Traditional & Contemporary Woodturning: Bert Marsh & Darren Appiagyei

Unique hand-crafted bowls embracing the natural textures of reclaimed wood

Wood has been central to human life and creativity for millennia. Egyptian monuments commemorate the tools of the woodturner's trade, while turned vessels have been found preserved in Viking ship wrecks and in deep wells on the Scottish Isles. The works of Bert Marsh and Darren Appiagyei represent the universal connection to the material. They transform wood into vessels which celebrate imperfection and the global history of woodcraft. Marsh and Appiagyei's unique handcrafted wooden bowls, sculptures and vessels represent both the history and the future of this fabled craft, embracing the textures of reclaimed wood in works which combine traditional crafts with fresh, contemporary shapes. 


 Bert Marsh, Mulberry Bowl, 2010


Having sense at an early age a profound need to work with wood, master woodturner Bert Marsh's lifelong love affair with the material led him to become one of the finest British artisans of the twentieth century. Informed by early memories of the Herefordshire woodlands as an evacuee in the 1940s, Marsh's finely wrought vessels are renowned for his talent at allowing the wood itself to speak. Apprenticed at 14 to a local cabinet maker in Brighton, Marsh was instantly captivated by the process and the outcome of cabinetry.


This love of process is visible in his works: his bowls use innovative turning techniques to expose the grain across the vessels, drawing out the inherent beauty of mulberry, oak, ash, and more. Imperfection is celebrated, as the unique natural discolouration and imperfections of wood are turned sensitively to make them a focal point of his feather-light bowls and vessels. Perhaps thanks to his initial training as a furniture maker, Marsh's eternal sensitivity means his vessels are as happy as a catch-all to hold jewellery as they are centre-stage on a plinth.


Bert Marsh (1932-2011) was a longstanding member of the Worshipful Company of Turners of London. His works are held in private and public collections across the globe, including the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, United States.


“There is no complex philosophy attached to the work I do. I am simply striving to achieve the perfect form, the purest possible curves expressed in simple, uncluttered shapes that will expose the beauty of the wood to the full.”

- Bert Marsh, 1932-2011


Darren Appiagyei, Pyrographic Vessel 001, 2021


Part of a new generation of woodturners in the UK, Darren Appiagyei views his artistic practice as a 'collaboration' with wood. As the carving and turning process reveals the innate features of the material - the knots, burrs and grains of the tree - the look and form of the piece comes to light. Integrating traditional Ghanaian woodcraft techniques into his treatment of locally-sourced wood which has fallen naturally in the parklands of London, his vessels as an exploration of dual heritage and ancient connections to medium. One recent body of work has focused on the Banksia Nut, an unusual wood native to Australia, which has provided him with a material to explore the breadth of African art and woodworking. He frequently taken a sustainable approach to sourcing wood: a series of bowls uses reclaimed, naturally fallen maple burr, ash, and spalted beach from Shooter's Hill in south London, paying tribute to the ancient woodland which once covered much of the city, while his Pyrographic Bowl transforms off-cuts from the furniture trade into a sustainable piece of art. His vessels are a powerful testament to the imperfect beauty of nature and an exciting insight into the future of wood art in the UK.


Appiagyei's works are held in private and public collections, including the Crafts Council Permanent Collection and have been featured in exhibitions including a solo show at the Garden Museum, London

29 August 2023