Appointed by Medway Council to work on the £4 million government funded Chatham Placemaking Project to help regenerate the route from Chatham Station to the Waterfront, we commissioned furniture designer maker Andrew Lapthorn to produce a series of benches to create a strong sense of place. The benches were the outcome of a collaboration with the project’s Lead Artist, Chris Tipping, whose base designs and concept of using granite and wood informed Andrew’s detailed designs for the timber elements of six beautifully crafted benches.  A Member of the Society of Designer Craftsmen, Andrew Lapthorn, who creates unique designs, predominantly working in wood, from his workshop in the grounds of the Historic Dockyard in Chatham, completed his studies in Furniture, Fine Craftsmanship and Design in 1981 at Rycotewood College, Thame, having spent his early career at sea and working as a shipwright. He runs his own business making bespoke furniture, as well as lecturing part time at the Furniture Craft School, Scotney Castle Estate. 

We spoke to Andrew about his creative process. 

FK: What is special about working with wood that draws you as a designer?  

AL: The multitude of textures, finishes and forms achievable through a wide range of disciplines and techniques using the same basic toolkit. Albeit architectural structures in oak or feathery inlays using fruitwoods, box or holly, once you have an understanding of the material it presents boundless opportunities.  

FK: What role does research play in your work, and was this important in the Chatham Placemaking commission?  

AL: Certainly, research is most important. It takes you to unexpected places and ultimately, therein lies the design. It defines the pathway of the design process while instinct and intuition is your guide as that pathway divides and subdivides. For me it not only informs the work and gives it meaning, but just as importantly, it is an education.  

FK: Does the space within which the design is situated influence the form? 

I would suggest it is the opposite. Though each bench is a condensation of a wider space, a memoir if you like, it is the form that influences the space around it. While the sphere of influence is ordinarily within range of the senses it is the intangible presence, the spirit of the piece, which permeates its surroundings, influencing them in incalculable ways. 

FK: Thanks, Andrew, for sharing your insight. It has been a joy to work with all the artists on this amazing placemaking project. Collaboration and teamwork is what makes the role of a Public Art Consultant so exciting and satisfying. 

For more information about the Chatham Placemaking project, including fascinating films, go to 

Artist links: 

Photographs by Andrew Lapthorn and Richard Gooding 

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Bug house building sessions for local schoolchildren

On Tuesday 2 July, pupils from St Margaret’s at Troy Town Church of England Primary School participated in an exciting and ambitious creative workshop with artist Katayoun Dowlatshahi as part of the public art strategy produced by award-winning public art consultancy FrancisKnight for the Rochester Riverside Development with Countryside Properties (UK) Ltd and The Hyde Group. 


The workshop’s ethos was to raise awareness of the natural environment which is particular and special to Medway, linking the natural and urban. Katayoun, who has been commissioned by FrancisKnight to produce a bespoke artwork for the Rochester Riverside development, worked with groups of pupils from Class 5, who enjoyed building a large, triangular bug house using a range of natural materials including willow.  The children also decorated the bughouse using Cyanotype ‘sun printing’, a photographic printing process that uses light to create a silhouette effect and produces a cyan-blue print. They used their design skills to apply designs to the surface of the Ash wood with natural materials to print in the sun.  Each pupil was also given a small circle of wood to apply their own design to keep and take home.


Katayoun reflected on the workshop saying, “They were a delightful group of Year 5 pupils who were enthusiastic about the project, making my job as an artist facilitator so much easier. I loved the fact that some pupils developed their ideas on a micro level, creating bug scale windows, ladders, entrances and even a curved stair case going into the main bug hotel. They were brimming with imagination.”

The triangular bug house will be housed permanently at the school.


Ms Jobling, St Margaret’s at Troy Town Headteacher commented: “The Year 5 pupils are particularly creative and they thoroughly enjoyed working with Katayoun handling different materials and tools to create our magnificent bug house. It will be located in the garden at the entrance of our school to be enjoyed by children and parents. The bug house encourages our biodiversity and contributes to our whole school eco efforts.” 

