We’re always delighted to feature the work of former students, particularly one as talented as Colin Bate who now runs Highwood Furniture.
So talented is Colin that he was voted Students’ Choice Student of the Year 2017, and has gone on to set up his business in Alyth, Perth & Kinross.
He’s now working out of his large garage and it’s taken him the best part of a year to install machinery and equipment – alongside making commissions for customers.
“At the public exhibition at the school after graduation I had someone very interested in my work and she got in touch with me a month afterwards to commission some pieces,” says Colin.
“Since then, she has been a very good repeat customer and has also recommended me to other people. Those recommendations have won me, among others, a kitchen in Haddington and Japanese tea ceremony pieces for a customer in London.”
Colin, originally from Birmingham, moved north to work in outdoor education but, over the years, found himself less and less outside and more and more behind a desk – although he did find time to volunteer with his local mountain rescue team.
However, being naturally creative, he decided to enroll on a professional course at the Chippendale school and change the course of his career.
“I love the practical precision of furniture making, and the disciplines involved in turning a design idea into a beautiful piece of furniture. But I also enjoy the creativity that goes into making a desk or cabinet into something absolutely unique,” he says.
That practical precision is demonstrated in a bespoke unit (pictured above) made from flamed beech, elm, ash and oak, with bog oak inlayed lines. The doors have a curved split up the middle perfectly matching each other, with the inlayed lines flowing over and around them.
Showing a talent for marketing, Colin displayed some of his work at a local bike shop and, once again, a commission for a kitchen followed – as well as smaller commissions from local people in the area.
And underlining how one thing can lead onto another, the bike shop expanded to include a café and Colin designed and made the counter.
This attracted much interest and, you guessed it, a local artist has commissioned Colin to make a counter for his small gallery in Dundee, which will be fitted next week.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed the last year. It has been challenging, but it’s also been a pleasure to discuss ideas with customers and then designing and making pieces for them. It’s lovely to get to know clients, an important first step in designing exactly what they want,” he says.
A stand-out piece that he made at the Chippendale school was a steam-bent desk in olive ash and oak which he created “to test the limits of what can be achieved with steam bending,” he says.
It was a wonderful signature piece (main picture), and we’re delighted it has led to a promising start in the professional world of fine furniture design.