The One Tree project participants (most of them), sat on the felled tree, with Sheridan Coakley in the centre.

Sheridan Coakley

In Conversation

With the One Tree project launching at SCP during the London Design Festival 2022, we talked to SCP founder Sheridan Coakley to find out what his thinking was behind the project.

The One Tree project brings together a group of designers, artists and craftspeople, all of whom have a shared love of making, of using materials sustainably, and of that most precious human resource – wood.

When SCP founder Sheridan Coakley discovered that one of the beautiful ash trees in his garden was suffering from Ash dieback and would have to be felled, he had an idea. Rather than chop it down and make it into firewood, why not invite a set of like minded creatives to see what they could make out of the tree? And with that simple idea, the One Tree project was born.


Ash tree ready for felling.
The tree after felling.

What happened to make you think about this project?

It’s having some ash trees on my land that for the last three or four years I have been looking at and thinking, one day I am going to have to cut them down. They were in really bad nick. When the time came, I thought actually, surely, rather than cutting them up for firewood there could be something we could do. The penny dropped, I am in the business of making furniture and know lots of people that design furniture, so let’s turn this into a project.

I knew about Sebastian Cox’s interest in the use of wood as a sustainable material, and his kind of advocacy of it. We actually spoke about it during the last London Design Festival in 2021, So he was the natural person to help facilitate and steer the project with us.

"Around the time I realised I've got to cut the ash trees down, the penny dropped. I am in the business of making furniture and know lots of people that design furniture, so let's turn this into a project."

Sheridan Coakley

The selection of people who are doing the project is quite an interesting mix. There are obviously some people we know really well through SCP, but there are some new people too. How did you make the selection of folk to do it? What is a case of thinking about who might suit, or did you want to get new people in?

It was a bit of both. It’s always good to work with people you know, because you appreciate what they are capable of doing. But at the same time, we wanted to have a wood turner, so through Sebastian Cox, we found Max Bainbridge. It was logical that someone should turn some of the wood, because they could use green (undried) wood. Poppy Booth was one of the star pupils from Kingston University a few years back and I have always wanted to work with her. She has her own workshop, so this was a good way of getting her to do something. Mo Redish, he works with Sebastian, and his work blowing glass into tree stumps is interesting, so he is involved. Faye Toogood is local where I live, and is someone who I’ve wanted to do something with for a long time. We had just started working with Wilkinson and Rivera on another project, but this also seemed perfect for them. You’ve also got Sarah Kay, who comes from a cabinet making background, she was at Parnham, she understands wood. Oscar, my son, studied sculpture, and has already designed a sculptural piece for SCP that was quite successful, so we thought he would do something good. Matthew Hilton is really into sculpture again at the moment, so this is a nice project for him that is not furniture. Also, because the brief is totally open, it allows people to be free with it. We are not saying you must design a set of shelves, or a table, or the like. So it’s quite a nice mix.

"The hope is that people will buy these things and never get rid of them, then that carbon that has been absorbed by the tree over its life is retained, and not released."

Sheridan Coakley
Mo Redish and Matthew Hilton discuss tree stump sizes.
Poppy Booth and Jan Rose from Faye Toogood ponder their selections.

What was your initial reaction to seeing all of the finished pieces?

I was amazed at the diversity of things you can do with a tree. We’ve got functional and non-functional pieces. We just had this dead tree lying on the ground, and with a lot of creativity and a little work, you can end up with such a range of things, from a bench to a kinetic sculpture.

One Tree Collection

"The whole point about capturing the carbon is the most important part of this project. Once the tree is down, you either leave it on the ground and it rots and releases all of the carbon it has gathered over the years. Or you make it into something and keep it, and then you have captured that carbon for as long as that piece exists."

Sheridan Coakley
Sheridan Coakley and Sebastian Cox early on felling day.
Teresa Rivera and Grant Wilkinson ponder their options.

What do you hope people take from this project?

Well I hope first that people enjoy the objects themselves and all the work that has gone into them. The other aspect of course, is that I hope people take away the idea that we need to be responsible when we use wood and make furniture. Yes wood is probably the best material you can make a chair out of, but the most important thing is the design has to be good enough, and it needs to be made properly, so that it will last. Otherwise it just ends up in landfill, then it has been a waste. So there is a responsibility of the manufacturer and the seller of these things to genuinely feel that the piece they are offering is serving more than a functional purpose. That comes through good design and manufacture.

The ash tree right after felling.
Tree stumps ready for use.

"Yes wood is probably the best material you can make a chair out of, but the most important thing is the design has to be good enough, and it needs to be made properly, so that it will last."

Sheridan Coakley

A big thank you to Sheridan for taking the time to talk about the project with us.