Welcome to The Steading
Situated in the picturesque Scottish Borders, The Steading is the family home of sculptor, furniture maker, environmentalist and poet, Tim Stead and widely recognised as his single most important work.
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.
© Alex Fraser
The Tim Stead Trust
The Tim Stead Trust was 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.
The aims of the Tim Stead Trust are:
To make The Steading and its contents, including the archive works of Tim Stead, accessible to the public and researchers.
To provide educational activities that will interpret Tim Stead’s furniture, sculpture, philosophy and poetry.
To provide an environment that will encourage wood working skills and enable other artists to flourish
To organize workshops that encourage environmental awareness and the artistic use of wood in all its guises.
A Vision for the Future
Tim Stead’s house is in itself a work of art and the supreme example of Stead’s work. Its relatively modest exterior does not prepare the visitor for the extraordinary interior. It was an ongoing project that he continued to work on from the day he bought it until he became too ill to work.
Follow this link to see images of the house
Stead’s furniture is widely known and his distincitve style has had a strong influence on many other furniture makers and sculptors. His furniture ranges from relatively conventional pieces to massive sculptural items, some integrated into the house; the boundary between furniture and sculpture is not always an easy one to draw.
His later sculpture explored a sense of architecture and space and much of it was done in conjuction with photography. These pieces will benefit from correct lighting to display them to best advantage.
The archive includes some of his major works along with examples of work in progress, sketchbooks, photography and poetry.
In the words of Tim’s widow, Maggy Stead, ‘what matters is to have a home for the archives, the collection of furniture and sculptures; that this collection should be available to the public to see, be inspired, to use for research and teaching purposes.'
Our vision is to produce much more than a museum.
We want to create a dynamic series of spaces within the existing house and surrounding steading that reflects the style and wide variety of community interests that Tim Stead was involved with in his short life. However, the core of the whole project is the preservation of Stead’s house and work.
Our aim is to repair the fabric of the building where necessary and, without compromising the unique interior more than absolutley necessary, make it accessible to visitors.
Become a Friend
Help us to spread the word about The Tim Stead Trust and his remarkable work. Receive our newsletters, notifications and invitations to all events and exhibitions, plus a copy of the book ‘With the Grain’.
Download Friends form here
Become a Patron
Enjoy all the benefits of being a Friend, plus free entry to Events and exhibitions, plus we will create a dedicated and named wooden book which will be placed in the Patrons’ Bookshelves at The Steading.
Download Patrons form here
Any donation you would like to make, large or small will be extremely benificial to ensuring that the Tim Stead Trust can continue to promote the legacy of Tim Stead.
Find out more
Sign up here to receive updates on the progress of the Trust