Giles Grover

The MADE NORTH Gallery presents new and experimental work by established and emerging northern designer/makers. We aim to promote a range of northern designer/makers and provide opportunities to find out a little bit more about how they work and their sources of inspiration.

Lazer cut construction kit fully assembled

In November 2014 Giles acquired a studio at Exchange Place Studios, part of Yorkshire Artspace and in doing so declared himself  a designer and maker as well as being a teacher, husband and parent.

This was something he had dreamt about for many years and decided that it was time to do it rather than think it. Giles as had 12 years of working with lasers and during that time he has explored the possibilities of laser cutting materials in a way that brings new properties and qualities to the materials. In the MADE FRESH exhibition he has 3 products that make use of ‘Living Hinges’ and one of them, the Desk Lamp, incorporates a wooden buckle. A living hinge allows sheet material to flex and compress where previously it would have been static and inflexible.Giles as been exploring their potential and arranged them in such a way that they become dynamic structures. More simply they ‘pop-up’ into things. Most interestingly they act as they shouldn’t which is always exciting.

In 2014 Giles founded Small Machines which is a brand with a mission to redefine wooden toys. Giles set out with the task of designing and making a construction kit that could be built without specialist equipment which worked like a machine or had mechanical properties and did not rely on electricity to work.

Featured Maker Interview


Small Machines — Hoist

Who or what inspired you to become a designer/maker?
For as long as I can remember I have always had a desire to make things of my own invention and understand how things work. My parents always encouraged me to be creative. My Mum is a Graphic Artist, my Dad was a mechanic and my Step-Dad is a model Engineer and restorer of vintage motorbikes. So handtools and materials were never in short supply. Also, I think growing up in the 70’s helped, there was quite a culture of make your own entertainment. Maurice Sendak and Wilf Lunn were instrumental in my own development.

How would you describe your work?
My products are predominantly made as construction kits so the person that buys them is directly involved in their creation and I keep my instructions intentionally vague. For that reason I hope the building is as much a part of the process as using the products once they are built. I put a lot of effort into trying to make people see the material I use in a new light. My singular process of making is with a laser cutter. If you use laser cutters in a certain way with specific materials you can create properties that they didn’t have before, I like that.

Lazer cut MDF ‘living hinge’ on an ipad stand

Where are you based? Please describe your studio.
I am now based at Exchange Studios in Sheffield, part of Yorkshire Artspace. I have been there since November 2014. Prior to that I worked between the Living Room floor and Kitchen table. My studio is perfect for me, it has an assembly area, desks for model making and designing, my laser takes centre stage of course. I have a corner filled with reading material, lots of pin boards each one has work for different projects because I seem to have several on the go at once. I have my bike rollers in there as well so I can do a bit of pedalling whilst the laser is busy or if I need to focus on one thing in particular, cycling always helps to remove other distractions.

What piece of work are you most pleased or proud of, and why?
My most favourite piece so far is my desk lamp, it is the first piece I have produced that really pushes the boundaries of material performance through laser cutting and I believe it has the world’s first wooden sprung buckle in it. It is precision made and in doing so I have exploited the fibres of the material to work as a spring and use that in the assembly of the product.

Small Machines Kit — The Hoist

What is the most satisfying part of the work you do?
It has to be the first time I take the parts out of the laser cutter, assemble them and find that everything fits, the product works and I see the idea that formed in my head weeks, months or even years ago is now made real. I love that moment when 2D becomes an articulated, dynamic 3D.

What would be your dream project?
I am currently involved with one of the National Museums and if that works out it will definitely be a dream project. Other than that it would have to be something that combined laser cutters, composite materials and bikes.

Lazer cut componant

What are you currently working on?
At the moment I am developing the next wave of Small Machines which will be more advanced and possibly involve Wind-up Mechanisms and Photo Voltaic cells as power sources. I am working on some furniture designs that I have had in mind for awhile and there is the work with the museum that I can’t talk about right now but will be fantastic if it all goes according to plan.

When you’re not working what do you like to do?
Watch films, walk the dog, spend time with my family, ride any one of my bikes, pretend to be working on my allotment, try to avoid DIY, drink coffee at Bragazzi’s and cook good food.

What does the north of England mean to you?
The North of England is everything to me. I came here as a student and have never wanted to leave. In particular, Sheffield is the city where I remain drawn to. It never seems to grow tired or stop creating opportunities and interest. I am proud to part of the North of England.

Small machines — The Crawler

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