New term, new challenges

This week saw the start of Term Two for our professional course students, and marks a transition from mostly learning basic skills to designing and making their own pieces.

It’ a challenging period because learning all the skills you need to be a professional woodworker in 30 weeks involves intensity and hard work.

This term, students will be expected to complete their first project, design and start to make their second project – a piece of veneered furniture – and at least begin the design of their final course piece, a carved and gilded mirror.

In the weeks to come we’ll be bringing in internationally-recognised gilding and veneering experts, giving our students a rounded and comprehensive training in all aspects of the furniture maker’s craft.

But each day the course still involves students learning a new skill, and this week we’ve looked at, for example, casting, fixing and colouring mouldings for picture frames.

Students have also learned about Japanese pegs, how to make new mouldings look old, making up animal glue, removing rusty nails and screws…and much more besides.

But it’s not just about the skills needed to craft wood into beautiful furniture, although this is, of course, our primary focus.

We also encourage students to each make short presentations, as if to a prospective customer, outlining everything from the design process and materials to be used, to the time schedule for completion and, of course, the price.

We like to take this holistic approach because there is little point in being a brilliant cabinetmaker if you don’t have the skill and confidence to sell yourself.

It’s an alternative focus which we take very seriously.  For example, we ensure students complete a marketing package as part of their course – and we award an end-of-year prize for the best marketing portfolio.

We also provide advice on website design and content, PR and marketing and individually discuss with our students their plans for a life beyond graduation.  These advisory sessions help to clarify students’ minds on what business skills they need – and, if we can, we’ll help develop those skills.

We also offer graduating students the opportunity to stay on at the school in rented space, giving them access to equipment and machinery and, of course, the professional staff.  For those students who want to work locally, at least for a while, our incubation space gives them a more seamless introduction to a woodworking career.

Lastly, all successful graduates can join the Fine Furniture Guild, an exclusive club for Chippendale alumni.

They can use the Guild’s logo on their marketing materials, as our guarantee to their potential customers that our graduates have reached a high standard of proficiency.

Not only that but, whenever they complete a project, the Guild and the school will be delighted to shout out their achievements.

In the meantime, our students have an exciting 10-week term to look forward to, and begin that transition from student to furniture maker.

Picture: The 2018 Best Portfolio Award, for the quality of his marketing materials, was awarded to Darren Christie, a qualified zoologist from the Falkland Islands.

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