An interview with Chippendale Furniture alumni, Tara McIntosh, who now runs her business, Twiggd, from the Chippendale Incubation Centre.
What sort of work were you doing before becoming a student at the Chippendale International School of Furniture?
“I have an HND in Fashion Design and a Degree in Textile Design (weave and tapestry) from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art so I’m very much from a creative background. I had always wanted to learn cabinet making skills and had heard of the Chippendale School of Furniture years before but there was no way I could afford it.
“The summer before I started the course I was on a 27 hour train journey from Greece to Hungary where I randomly met a guy from Edinburgh. He was just about to start at ECA studying Furniture Design and he brought up Chippendale Furniture and I got really excited! I had just inherited some money so the day I got back from Hungary I contacted Isabel and they had one spot left on the course starting in 2 weeks! I reckon it was fate.”
What were the highlights of your 9 month furniture design course?
“Without a doubt the best thing about the course is the fact that you are completely immersed in it. It’s so busy and demanding, most people are living near the furniture making School, many sharing. The School is in this amazing East Lothian countryside, just far enough away from the city [only half an hour from Edinburgh].
“You eat, breath, talk, live, practically nothing else for 9 months. It was difficult at times but amazing! The most intense but best 9 months of my life.
“The course highlights for me were:
• Carving and gilding;
• Learning about types of wood, the practical things about wood (timber technology); and
• When Anselm Fraser [the School Principal] set his eyebrows on fire!
“The tutors on this course are FANTASTIC. Having spent around 6 years as a student in creative studio environments at art schools I probably have more to compare it to than students from other backgrounds. The level of skill and expertise is superb and the time they spend with you, helping and experimenting on things, was just amazing.
“All the tea and biscuits were nice too!”
What are the objectives for your business?
“When leaving Chippendale I set up ‘Twiggd’ which combines all of my loves – fashion, illustration, interior design and the joy of craftsmanship.
“My personal preference for furniture is colourful and quirky but I also make and restore traditional pieces! I like to mix bold colour with the beauty of natural wood. My work is somewhat illustrative, sometimes literally with inlaid marquetry designs, appliqued upholstery or statement handles and sometimes more subtly through shape and hints of colour.
“I also ‘up-cycle’ unloved and broken furniture, restore antique furniture, and carve and gild bespoke mirrors.
“My jewellery tends to be big, bright and illustrative with a bit of a retro or vintage feel. I work mostly in sycamore (a pale, creamy wood that takes colour beautifully) and Walnut which is the colour of chocolate. I also have a love of floral fabrics, the art of applique and some good old fashioned hand stitching.
“I sell my fashion accessories at Art Markets and in about 10 boutiques and galleries in Edinburgh, Glasgow and East Lothian. I also sell online through Etsy and Folksy which are ‘handmade marketplaces’ for designers and artists.
“Through networking at Fairs and markets I’ve met lots of likeminded artist, designers and shop owners and seem to have found a niche that I’m very happy in! There is a massive resurgence in ‘craft’ and craft fairs at the moment which is described by some at ‘Neo Craft’ or ‘Alt Craft’.
“My plans for the immediate future are to apply to some of the big fairs happening in London over the summer with the goal of getting my work into some London Boutiques.
“I hope to start using laser cutting (I’ve struggled with this as I’m a purist at heart but I also need to be practical) in some of my pieces to speed up the very labour intensive processes as orders are getting bigger and hopefully will continue to do so!
“I would also like to have time to tackle some of the ‘up-cycling’ furniture projects I’m really excited about but haven’t had time to start yet, and I’m looking into lighting and other home wares.”
Why did you choose to base yourself in the Chippendale Furniture Incubation Centre?
“Because I wasn’t ready to go out into the big bad world! The continuing help and support of everyone at Chippendale and the other students who also stayed on was totally invaluable.”