Tim Stead made furniture for galleries, castles, cathedrals and even for Pope John Paul II for his visit to Murrayfield in 1981, yet it was the open intuitive, untutored response of ordinary people that most nourished him. People delighted in his work’s warm honesty and wanted to live with it. Three of his most powerful pieces relate to architecture. The rood screen and furniture for the North Sea Oil Industries Memorial Chapel in Aberdeen, was commissioned in 1989. The initial letters of the woods used in the chair backs spell out the simple but poignant “We remember yew”.For the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow, opened in 1996, Stead made Peephole, an extraordinary tiny space from which one could spy into the gallery below. This cave, whale belly, tomb or hidey hole has a mysterious, unnerving effect on the receptive occupant.
For the Millennium Clock Tower in the Royal Museum, Edinburgh, Stead collaborated with Edouard Bersudsky of Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre, Annica Sandström of Lindean Mill Glass, and Jurgen Tübbecke, of Peebles. Its hourly eruption of movement, sound and magic has proved an exciting and hugely popular event.
Born in Helsby, Cheshire, the youngest of four brothers, Stead was a natural anarchist and a sociable loner. Rebellious at boarding school, The Leys in Cambridge, he achieved first-class honours in fine art at Trent Polytechnic through a clarity of vision and a passionate dedication to unfashionably palpable, narrative work. There Stead discovered wood with the unstinting support of technician Frank Lindlay. In 1975, Stead did postgraduate work at the School of Art in Glasgow, where he met his life partner, Maggy Lenert, a student from Luxembourg, the day before she was about to leave Scotland.
Although Stead’s early years in Scotland were single-mindedly devoted to furniture, it was “sculpture in disguise”. Through respect for the environment he committed himself to native timbers, specialising in elm so heavily burred that other furniture makers rejected it. Inevitably, the work spawned a host of borrowers from, and imitators of, his style: yet Stead’s work is unmistakable: quality will out.
He read widely: genetics, cosmology, archaeology, poetry. Complementing this was his easy way with people, liberally laced with humour but masked a little by shyness and a disdain of small talk.
Following his 1993 Botanic Ash exhibition in Edinburgh, illness increasingly denied him heavy work. Sidestepping, Stead was instrumental in founding the Woodschool in Monteviot, where skilled graduates could learn to design around timber in a sympathetic environment.
Stead extended his exploration of the world through digital photography – the immediacy of which suited his impatience with process and bureaucracy – which he was assembling into a book, with his own prose poems.
Stead paid back some hundred fold his depletion of tree stocks by replanting and founding Borders Community Woodlands. In recognition of his work for the millennium forest of Scotland Tim was awarded an MBE in the New Year honours.
Stead’s life and work manifested an integration that defies division: furniture, sculpture, photographs, poems, late nights around the dining-table, each were part of the same life that he grabbed with both hands, wringing out its very essence.
Established in 2015 to raise enough funding to purchase The Steading, and the Tim Stead Archive, and then to safeguard its future for the nation as an influential and internationally significant example of Scottish craftsmanship and environmental philosophy, all for the benefit of local, national and international communities.
Currently our trustees are:
Solicitor and part time tutor for the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice at Edinburgh Law School, Tabitha lives in north Northumberland. She volunteers with several charities and is interested in the culture and arts of both the Scottish and English Borders.
Sandy HellowellHNC, Tourism
Language teacher, lecturer and latterly Regional Director with VisitScotland, Sandy lives in the village of Blainslie and has spent many happy times at the Steading with Tim, Maggy and family. She is passionate about working in collaboration for the benefit of others.
Nichola FletcherMBE, DA (Edin).
An active goldsmith and food writer, Nichola also ran a successful artisan food business for thirty years. She first met Tim and Maggy Stead in the 1970s and remains a close friend.
She is also Vice Chair of Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre in Glasgow.
Ben TindallFRIAS, RIBA, FSA(Scot)
Ben trained as a carpenter in Denmark and has practiced ‘the art and craft of architecture’ for 40 years.
He has served on the Council and Board of the National Trust for Scotland for 21 years and is also a harbourmaster.
Roland BeanMA(Hons), MPhil, MA
A former Head of Planning for a Scottish Local Authority, Roland has long been a fan of Tim’s work. He sits on several trusts and is Vice Chair of the Gannochy Trust. He has also just competed 9 years as Commissioner with Boundaries Scotland
Sam SteadBA(Hons), BSc
Sam is the son of Tim Stead and grew up in The Steading. After graduating from Glasgow School of Art, Sam worked at the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop. He is now a freelance art technician and tutor at Reading College.
Worked in community development and youth work for 45 years, radio broadcaster for 30 years and a practising counsellor for 20.
Co-Founder of Borders Community Woodland and Borders Forest Trust with Tim Stead and Eoin Cox – first chair of BFT/ trustee across 12 years
Dr Lev AtlasPhD, Mus Phil
Lev is Principal Viola for the Scottish Opera Orchestra and Professor at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He is Artistic
Adviser for Erasmus+ Projects and works on collaboration between the Tim Stead Trust and Scottish Creative Industries.