Every furniture school has to balance teaching students the skills they’ll need to be professional woodworkers with the creativity to design and make great furniture.
It’s a balance that varies greatly between schools, with some establishments requiring students to achieve, for example, dovetail excellence before moving onto the next skill.
The Chippendale school is a little different, largely because we teach the full spectrum of skills in nine months on our professional course.
It’s an intense thirty weeks in which students learn and then refine core skills in a continuous process of learning and practice.
We believe that’s the right approach to woodworking excellence because woodworking skill should also be matched with encouraging design creativity.
While it’s important for students to learn all there is about fashioning wood, our course is also about unlocking the innate creativity that is within all of us.
It’s an approach that empowers students because it builds their confidence. They quickly understand that their only limitation is the limit of their imagination.
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, giving them the skills to make it.
That approach, we believe, makes our course fun and rewarding – and what is learned with pleasure is likely to be remembered for a lifetime.
It’s a process that isn’t just about teaching practical skills, but also about how to apply those skills and turn design inspiration into actual pieces of furniture.
That’s why, at the start of the course, we bring in the hugely talented Isa Dorster from the lycée des métiers d’art near Montpellier, France as our first international tutor, to teach students how to visualise their creative ideas and express them in 3D drawings.
All of our students are now using the skills Isa has taught to begin designing onto paper, creating scale models of what they want to make, and some are using modelling software such as SketchUp.
The important thing is that skill and creativity is able to come together in a teaching environment where design ideas can find expression.
Stephen Barr from Northern Ireland is pictured, top, designing on SketchUp, while Alex Stanton from Australia is designing onto paper.