Thanks are due to Colin Donald who published this article in the Sunday Herald business section in May 2012 about our cabinet making courses. Credits are also owed to Steve Cox who took these photos.
Skilled traditional artisans in Britain should reject “luddite” attitudes in order to bring manufacturing back from China, the head of the Chippendale International School of Furniture has said.Anselm Fraser, who runs his own cabinet-making business alongside the Chippendale School’s teaching facilities in a farmstead in East Lothian, said that the school was now offering its 20-strong annual student intake instruction in computer numerically controlled (CNC) machinery, previously shunned by British furniture-making purists adhering to the country’s venerable handmade traditions.
Fraser, who is set to become “the Jamie Oliver of wood”, with regular appearances with presenter Kirstie Allsopp on Channel 4’s new series Kirstie’s Vintage Homes, said:
“Ten years ago all carving had to be done by hand but now CNC will carve whatever you can envisage and programme without you even having to be there. The machines used to cost £250,000 each, but if you have the software you can get them for £3000.”
“You can’t be a luddite, you have to embrace the technology that is there, because if you don’t your overseas competitors will. We have a moral obligation to show the students what technology is there, although they can choose just to work by hand if they prefer.
“We are not one of those furniture schools who keep the mystique of doing everything by hand. Our course is only 30 weeks long, so I want the students to spend more time on studying the business of design and learning how to survive as a going concern.”
Founded in 1985, the £17,000-a-year Chippendale International School of Furniture attracts students from as far afield as Japan and the US, many of whom are encouraged to run their fledgling businesses from its adjacent Chippendale Incubator workshops when their furniture course is completed.
“We teach the students that survival as a business is about diversifying their base. This is a woodwork school that talks about business; its USP is teaching the spirit of entrepreneurialism of 18th-century furniture-design pioneer Thomas Chippendale, who moved from Yorkshire to London to conquer the world. Working with wood is still a complicated way to make a living, but more and more people realise it is far greener and better for employment in this country to buy more expensive, quality furniture rather than compressed chipboard furniture made in China that pollutes the atmosphere and ends up in landfill.”