Two young Canadian and two UK woodworking students at the Chippendale International School of Furniture have won this year’s top honours – with two of the students’ pieces being exhibited at the Scottish parliament.
Student of the Year was Andrew Brassington (shown above) from Ontario, whose course work included a monumental door made from locally-sourced Scottish timber – inspired by a silver birch sapling that he saw growing through the ruins of a collapsing barn in southern Ontario.
Design Student of the Year was Ria Da Costa, originally from Trinidad and Tobago, now also living in Ontario, who created an intricate Lennox Desk, named after her grandfather, with no less than 2167 pieces of veneer on its surface.
The Chippendale International School of Furniture, near Edinburgh, Scotland, has been teaching furniture design, restoration and making for 30 years. Each year it attracts students from around the world for intensive 30-week courses. This year’s intake included students from Canada, the USA, Norway, Italy and the UK.
The School has built an international reputation in a niche area of further education, nurturing craftsmanship and raising the profile of furniture design and making as a career option. The leading European arts commentator Professor Richard Demarco, a former European Citizen of the Year, has described the School as an “inspirational and wonderful institution of international importance.”
Best Portfolio was awarded to Fiona Thorburn-Steel, who lives near Edinburgh, whose portfolio included a stunning cabinet in solid olive ash with a wenge veneer and ebony handles. Functional but elegant, the cabinet has flowing lines that complement the geometry of the piece and make it also a work of art.
The fourth top prize, Students’ Choice of the Year, went to Rob Sykes from London. His Ruby-Rose Desk, named after his god-daughter and made from wych elm, is based around the three Rs – with drawers whose interiors focus on aspects of writing, reading and arithmetic, complete with an abacus.
There is a shelf for a Kindle or iPad, USB ports, and the cable is hidden within one of the desk’s legs. His desk is based on an original design (The Laura Desk) by Benjamin Klebba of Phloem Studio in Portland, Oregon, USA.
Each year the Chippendale School takes students of all ages from all over the world for its immersive 30-week courses. Some come straight from school, while others are looking for new creative careers – or to learn a new skill in retirement. The school also runs one week “taster” courses through the year.
This year, for the first time, a number of pieces were exhibited at the Scottish parliament, including Ria Da Costa’s and Rob Sykes’ desks. The pieces were all chosen by Professor Demarco who said he was “overwhelmed by the quality of work that the students had completed.”
Anselm Fraser, the School’s principal, said that “our students often have no woodworking skills when they arrive here. But when they leave, they leave with the abilities and confidence to become professional woodworkers.
“The School is all about unlocking imagination and giving our students the skills and confidence to turn creativity into things of beauty, and all our students – not just Andrew, Ria, Fiona and Rob have done just that.”