The Art and Savoir Faire of Finishes – providing a modern approach to traditional craftsmanship


Arts and Crafts Movement

The Arts and Crafts Movement took its name from the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, founded in 1887 which encompassed a very wide range of like-minded societies, workshops and manufacturers.

The two most influential figures were the theorist and critic John Ruskin and the designer, writer and activist William Morris. Ruskin examined the relationship between art, society and labour. Morris put Ruskin’s philosophies into practice, placing great value on work, the joy of craftsmanship and the natural beauty of materials.

By the 1880s Morris had become an internationally renowned and commercially successful designer and manufacturer. New guilds and societies began to take up his ideas, presenting for the first time a unified approach among architects, painters, sculptors and designers. In doing so, they brought the Arts and Crafts ideals to a wider public.

French Polishing

French Polishing is a traditional wood finishing technique that results in a very high gloss finish and deep patina. It was introduced by the French in the 1820’s and consists of applying many thin coats of shellac (a natural resin) which is dissolved in alcohol using a rubbing pad lubricated with oil inside a square piece of soft cotton cloth, commonly referred to as a “fad”. Typically, “softer” oils, such as mineral oil, will produce a glossier and less durable finish, whereas “harder” oils, such as walnut and olive oil, produce a more durable finish. The process is very lengthy and involves carefully building up many layers of polish. Each coat must be fully dry before the next application can begin.

Since the traditional process was very labour intensive, many manufacturers abandoned the technique around 1930 by introducing cheaper and quicker alternative techniques of spray finishing and lacquers.

PROCUREMENT – Construction Management

  • The client forms a direct contractual relationship with the artisan and retains the contractual risk for any non-performance by them.
  • The contracts and orders are all procured and managed by the consultant /construction manager, but contractually remain the client’s risk.
  • The client pays the consultant /construction manager a fee to co-ordinate, appoint and manage the works packages, which results in better cost and budgetary control.
  • The overall design is still the responsibility of the client’s consultants and the client retains control and responsibility for the design team’s performance.
  • The client is more in control of the whole process as the project is broken down into works packages.
  • The consultant /construction manager acts on the client’s behalf, whereas a traditional contractor primarily acts in their own interests.
  • The process is more flexible to suit the client’s needs and is easier to accommodate change.
  • However, the client must have relevant construction experience and the necessary management structures in place to use this procurement method successfully.