I wanted to write a blog to mark Woodworks’ 5th birthday. Personally, this was a big leap into the dark: I started in my small cellar with little headroom; upgraded to a gazebo in the garden, and in February 2019 took on the shop, Unit 7, in the Leegate.
At first, I took on everything I was offered. My learning curve was near vertical as I worked out the technical challenges of projects alongside running a small business. Fortunately, I had experience running a charity.
From the outset I have done training courses regularly, the latest was a week at Williams and Cleal Furniture school in April. I learnt a ridiculous amount in a short space of time. At first it was mildly terrifying to be in that environment where they produce amazing pieces with immense technical skill – and then you realise that some of these are students who have been learning for a few weeks only. It’s more the approach and expert tuition. Challenging but possible – very encouraging. On the same course I was encouraged by Jane and Justin to plan my offer for the future. Here are my reflections and thoughts:
I recognise how much I enjoy the Design element of the work. Much of my work is domestic: I like working with people to think through what they want in a space. Many houses in this area simply don’t have the space for statement pieces of furniture, so it’s often storage solutions, working around alcoves in places where off the peg furniture just doesn’t fit. This could be wardrobes, cupboards and shelves. Otherwise, it can be looking at living / working space, considering the practical needs and visual. The conversations are endlessly varied and interesting, often balancing form and function. (For the record: You can have both!). I have really enjoyed the more challenging commissions, (more below)
And then the Create / Making up: I take pride in making things well. It seems to me that this is an important strand of our duty to the environment: design well, choose well, make well. I want to produce furniture / products that people get real pleasure from but that is also practical and economical. I love working in wood, but if the project needs MDF or other materials so be it. I have also increased my stock of recycled wood. Early on I could see the importance of good machinery to speed things up, I have this – but I often get to use more traditional techniques and hand tools as well.
The Adapt part of our work is important: can we upgrade / repurpose / repair what you already have to suit new needs? There are so many innovative ways of doing this, it’s well worth exploring.
This journey has been one of surprises, I have had the most random enquiries and met some wonderful people. A couple of examples of projects that have extended me:
I received a phone call from a charity – ‘We’re trying to find someone who will make us 4 full size flat pack prison cells.’ It was clear that this was indeed legit in the sense they were wanted by the charity Unlocked Grads for training prison officers. I have now designed and made 8 for them. Another one that stands out was a phone call from a friend: I’m installing a sound system for a chapel in London. They need a media desk, can you make it?’ As it turns out it was for the Guards Chapel in Birdcage Walk, London. It was a great job, very satisfying.
I am now introducing classes into the business. Woodwork offers such a wealth of opportunity, it’s practical, creative absorbing and such a great thing to be able to share. As my background is formal and community education, I would love for Woodworks to become a place of inspiration and learning. It’s intended for absolutely everyone.
So, to sum up in answer to Jane’s question at Williams and Cleal Furniture School. I’ll continue to offer Design and Create commissions: Adapt, repairs and alterations and finally Learn, classes for people to have the opportunity to learn new skills. More on the website.
Obviously do contact me if you are interested in any part of this!