Furniture Makers love to share

Sep 15, 2013 in Chris Tribe Blog | No Comments

Neal's sideboard

Things are buzzing at the Cornmill workshop!  Currently I not only have a student on work experience, but in the past few months I have also been joined by two other furniture makers  who are in the early stages of their furniture- making careers.

Many furniture makers find the first few years very difficult; they are still finding their style, and customers can be thin on the ground. The costs of setting up a workshop with suitable tools and machinery can be prohibitive, probably around £20,000 at least, and there are also marketing costs which, these days, has to involve setting up a web site.  All in all, quite a daunting prospect.

For this reason, many young makers opt to become part of an existing workshop, which is what ‘my’ new makers, Neal and Richard, have chosen to do.  They each have bench space in the workshop at the Cornmill, and use of my machinery and tools, for which they pay a fee.

Neal Crampton has been with me for about four months. He trained with Sam Chinnery in Scotland and then wanted to move back to Yorkshire. He is a careful and meticulous maker with a good design eye. He has been working hard recently on pieces for this year’s Celebration of Craftsmanship and Design exhibition which took place in August in Cheltenham. He made a fine walnut desk, a well- proportioned low sideboard in ash (shown above), and a small shelf unit in oak. Neal is keen to work only in solid native timbers and is using some interesting techniques to overcome some of the problems of movement in the solid. When he’s not furniture making he’s out on his bike (or one of them) – he’s a keen mountain biker, travelling all over the country at weekends to take part in marathon mountain bike races. It takes all sorts!

Richard Swales joined us recently, having just completed a BA in Furniture Making at Leeds College of Art. I saw his work at the end of year show in June and was impressed by his sculptural drinks cabinet in maple and walnut. He has a number of commissions lined up already and is keen to get started.

Freya Whammond came to me for advice over a year ago. She had decided to leave her 3D design course at Nottingham and really wanted to make furniture, but had no experience. She attended my weekly afternoon class and showed a good approach to both design and making. She is now enrolled on the highly regarded Furniture Making BA at Buckingham University and is coming to the workshop for some work experience for the couple of weeks prior to starting on the course.

I like these arrangements. Clearly, bench-sharing helps to pay the rent and it’s useful to have someone in the workshop to hold the other end of a difficult piece of wood. There’s also much to be gained from the sharing of knowledge and techniques, and this can often be used to the customer’s advantage. But there’s more to it than that. I’ve been making furniture for about 25years and it has given me great satisfaction. I would like to put something back into it by encouraging those just starting on the journey.


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