I think it’s part of being human to want to make things.
Often people who become professional designer/makers have had an influencing figure in their lives who made them aware of it as a possibility. For me it was my Grandad, although everyone else in the family also seemed to have some type of making hobby. My Grandad was a saddler, shoemaker and cobbler. That was his job but, he was always making toys for me too, and doing DIY jobs, working on fishing nets, greenhouses….you name it and he could turn his hand to anything. I spent a lot of time with him because my Dad was in the US Airforce so was away a lot. Incidentally, my other Grandad was a Danish engineer who emigrated to America. My Mum was in the antiques trade so I grew up with a mix of English antique and Danish mid-century modern furniture around.
Furniture making is a fascinating challenge. It’s done within the sphere of what the materials can be made to do. Different timbers have different inherent qualities, so how and what you make needs to address a particular need. However engaged you become with the sculptural or artistic potentials, you have to keep in mind that if, for instance, you are building a chair, it has to be a height and shape that works with the human body. I find the problem solving aspect and the balance between art and craft exasperating sometimes, but also really interesting!
Talking about problem solving, we know we have big environmental issues to solve. In my little world I am becoming more focused on the environmental impact of anything I do. I only use temperate hardwoods from sustainable sources. I now have solar panels to help run my machines and I only use water based glues and finishes with low or no VOCs. Now with items I make repeatedly, I have started from a totally different point in the design process. I examine the offcuts produced and develop other products to make best use of the wood, and therefore reduce waste. It’s become really addictive looking for ways to improve in this way. And it has actually added to the enjoyment of my work. So much of what makers make is inspired by nature, and often the materials used are natural products. It would seem perverse not to do whatever we can to employ responsible working methods
I think Covid-19 has accelerated our ingenuity. In all sorts of areas of life we’ve all had to make lots of changes. It seems that nothing changes until it has to change and then all sorts of things can happen really quickly. I hope that out of the awfulness of Covid we might find the strength needed to make the big changes internationally that are needed to find a way of living sustainably.
Today I am working on drawing and emailing photos and sketches to a client who is looking for a glass display case for his collection of antique glass ware. Then I am off to meet a couple on a park bench on the village green outside their house to sketch and talk about a piece of hall furniture to sit on and store boots in. We’ve decided its shape is to be inspired by one of the windblown hawthorns that you see on the surrounding Downs. Every day’s a challenge!
I am looking forward to some sunshine and meeting people again, probably under a Guild banner in a socially distanced gazebo or marquee in a lovely garden this summer. See you there!