An interview with Alasdair Easton, a former student at the Chippendale International School of Furniture, the leading furniture school near Edinburgh in Scotland
Alasdair Easton’s career advisor at school said he had two options: woodwork or computing. He loved woodwork. However, it was the early eighties, home computers were the latest thing and Alasdair chose the computing route, building a career in software development and project management at the Royal Bank of Scotland. Last year, after a career change, he graduated from the Chippendale International School of Furniture near Edinburgh, having won the Scottish Furniture Makers’ Association Student Award 2010.
After 12 Years at the Royal Bank of Scotland, he decided that he wanted to do something more creative and produce a more tangible product, so he swapped corporate life for an intensive 30 week course at the Chippendale International School of Furniture. His aim is to take pride in creating pieces that customers take pride in owning; a happy and rewarding arrangement for both client and maker.
Alasdair Easton describes how he came up with his award winning items of furniture during his first term:
“I was sketching ideas in front of the TV one evening, experimenting with lines and arcs, when I stumbled on a set of intersecting curves that I immediately liked. They became the side view of the chair, and I developed the rest from there. I wanted the chair to be sturdy but lightened by the curves.”
The impressive result was a dark, fumed, oak chair with a subtle, sycamore pinstripe running through the arms and legs. Alasdair Easton’s chair captured the imagination of the Scottish Furniture Makers’ Association (SFMA) judging panel, who honoured Alasdair with their Student Award 2010. The prize included the right to exhibit at the SFMA’s prestigious ‘New Scottish Furniture’ show in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and he was also presented with a generous cheque by sponsors Maggie and Jim Birley of Scottish Wood, based in Dunfermline north of Edinburgh.
When asked about his experience of the course at Chippendale International School of Furniture, Alasdair says:
“I wanted to be immersed in a creative environment, surrounded by diverse, motivated people. The school easily lived up to that. Typical days start with a lecture lasting 10 to 40 minutes, then the rest of the day is split between bench skills and working on your project. The course is incredibly hands-on and very practical.
Alasdair’s dark, fumed, oak chair with intersecting arcs and subtle, sycamore pinstripe running through the arms and legs.
“Being at the school was unforgettable – a really rich experience in a beautiful location with people from lots of different countries and backgrounds. It’s an intensive course and the students were very dedicated. You have to put everything into it – you have great shared experiences.
“I particularly liked the sections of the course on solid wood. I also enjoyed wood turning and there’s a wealth of knowledge on finishing. The course is really rigorous and great fun.”
Alasdair’s second term projects included a large walnut drinks cabinet, a gilded mirror and a table to go with his award-winning chair. The drinks cabinet was later sold at the students’ end of year exhibition in June.
After graduating many of the Chippendale School’s alumni develop their own furniture making and cabinet making businesses. Alasdair set up Organic Geometry www.organicgeometry.co.uk to custom-design and hand-make beautiful furniture and kitchens for homes and businesses. His start-up business is based in the ‘Incubation Centre’ at the furniture school where graduates can continue to be part of a community of like-minded people. They benefit from workspace at subsidised rates, collaboration opportunities and access to tutors and wood working machinery.
Taking advantage of the tremendous local hardwoods available in Scotland, Alasdair now accepts commissions for almost any piece of furniture, from book-cases to entire library commissions, simple window seats to spectacular dining tables and fully bespoke wood kitchens.
Alasdair adds: “When I was at the Chippendale School of Furniture, I developed my own design style, and refined some of my thoughts on wood, our environment and sustainability.”
Organic Geometry’s recent commissions have included a ‘chunky gothic’ style king-sized bed and bedside cabinets for a converted church in Aberdeenshire, and an elegant boat-shaped book-case, all of which are made with solid local East Lothian oak. Alasdair is also restoring some antique chairs and a Davenport desk, and was commissioned by the product designer Anna Hammond to make an unusual ‘messaging chair’ which was exhibited at the internationally renowned London Design Festival.
More information is available at www.chippendale.co.uk (or in the US www.chippendaleschool.com), firstname.lastname@example.org or (44) 0 1620 810680 from the School’s principal, Anselm Fraser. Information is also available from Christopher Lamotte at Real Marketing Specialists www.real-m.com on 07957 870071 or email@example.com
Alasdair Easton can be contacted via www.organicgeometry.co.uk or on 07763 126 765.