December 13 2013 Latest news:
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Over 40 years in the furniture trade have led to a Norwich man being “treated like a pop star” in Iran.
John Barnard was invited to speak at the Association of Iranian Furniture Makers conference and ended up getting more from the trip than he had bargained for.
“I’m really chuffed, it feels like the culmination of a career,” said 69-year-old Mr Barnard. “To go to another country and be treated like an expert of something, whereas in Norwich I tend to be referred to as ‘that carpenter down the road’, was just wonderful.”
John Barnard Furniture has been based in St Giles Street in Norwich for the last 10 years and still has its warehouse and workshop based in Trowse.
But this year Mr Barnard has twice taken his furniture expertise to more exotic climes.
In May he spoke at a similar furniture conference in Slovenia, at the University of Ljubljana in the eastern European country’s capital city, at the university’s school of architecture and design.
He then followed that up with a trip to the Middle East at the start of this month, with the conference hosted in the Iranian capital of Tehran.
At both conferences he delivered similar lectures entitled ‘Designing Outside the Box’.
Mr Barnard, who lives in Nelson Street in Norwich, said: “In Slovenia I spent a wonderful five days with the university’s professor of furniture design and going round Slovenia seeing his customers and designers.
“Both were new and wonderful places, although Slovenia was very green, 70pc trees, whereas Iran in the south of the country is desert but quite a lot of greenery in the north.
“In Iran it was a very international event, whereas in this country I normally give lectures at places like the University of Lincoln and Norwich schools, which are very much about local furniture making.
“The whole experience was extraordinary, I was treated like a pop star, I’ve never been through anything like it.”
Mr Barnard had been invited to the Iran conference in 2012 but at short notice and wasn’t able to attend, so arranged to attend this year instead.
He continued: “For a start I arrived before any of the other international guests so I had this gorgeous Persian girl with me 16 hours a day, taking me to restaurants and to furniture markets.
“They have 13 markets and the smallest one is the size of the mall at Chapelfield in Norwich. I discovered this was because the Iranian people like to change their furniture every five years, as a cultural habit.”
After his 20-minute lecture to an almost full auditorium, Mr Barnard also held a workshop for a smaller audience.
It seems some English charm made Mr Barnard a hit as well, after introducing some of the Iranian students to some of his western ways of thinking about furniture.
“I showed them pictures of two sofas made in the shape of the female form, which I think was a bit of a shock for the Islamic culture, but I thought it was a stand which needed to be made,” Mr Barnard added.
“The speakers were all given a bronze model chair based on a chair which had been found in a dig from thousands of years ago, a little miniature one, and I got a load of whistles and cheers as I went up.
“I think it was because they had heard things they wanted to hear, and there were a lot of youngsters there.”
- Do you know someone from the Norwich area who has achieved something special recently? Contact reporter David Freezer on 01603 772418 or firstname.lastname@example.org