In Search of Hephaestus


Inside the Timothy Richards Workshop in Bath


This Christmas we’ve teamed up with the Timothy Richards architectural model workshop.  Based in Bath, Timothy and his team have spent over 25 years researching and developing their own techniques in plaster. They are inspired by the famous Parisian model makers of the 1800’s  Jean Pierre and Francoise Fouquet, who kept the secrets of their own plasterwork closely guarded.  The Fouquet’s work can be seen today amongst the V&A and Sir John Soane Museums’ collections.


The Timothy Richards Workshop in Bath

Timothy Richards is one of the only  workshops still in existence that follows the handmade process from beginning to end.  The initial stage, a forensic analysis and deconstruction of the building helps the model makers tap into the mind of the builder. Once they’ve discovered how a building has been assembled, a scale model is reconstructed by hand using styrene sheet and various other materials from which the mould and subsequent plaster cast is then made. From the beginning steps through to the final stages of sanding, filling, painting and addition of metal elements, the hand and mind of the modeller is always present.


Back in 2008 American sociologist and writer Richard Sennett published the first volume of a trilogy examining today’s material culture; intended to explore how and where we seek fulfilment in our society, and whether we are succeeding in finding it.  The Craftsman,  went on to become one of the most widely read social philosophy books amongst our customers, and nearly eight years later, it’s appeal hasn’t shown any signs of decrease.  The book explores the evolution of man’s material consciousness through the history of craftsmanship, and how we respond to our need of expressing ourselves through making, doing and performing.  Its principal premise, that our commitment to working, years or decades, towards mastering a skill, is a necessary ingredient for the achievement of physical, mental and societal well-being.  Sennett’s concern is that the spirit of craftsmanship “the basic human impulse , the desire to do something well for its own sake” is at risk of being stifled by social and economic conditions which often stand in the way of the craftsman’s discipline and commitment.  He states that “schools may fail to provide tools to do good work, and workplaces may not truly value the aspiration for quality”.

Despite the unstoppable rise of our culture of speed, the search for quality and mastery of skill remains alive in many hidden corners. Sometimes it even comes knocking on our door.  So much so, that over the years, we’ve had the good fortune of being able to work with many fine craftsmen and craftswomen who have chosen our bookshop to exhibit their work.  Illustrators like Thibaud Herem and Shiela Samsuri, photographers like Morley von Stenberg, paper artists like Elod Beregszaszi, and architects such as Jan kaplicky have all filled our bookshop with their extraordinary work.

If you’d like to see the Timothy Richards architectural models, we have an extensive selection currently on display and for sale in the bookshop.  We thought that these would make very special gifts for the holiday season, whether mid-century modern, or Georgian townhouse.  All the models can be viewed online by following this link.  Timothy Richards also takes on bespoke commission work in the UK and internationally, further information on this aspect of the workshop can be seen here .

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