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Cheongju Craft Biennale

Hugh Miller's furniture collection goes on show in South Korea

In 2017, Hugh’s collection of Japanese-inspired furniture and coffee making items were selected for exhibition in the British Pavilion at the Cheongju Craft Biennale in South Korea. The exhibition brought together the work of artists and makers from all over the world, with the British Pavilion curated by the Crafts Council and funded by the British Council.

The ceremonies of everyday life

Based on a set of design principles developed during Miller’s Churchill Research Fellowship in Japan in 2015, ‘The Coffee Ceremony’ is a homage to the Japanese tea ceremony. The everyday rituals of life in Japan are the inspiration for a ceremony of Hugh’s own, based on his ritualistic attitude to coffee. The piece forms the apparatus of this ritual: a wheeled cart that carries the necessary implements, a coffee table that forms the landscape of the ceremony, and a set of chairs and benches that give hierarchy to those participating. The pieces elevate the most everyday of task of making coffee into something more special, to be savoured.

A confluence of Western and Japanese influences

The pieces are made from British elm, which roots the work in the traditions of British furniture making. This is combined with Japanese bamboo from the Tochigi region north of Tokyo. The combination Japanese and Western influences illuminate the duality of cultural references that underpin the work. The final material is brass, used to strengthen the construction, a reference to its use in Japanese woodworking tools where it prevents wear. The underside of the piece is hand-carved with Hugh’s signature undulating texture, awaiting inspection rather than demanding attention. What emerges is that the process of crafting the work and the process of making coffee are one in the same: both are ceremonies of making.


The Coffee Ceremony was widely published in the UK and overseas, and received a number of awards and recommendations. Click on the icons below to find out more….


Project credits:

Design and making: Hugh Miller
Exhibition Curation: Annabelle Campbell, Crafts Council
Funding: British Council
Location: Cheongju, South Korea
Date: September – October 2017
Photography: Images courtesy of Cheongju Craft Biennale and British Council


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