The 85 files in this series document the wooden objects designed and produced by the KDW woodturning workshop over the period from 1967 to 1980. The documentation is in the form of slides, photographs and negatives. The items depicted in this collection include: miscellaneous types of bowls such; platters; salt and pepper mills; napkin rings; egg cups; cheese boards; a tea pot stand; two lazy susan designs; candleholders; ashtrays; miscellaneous types of boxes including trinket boxes, cigarette boxes, tobacco jars and matchboxes; sculptural pieces; and miscellaneous toys and puzzles.
The KDW woodturning workshop was one of the early workshops established in 1965, alongside candle-making, ceramics, textiles and silversmithing. It was set up by the Dutch woodturner Maria Van Kesteren, who was invited to the KDW by William H. Walsh. According to some historical writings, Van Kesteren only stayed in the KDW for approximately 18 months – however her influence was felt for decades afterwards. Van Kesteren's central role was to produce functional prototypes that could be reproduced by other wood-turning workshops in Ireland, and her technical expertise and understanding of good design through simple forms, affected the quality of woodturning production nationwide. Her first apprentice was Jim Holohan who worked alongside her on the lathe, tools and wood that Van Kesteren brought with her from Holland.
The objects designed by Van Kesteren that are depicted in this series include a variety of bowl designs – some straight edged, some curved – all simple designs. The type of wood used varies between Irish woods such as chestnut to African woods such as afzelia. Other items depicted include four styles of tobacco jars with lids, a candleholder and a lazy susan with a swivel base. Van Kesteren designed a simple porridge bowl which was later reproduced in vast numbers by George Galbraith's workshop in Abbeyleix for the homeware store Habitat. Van Kesteren reportedly travelled across Ireland visiting woodturning workshops and by taking KDW prototypes with her, Van Kesteren demonstrated to the woodturners new ways of refining their work. One such woodturner, John Shiel, reproduced many of Van Kesteren's prototypes as well as other KDW designers prototypes in his workshop. Shiel originally established his own workshop in Dublin in 1963, but after meeting Van Kesteren he moved closer and established a workshop in Bagnelstown, Co. Carlow. At its busiest, his workshop employed approximately a dozen people, and exported large numbers of KDW products to London and San Francisco. In 1965 a woodturner called Charles O'Connor established a company called West Wicklow Design Ltd in Valleymount, but later joined together with Pauline Boaden, a ceramics expert, to produce standards lamps, table lamps, fruit bowls, cheese boards and many other items, many of which were KDW designs.
Bertel Gardberg who was a prolific designer across many KDW departments such as the precious metals department, designed a variety of wooden prototypes between 1967 and 1969, many of which were manufactured by John Shiel. These items included; a variety of different sized salad and fruit bowls, some made from afzelia wood or chestnut; simple square shaped egg cups and matching napkin rings; a variety of tobacco jars with marble lids; and a set of cheeseboards made from afromosia wood designed for the National Dairy Council.
Gerald Tyler designed the most number of wooden products in this series over the period from 1969 to 1971, a number of which were manufactured by John Shiel, George Galbraith, Charles O'Connor and a woodturner by the surname Gunnell from Stradbally. One of Tyler's designs – a tableware range which included a bowl, a napkin ring, an egg cup and a salt shaker – was produced in John Shiel's workshop, and was later exhibited at Enviro 1970. A press release attached to the reverse of one photograph related to this range describes how the KDW workshop was 'seminal in that many craftsmen were trained there and later set up their own businesses. There was much experimentation with native timbers including bog oak and the main aim was to develop product ranges for quantity production, designed to match the skill levels of different producers.' Although no items in this series are recorded as being manufactured in bog oak, some are made from native woods such as beech, elm, cherry and chestnut. Other items designed by Tyler include: two combined salt and pepper shakers; a set of platters with matching egg cups and napkin rings in Irish cherry; a beech lamp base resembling a stack of thick rings; several variations of cylindrical boxes with lids; and miscellaneous egg cups, napkin rings and bowls. Finally in 1970, Tyler experimented with designing children's toys. One example, a toy train with an engine and two wagons, was described on the reverse of a photograph as 'one of several projects to enable woodturners to diversify'. Other toys included a threading board with cord, a tangram nine piece puzzle and toy building blocks in red, green, yellow and black. Photographs in this file illustrate the various ways a child could build and interlock the blocks to create different shapes.
Peter Lorenzen designed two items illustrated in this series, both of these are also children's toys. The first game depicted features four different stacks of colourful, wooden shapes on a small pull-along trolley. The second game features similar construction blocks, some making the shape of a boat with sails, again in bright colours such as red, green, yellow, blue and black.
One file from 1969 records David Reeves as the designer. This file depicts a circular tea pot stand with a decorative ceramic centrepiece in blues, greens and whites.
In this series Oísin Kelly designed two sculptural pieces for the woodturner Charles O'Connor who later machine carved the pieces. The first was a sculptural figure of a seated piper, and the second featured Irish dancers, a male and a female, on a plinth. Kelly also designed two children's jigsaw puzzles, one featured a large tree with various birds hidden within the branches, and the second featured abstract shapes of different birds and animals such as giraffes, monkeys, rabbits, squirrels and pelicans.
Van Kesteren's first apprentice Jim Holohan designed eight items in this series, all quite sympathetic to Van Kesteren's methods and style. It is reported that O'Holohan left the KDW in 1971 to work for Galway Crystal as a mould maker when the KDW woodturning workshop closed. The majority of the files in this series were created between 1967 and 1971, however there are five files dated to 1974, 1980 and 1984. These include Oísin Kelly's children's jigsaws from 1974, three lathe turned wooden boxes described as 'pagoda boxes' by an unknown designer in 1980, a portrait photograph of Keith Mosse turning a large bowl on a lathe in 1980 and also some negatives of an unidentified woodturning workshop which could have been taken in Kilkenny or at another workshop over the course of the KDW's existence. Other files at the end of the series which are dated to the 1980s are in fact copies of photographs which illustrate work by Van Kesteren and Gerald Tyler from the late 1960s. Over the course of the KDW's lifetime, there was a move away from the focus on traditional crafts towards industrial design and promoting the workshop as a design consultancy. One could conclude that Van Kesteren's original mandate to produce simple but well-designed prototypes for reproduction in woodturning workshops across Ireland was successful, and that many of these workshops continued to produce KDW designs for sale in Ireland and abroad without guidance from the KDW.