Bill Amberg Studio is delighted to collaborate with Knepp Estate, renowned for its ground-breaking wilding project, to design and manufacture a unique sustainable furniture collection.
Knepp is a 3,500-acre estate in West Sussex which, since 2001, has been devoted to a pioneering rewilding project, as beautifully characterised in the book ‘Wilding’ by co-owner Isabella Tree. The driving principle of the project is to establish a functioning ecosystem where nature is given as much freedom as possible.
In keeping with the sustainable ethos of the estate, Bill Amberg Studio has sourced natural materials for the collection from the estate, keeping waste and energy use to a minimum.
The collection is crafted with respect and passion for the longhorn cattle who free-roam the wilding project and play an integral role on the estate. Isabella Tree explains;
“Our old English longhorns are performing miracles, helping nature to recover. Everything they do – grazing grasses and wildflowers, browsing vegetation, trampling the undergrowth, wading in water margins, rubbing themselves on trees – creates opportunities for other species. Their dung and urine restore the soil. They carry seeds – from hundreds of different plants – in their hooves, fur and gut, helping them colonise new areas.
In essence, they’re mimicking the behaviour of the herds of aurochs that roamed our landscapes thousands of years ago. What we’ve learnt from rewilding Knepp is that plants need animals just as much as animals need plants. Large herbivores such as cattle can kickstart natural processes, creating habitats, generating dynamism in the land again. This is rocket-fuel for biodiversity.”
The cattle from the rewilding project eat from a wide range of plants in the landscape, and self-medicate, therefore they stay in excellent health. They are culled at a greater age than in industrial farmed systems, so the quality and character of the skins is extraordinary.
Bill Amberg Studio received the hides from Knepp in 2021 and tanned them in two small tanneries in the UK – one specialising in shoe sole leather. The character of shoe sole leather is unusual in its firmness, rigidity and durability, it’s more like moulded plywood than softer leather, perfect for creating a traditional slung seat.
This informed the design of the furniture and led to the development of the Knepp Chair, the Rivet Stool (formed as a cylinder), and the Tub Chair with a curved back. The collection also includes a log basket and coasters, making use of every possible part of the hide to minimise wastage. All the fixings of the furniture are simple coach bolts and rivets, with brass washers to prevent staining.
The hides are tanned using tree bark, and the surface finish is a simple wax. This allows a natural patination of the hides through use, and as the leather relaxes it will shape to form over time. The character of the hides has been retained by avoiding any surface finishing processes and natural marks on the skin have been included in the cutting to maximise the use of the entire hide. The collection is crafted in Bill Amberg Studio’s North London workshop by their team of leather craftspeople.
Isabella Tree says, “We’re delighted to be collaborating with Bill Amberg Studio to honour our animals, in the way our ancestors would have done, by using their skins – with care, craft and gratitude.”
All items are available to order through our online shop