Gerald Summers 1899–1967
Gerald Summers was among the pioneering designers working in plywood, a material Summers transformed through novel means of construction. Summers’ earliest formal training came in college, where he took courses in carpentry. After college, he worked at the engineering firm of Ruston, Proctor, and Co., where Summers learned the importance of pragmatism in designed objects. During World War I, Summers was drafted into the army; it was in the trenches that he first began dreaming of innovative designs made of wood. After the war ended, Summers and his wife, Marjorie, founded the aptly-named firm Makers of Simple Furniture.
Summers was among the first British designers to experiment with plywood as the primary material for his furniture forms. Like the Finnish designer Alvar Aalto working at the same time, Summers used plywood to create organic forms; however, he invented an entirely new means of production that didn’t require heat or steam. Instead Summers’ designs were glued carefully together and left in a mold to harden, the technique allowing Summers to create seamless furniture without the use of external fastenings disrupting the flow of the form.
Makers of Simple Furniture grew larger, and by 1935 Summers added bookcases, case furniture, and several innovative chairs to his œuvre. With the start of World War II and the rationing of plywood, Summers was forced to close up his shop leaving behind a legacy of innovation and original technology, as well as groundbreaking furniture designs.