s background, images and use of story in his work to be intriguing, and engaging.

As such, Jennifer Harris’ et al. biography entitled “Michael Brennand-Wood: Field of Centres” was next on my Research list.

Harris begins her book by discussing the art of the nineteenth century and how the design institutes of the time rejected the validity of Naturalistic Ornament.  The Author states that as a result of the rise of Modernism, Natural Ornament was excluded from mainstream art-making.  However, it is Harris’ opinion that Naturalistic Ornament is now in the process of a resurgence.

The Author refers to the work of Brennand-Wood as helping to claim back the importance of pattern-making.  Harris suggests that Brennand-Wood is achieving this through his study of historical ornament.  Through his research Brennand-Wood produced a body of work on historical lace, which at the time was still very unfashionable.  This work includes Brennand-Wood’s exhibitions entitled “Lace – Contemporary Perspectives” from 2001 and “Unlaced Grace” from 2005 and “Lost in Lace” from 2011.

Harris suggests that Brennand-Wood’s research and developments revolves around ornamentation rather than the structure of the textile. The Author, when referring to pieces such as “Stars Underfoot” states:

“They function as a visual meditation on ornament and on the spatial aspects of three-dimensional realism. They take on naturalistic floral ornament as an intellectual challenge.”

Stars Underfoot -The Looking Glass

Stars Underfoot -The Looking Glass

Harris’ emphasises that Brennand-Wood’s work cannot be easily defined and pushes the boundaries.  The Author gives the example of a historic textile which is usually classified by its aesthetic, or materials or the traditional methods used to create the craft.  Harris states Brennand-Wood’s work differs here:

“This new body of work may be as difficult as ever to classify but is evidence that he continues to mine a rich seam at the interface of painting and textiles and conceptualising and crafting.”

This speaks to the innovation the Author suggests exists within Brennand-Wood’s work.  Other books I previously examined, such as Risatti’s “A Theory of Craft” which I discussed here , spoke in detail about the ways in which Craft has traditionally been classified, e.g. based on the materials (Woodwork), or the process (Smithing, Weaving).  Risatti suggested a modern classification based on the “Applied Function” or “Purpose” (e.g. Container, Cover, Support and possibly Jewellery/Ornament).

Brennand-Wood’s work would suggest that he also defies the traditional classifications of Craft, Fine Art and Applied Art and perhaps works closer to Risatti’s suggestion of “Purpose.”

In a February 2011 interview with Diana Woolf, entitled “Maker of the Month” (viewable here), when Brennand-Wood was asked “Most of your pieces are supported on a wooden base, were you interested in woodwork and sculpture from an early age as well?”  Michael replied:

“Yes, my grandfather was an engineer and he had a shed at the bottom of the garden where he made things in wood and metal. He was an old-fashioned craftsman who really enjoyed making. So my two grandparents were responsible for my interest in the two materials that are primal to my work – wood and textiles.”

Diana Woolf’s full interview is here 

Returning to the discussion by Harris relating to Brennand-Wood’s work, the
Author concludes that Brennand-Wood’s work and his methods do not
originate from traditional working practices.
Furthermore, both his work and methods can not be easily classified within the art world.
The Author summarises that Brennand-Wood continues to create work from
research, developing concepts and producing pieces which are an
invaluable part of contemporary textiles.



I found Harris’ discussion of Brennand-Wood’s work to be an accurate and informative discussion of his work.  Her critical examination of his methods, materials and most importantly his innovative direction, which she calls a “rich mine”, will likely impact upon the design decisions for my future works.

Also, I found the discussion surrounding Natural Ornament to be of note as Art-Botany, Naturalism and the importance of Nature in general to be a recurring theme in my research to date.

Furthermore, I have experienced Brennand-Wood’s work, first-hand having viewed his latest works at the Lost in Lace exhibition in Birmingham and his innovative use of Lace, to represent a core concept, is in keeping with his process of weaving a story with his work and also overlaps with Risatti’s idea of a designers starting out with a “Purpose.”

Thought-provoking reading and very inspirational, and several methods of how I can approach my ideas and work ethics.


Harris, J. et al. (2004), “Michael Brennand-Wood: Field of Centres“, Denbighshire County Council, Ruthin Craft Centre.

Woolf, D. (2011), “Makers of the Month“, http://www.themaking.org.uk/content/makers/2011/02/michael_brennand_wood.html, The Making, Last Accessed January 07, 2012.


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