Anselm Fraser, principal of the Chippendale furniture school

Introducing the business of woodworking

Anselm Fraser, principal of the Chippendale school, is writing a series of weekly articles on how to succeed in fine furniture design and making.  Here he outlines his philosophy of lifelong learning.

Woodworking is a passion many of us share, whether as professional cabinetmakers or keen hobbyists.

That’s why the Chippendale school has one-week introductory courses, one-month intermediate courses and our flagship 30-week professional course – to cater for everyone’s passion or woodworking ambitions. i

I suppose that, like any passion, it’s not one that we can easily rationalise.  It’s just something that’s part of us.

But what we should also share is a constant thirst to learn more, because we can always discover new ways to improve. In this way no two days are the same and you continue learning for the rest of your life.

Learning more means recognising how fashions are changing and understanding how new technologies can make life easier.

After all, sticking only to what you’ve always done means standing still in a changing world.   The fact is, what was once a desirable piece of furniture may be today’s kindling.

And the best way to learn is to listen to other woodworkers, and to see how they’re making furniture, and to see what kinds of furniture they’re making.

I’m lucky because not only do I teach woodworking, I’m surrounded by gifted staff and visiting tutors.  Not only that, but our students come from all over the world, and I’m constantly learning about design from their cultural perspectives.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be giving my views on the changing woodworking landscape and, if you’re a keen hobbyist intent on making some money, how to go about it.  I’ll touch on how to find inspiration, to structure your marketing and how to sell yourself.

The first and most obvious point is that you might be the most skilled woodworker in the world, but what’s the point if nobody knows about you or sees your output?  Modern woodworking isn’t just about wood and hard graft, it’s also about acquiring business and marketing skills.

I have been a woodworker since 1981, first as a furniture restorer and then as a teacher.  Today, the Chippendale school is regarded as one of the best in the world.

Over that period, I have learned – and continue to learn – how furniture design and woodworking is a universal and timeless passion.  We have always needed furniture, and will always need it.

We may speak different languages but we are united by a love of woodworking.  That passion is also a universal language; a shared dream to take our skills to the next level.

In the weeks ahead, I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts with you.  After more than 30 years in the woodworking business, I’ll have some provocative things to say.

However, as a woodworker and teacher, I’ll be saying them in the spirit of our shared passion, and to pass on some of my experience.

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