The work of technorganic woodworker and furniture maker Max McCance is dramatic, technical and pushes the boundaries between furniture and art. Max, 68, grew up in Glasgow where, aged 16 to 20, he served an apprenticeship with British Steel.

“I hated it actually,” he laughs. “Throughout that time I was always making things with wood. I found it much easier working with wood over metal.”

He then moved to London to become a cabinet maker, honing his craft until he felt “at the top of my game”.

HeraldScotland: Picture credit: Damian ShieldsPicture credit: Damian Shields

But it was after moving to Tuscany in the early 1980s when Max felt his passion intensify. He says: “I did a lot of work for expats and then (once I learned the language) Italian families, and quickly realised I wasn’t ready to go home.

“I ended up spending eight years out there in Tuscany and met my American wife and got married there.”

While in Italy Max continued to craft sculptures, often made from the wood of olive trees.

In the late 1980s he travelled and worked in the US before returning to Scotland to establish his purpose-built workshop and gallery. Located in the North East Fife countryside, next to Birnie Loch Nature Reserve, his workshop is where he develops and produces all his work. Adjacent to the workshop is the Kinloch Gallery, where the pieces are displayed and for sale.


His designs quickly grab attention due to their unique and striking structures. Here, Max shares and reflects on his career thus far. But first, there’s one thing we need him to clear up…

What does the term ‘technorganic’ design mean?

Well, in the past I always found it difficult to describe my work, which was sort a mixture between furniture making and sculpting. Technorganic is a borrowed model from architecture – think technology but based on organic methods. I thought the term encompassed my style well.

You say you’re inspired by the natural world. What elements of nature do you convey through your work?

There’s a famous mathematician called Fibonacci who worked out a sequence that identified how commonly spirals in nature appear and grow. The Fibonacci sequence appears in the smallest to the largest objects in nature. I’m fascinated by that and I’ve used that theory to make some of my tables. Basically, I work from the inside out, and form the shape around a central column using lots of small pieces to form a large structure. Sometimes I’m looking for more drama than nature provides so I’ll exaggerate elements depending on what looks best.


I live up a farm track in rural North East Fife and I’m surrounded by a beautiful native woodland on one side and a meadow with sheep on the other. I love being out in nature. I still do a lot of winter climbing and hillwalking. When I’m out in the hills, whether it’s summer or winter, I look out for unusual forms or patterns in nature, whether on a small or large scale, and it inspires me.

And is this what led you to develop your three core collections: Flora, Fauna and Cosmos?

My work draws on inspiration from the natural world, from the galactic scale to the subatomic. Although, as much as I have a vision in my head before starting a piece, these influences can flow through the work and often take on meanings of their own to become something entirely new to me. I’m fascinated by overcoming technical problems. I start with the limitations of table” or “cabinet” and then within those boundaries, see how far I can go with it.

What’s your favourite part of the process when crafting a new piece?

Honestly, my favourite part is in the finishing – the oiling at the end. I don’t spray things with an industrial finish so when I make something I have to make it completely finished then disassemble it and apply three coats of the finish before reassembling the whole thing again. I need to be able to buff every piece of wood and when there’s 700 pieces it’s a big job.


What’s your favourite type of wood?

My favourite wood right now is black walnut but for the past 20 years it’s been oak that people want – that lovely pale colour appeals to a lot of buyers. Before that though everyone wanted mahogany but there’s no supply of it, whereas oak is quite plentiful. The oak I use is supplied from Germany. Obviously, prices have been pushed up and it’s really expensive now, but as long as you’re willing to pay for it there is an abundant supply.


As you reflect back on your career do you feel content with your collections or is there a drive to experiment and create new pieces?

Looking back, I’ve loved working with wood all my life. It’s been a real privilege. If you’re really enthusiastic about something you can master it and hone your skills.

I’m still very passionate about how things are going to be in whatever years I have left. I have this amazing workshop that took a lot of effort to create and build, and I cannot imagine doing anything other than this, I love it.


I’ll still be making things in the coming years, touch wood, so long as I can.