Unlocking creativity and imagination

Every furniture school has its own way of teaching the skills needed to become a fine furniture designer and maker.

Some schools, for example, require students to endlessly make and remake dovetails until they are perfect.  Only then will they learn something new.

It’s a teaching approach that makes for dovetail excellence, but at some cost to a student’s creative freedom.

Instead, at the Chippendale school, we believe in a teaching philosophy that constantly feeds our students’ passion.

It’s an approach that empowers our students because it builds their confidence.  They quickly understand that their only limitation is the limit of their imagination.

The entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson got it right when he said that “you don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.”

Our course is all about doing, doing and more doing – and along the way, sometimes by falling over, everyone does learn how to make the perfect dovetail.

Quite early in our 30-week immersive course, we allow our students the freedom to express themselves – to start to design furniture and, at the same time, acquire the skills to make it.

That approach, we believe, ensures that our students’ passion for woodworking remains undimmed, while better unlocking their innate creativity.

It’s a process of learning that is also about involvement: our students are not only being taught practical skills, but they are also discovering how those skills turn design inspiration into actual pieces of furniture.

It’s why, right at the start of term one, we bring in the hugely talented Isa Dorster from the lycée des métiers d’art near Montpellier, France as our first international tutor.

Isa’s role at Chippendale is to help students visualise their creative ideas and express them in 3D drawings.  It’s all very well having good design ideas, but those ideas need visual expression if they are to be built.

Modern technologies such as CAD have, of course, hugely influenced how fine furniture makers go about their business.

But, and it’s a big but, we believe that students absolutely need a good working knowledge of perspective and the drafting skills to translate design inspiration onto paper.

It’s why Isa comes in right at the start, because she is able to immediately inspire our students to think creatively and to give them the practical skill to express themselves.  The students are free to design whatever they wish and this creates a highly effective learning environment.

They benefit not only from the lessons learned while making their own furniture but also from what others are doing around them.

This peer-to-peer learning is incredibly useful as, with everyone making something completely different, the student ensures he or she is covering all aspects of woodworking while on the course.

Reproduced here are some drawings from this year’s students.

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