What do you make?
Furniture, mostly to commission for private collectors and public places but I also sell directly at our showroom in Perthshire and Contemporary Applied Arts Gallery in London. I have been a designer for 35 years and a maker for 25.
What does making mean to you?
Three elements. I manage a beautiful local woodland to provide the raw material. I design – it’s my passion. And I immerse myself in physically-demanding woodwork. In the last few years I’ve been steam-bending, getting small-section green timber from a unique broadleaf woodland I’m managing.
Tell us more about that
Steam-bending is like 3D sketching in wood. The process creates the mark. I aim for pure flowing lines to seem light and effortless. Once the wood is saturated with steam I have just one or two minutes to coax, push, slide and fix it into position. However the wood’s got its own mind, intention and story, and each piece bends slightly differently depending on the grain and fibres – it’s not absolutely consistent. You can see this in my Forth Bench. I don’t discard something that’s not perfect but work with the slight irregularity.
How did you come to be a maker?
It was simply that I loved design. I did a BSc in Industrial Design at Napier University, Edinburgh. Then I got disillusioned with designing mass-market plastics. So I retrained in practical furniture making at Rycotewood College. Next big step: moving to Scotland and setting-up a studio-workshop in Perthshire. Then I became co-owner of local woodland.
What motivates you?
I need to work with my hands. I get a lot of satisfaction from turning ideas into reality, a sense of achievement, too. The best thing for me is designing furniture with meaning and joy for my clients. Actually, I’m obsessed by the place, people and function of the current design commission, trying to achieve something new and push the boundaries. And I am a mentor on the Crafts Council Hothouse programme
How does your studio further your work?
I bought it from a joiner (carpenter) – a two-story workshop that’s been in continuous use for woodwork since the 1880s. We improved heating and dust extraction. The heavy noisy woodwork machines are downstairs and a large light airy space on top. We steam-bend up to 5 metre lengths of wood using manpower so it’s very physically demanding. It’s great to be in the centre of a small market town so near to local shops and cafes and easy for people to find us.
And your ambitions?
To continue to mentor and teach, and to help people understand the value of our local native woodlands.
Find a supportive partner as it will be tough financially in the early years!