Talented students and fantastic furniture

Our Edinburgh graduate exhibition is being held ithis year in Greyfriars Kirk (1 Greyfriars, EH1 2QQ) on Monday 12th ( 1pm – 8pm) and Tuesday 13th of June (10am – 8pm).

This is followed by an Open Evening (6-8pm) at the Chippendale school (Myreside Grange, East Lothian EH41 4JA) on Friday 16th June and Open Day (10am – 6pm) on Saturday 17th June.

Here are just some of the talented furniture makers whose works will be on show, and we’ll feature other students’ work in later newsletters and posts.

Jin Sung Choi

Always interested in both design and the practical skills in making furniture, he hopes to go onto further training in Japan, to develop his technique in carving and gilding.

He then hopes to set up his own business in South Korea where he thinks the market is beginning to embrace outside influences.

“South Korean furniture is traditionally made from solid wood, often inlaid with mother of pearl and with brass fastenings and handles,” says Jin.

“I am more interested in bringing a delicate Western approach, and creating furniture that is both Oriental and classical.”

One of his signature pieces is a stunning desk in solid fumed oak, with turned legs, brass fixings –  incorporating a hidden compartment with a hidden key.

“I believe that affluent young people in South Korea are moving away from factory-made furniture  towards hand-made and bespoke.  My business will aim to meet that growing aspirational market,” he says.

Rob Vowles

Until this year, Rob Vowles was more at home climbing trees than using them to make fine furniture.

The former tree surgeon from London has worked in several countries and continents, including Canada, Sweden and in parts of Africa.

His fiendishly-clever drinks cabinet, made from a variety of woods including elm, red gum, oak and ash, is his signature piece from the furniture course.

Opening the cabinet is the clever part, because to do so involves solving a series of puzzles that are designed to baffle even the most sober.

Based on ideas from Japanese puzzle boxes, the drinks cabinet has a sliding door mechanism that, when several elements are aligned correctly, reveals a secret puzzle door – and an even more secret lock and separate key to open it.

Inside, the drinks cabinet is just as stunning, with elaborate marquetry panels and a mirrored back.

On graduation, Rob intends to set up his business in London.

Colin Bate

Colin Bate, originally from Birmingham but now living in  Perthshire, is an outdoors sort of person who is also a member of his local mountain rescue team.

He moved north from Birmingham to work in outdoor education but, over the years, found himself less and less outside and more and more behind a desk.

Hence his decision to change track and enrol at the Chippendale school and, after graduation, to set up Highwood Furniture in his adopted Alyth, to make and design furniture and bespoke kitchens.

His signature pieces include a drinks cabinet that perfectly reflects his love of nature and the outdoors, with an oak frame, elm top and a free-form tree design in spalted beech running across the front.

Another stand-out piece is a steam-bent desk in olive ash and oak which he made “to test the limits of what can be achieved with steam bending,” said Colin.

“I love the precision of furniture making, and the disciplines involved in turning a design idea into a practical piece of furniture.  But I also enjoy the creativity that goes into making a desk or cabinet into something absolutely unique,” he says.

 Roland Pettet

Roland, for the time being at least, has swapped a life on the open sea for a furniture design course on dry land.

A graduate in navigation and maritime science from Plymouth University, Roland has been working as a navigation officer on luxury motor yachts, mostly in the Mediterranean and Caribbean.

However, he recently discovered a passion for woodworking and came to Chippendale to train as a furniture maker to explore his creative side. His goal is to eventually open his own furniture making business in Surrey, where he comes from.

“Working as a ship’s navigation officer is demanding and carries a lot of responsibility, but it doesn’t allow for much creativity,” says Roland.

His beautiful desk and chair, in wych elm and olive ash, was inspired by the shapes of Gothic church arches. The strength and grandeur of the Gothic design is softened by the piece’s gentle curves and chamfered edges.

Andreas Gurtner

Andreas Gurtner, from Vienna, already has a degree in international land and water management from Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Through his studies he discovered a passion for beauty and the simplicity of nature and realised that he missed an outlet for his own creativity. This ambition led him to enrol at the Chippendale school.

His half round table in sycamore and yew was inspired by the wild grain of the yew. He combines the natural beauty of the wood with different materials like gold accents that are incorporated in the piece.

Andreas also finds inspiration from past Austrian artists such as Friedensreich Hundertwasser and Gustav Klimt, which is reflected in his designs – using the wood itself to inspire and shape the final design.

“Most designers use wood to make their designs come to life.  However, I also like to see things the other way around – using the patinas and grains of the wood to dictate the final design,” he says.

Through his passion for travelling he has learned about many different cultures and, for example, the aesthetics of Asian simplicity. That is why, after graduation, Andreas hopes to work in Asia for a couple of years, and to learn more about different approaches to woodworking.

After that, he wants to return to Vienna and open his own furniture business, taking inspiration again from his native Austrian artists.

Shubham Goel

Shubham Goel is one of two Indian students at the school this year, and who should have no trouble marketing the business he intends to set up in either Mumbai or his home town of New Delhi.

He is a graduate in marketing and advertising from New Delhi University and, prior to studying at the Chippendale school, was an account executive working for one of the world’s leading advertising agencies.

However, he has always wanted to follow a more personally creative career, and to build a business that is his own – a course of thinking that has taken him from India to Scotland.

Shubham’s new business, West End Furnishings, will primarily design and make bespoke furniture, but fusing traditional designs and materials from Asia with influences from the West.

“India is a rapidly developing country with an international outlook.  What I would like to do is take the best of contemporary Indian design and give it a slight twist – bringing that international dimension to a domestic market,” he says.

His beautiful writing desk in olive ash and spalted beech provides echoes of that approach, developing a style that bridges countries and continents.


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