Katayoun’s artwork, inspired by the salt marsh plants found at Rochester Riverside will be located in bespoke seating and wall features located in Station Square and along the River Walk in Phase 1 and 2 of the development. 

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Welcome to our FrancisKnight Summer Newsletter

Landscape, placemaking and buttons!

Our Summer Newsletter is out now, and focuses on the importance of collaboration and research in producing public art which connects with cultural heritage in local communities. We hope you enjoy the insightful interviews.

Click to read more

Have a great summer!

(image credit: work by Chris Tipping)

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Photographic artist Mary Woolf shares her creative process

Photographic artist Mary Woolf has been commissioned by FrancisKnight on behalf of Craven District Council to design boundary signage for the Great Places Lakes and Dales public art project.  We asked Mary to tell us what motivates her practice and why research is such an important part of this process.

A photographic artist currently living and working in Settle, North Yorkshire, Mary moved to Horton-in-Ribblesdale in 2016 after achieving a first class honours degree in photographic arts from the University of Westminster. Mary's work explores ideas surrounding perception and experience, in addition to pushing the boundaries of photography as a medium. She says, "My aim is to inspire people to look a little bit closer at their surroundings - to take more notice of the experience of being in a place."

Her creative process always starts with research. "My art comes from an informed background, and my research encompasses a wide range of sources of inspiration and information, from academic essays to popular culture. Part of what motivates me as an artist is my desire to learn, and to share my experience of the world.  This inspired my 2016 Yorkshire Dales series. It took me a year to only fractionally share my experience of living in Horton-in-Ribblesdale for seven months, and the research resulted in other projects inspired by the shifting light and colours of the unique landscape, shaping my current creative processes."

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Mary continues, "I started questioning my relationship to photography and to this landscape. I began questioning the nature of photography itself: what a photograph actually is. Light and colour are one and the same: light cannot exist without colour and colour cannot exist without light. What we see as colour is the process of light interacting with everything around it. A photograph, by definition, is light captured and recorded by a photo-sensitive (light-sensitive) surface. In my case the photo-sensitive surface was the sensor in my digital camera.  So if you were to isolate the colours out of the information from a digital camera’s sensor, you are still making photographs, but not in the way we have come to expect. Using these ideas, I worked digitally to create what became the series The Yorkshire Dales. I built up these images that portrayed my experience of this landscape by drawing out the colours that I noticed. It was almost like digital screen printing on top of a photograph, building up these layers of colour."

This has become Mary's philosophy for creating her photographic art.  "It is why I say my art is rooted in the photographic, even if it doesn’t look like it on the surface, and why I insist on being called a photographic artist, not a photographer. Since moving to the Dales, I have continued working on representing the place using this philosophy of image making, including the Craven District Council signage project, which will be installed in September 2019."

The first public showing of some of this new work will be part of Mary's first solo exhibition at Gallery on the Green, in Settle, from July to September 2019.

You can find out more about Mary here

To read the extended version of this article, please go to

marybooks       marygreen       maryshelf

Wonder-ful creative workshops for local children at Conningbrook Lakes

A series of public art workshops involving local schoolchildren are being held at Conningbrook Lakes in Ashford which celebrate the location's unique environment.  The workshops are part of a public art strategy which we have organised on behalf of The Chartway Group Ltd, Latimer Developments Ltd and Ashford Borough Council.

Seed Journeys, organised by artist collective Outdoor Studios for Kennington Primary School pupils, took place on 7th May, led by artist Laura Thomas.  Informed by the work of commissioned artist Julia Clarke, the pupils used mini-journals to record the seed journeys, and natural soil pigments and found materials to draw or write with, before learning Hapa Zome, a printing method to make fabric images of plants. 

The photographs are testament to the inspiring creative responses of the children participating and the sense of wonder and engagement the event generated. 

There are further workshops in June and we can't wait to see the outcomes. 

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