Having a father who was a talented and creative woodworker gave me an understanding of the craft. The smell of Lebannon cedar and the tannin tang of freshly sawn oak evoke early memories even now.
Enjoyment of making things continued to academia and a BA Hons in Furniture Design 2:1 from the Birmingham Institute of Art & Design. Working in a hot stuffy office as a CAD designer for several years did not suit, so I founded my own company manufacturing bespoke climbing walls. Our little company handled contracts up to £90k in value for large contractors, councils, schools and private businesses. We earned a deserved reputation for great customer service and products. Though a success by any measure, I missed the practical work where care for the final product was of a different standard. This led me back to woodwork which had been a passion since a young age.
“There is every indication that there is a growing disillusionment with universal industrialisation and the production line goods offered by it.”
Beyond having a piece that fits this alcove or that space, a question any aspiring artisan worker must confront is that of “Why?“. In an age where technology is taking us towards actual perfection – perfection in the sense of uniformity – in every avenue of production, it is an important one. But a factory, no matter how costly the final product, will never be able to gain the flexibility of the craftsperson who can manipulate the material as it passes through their hands. The time may come where a robotic eye can match grain and colour more perfectly than a skilled human, but not yet.
Take the gentle bevel edges I give to my dining tables. Practically this is so the edges do not chafe when the arm rests. Aesthetically, it must be blended so that there is no acute change in angle in order that it barely notices to the eye but is definitely noticeable to the touch. It doesn’t take long to do, but must be done correctly. This subtlety would be lost to the economics of a production line and its need for accurate repetition. It doesn’t require micrometer-precision. It does require the skill of hand-eye coordination with a finely tuned spokeshave.
I once read an interesting article on the tailoring trade. The thrust was that CNC sewing machines were now far superior to the skilled workers in the Milanese and London shops turning out the best of their craft. Perfect stitches, each and every one. A canny master tailor, when challenged over this by the writer replied:
“It’s the little imperfections that make it perfect. Someone made this.”
I take great care in creating the perfect piece for any home, garden or space. It is working with the beauty of wood that makes great furniture.