The author was a ‘maker’ – in words as well as in materials – and, now that he is dead, this book must be his testament. It is an account of his life and work, assembling particular events and their material outcomes within a large vision of life. It is the work of a believer in material and existential presence, in form, in continuity, in change.
|dimensions||228 × 170 mm|
|illustrations||190 b&w pictures|
|binding||cased in cloth|
Models & Constructs presents the life and work of the designer and maker Norman Potter, but in a form that is neither conventional autobiography nor a simple design monograph. Potter came of age during the Second World War. In the central essay of this book he describes his progress towards design, particularly through his early involvement in anarchist politics and philosophy (which entailed a spell in Wormwood Scrubs prison). His commitment to the modern movement in design was part of a total life-position: one of separation from the culture of Britain and connection to the European mainland.
In the 1950s Potter was the chief figure in a joinery workshop set up in Corsham (Wiltshire). Handcraft values were applied to machines, to make uncompromisingly modern work. Eventually Potter was asked to teach at the Royal College of Art, thus entering a centre of the British establishment. Here particularly he addressed the need to design for a whole environment rather than just produce isolated pieces of furniture.
In a sequence of shorter essays, Potter discusses this work and its products, both objects and interior spaces. These commentaries invoke the processes of thinking about work and of getting it done, and in this are highly unusual in design literature.
Norman Potter is also a writer. Examples of his work in this field are then reproduced: a verse-sequence for performance, ‘In:quest of Icarus’, and some love poems. A commentary on the ‘Icarus’ piece discusses it as a made – and designed – thing. Here, as throughout the book, Potter breaks down the split between literary and visual, which has been so strong a feature of British culture.
The book is illustrated with previously unpublished images. In this, as well as in its own form, the book constitutes a fresh contribution.