We hear from current student Fran Bullinger about her experience of studying at the Chippendale School so far.
We are currently very busy preparing for our students and staff to return to the workshop and can’t wait to welcome them back to finish off their projects that have been put on hold by Covid-19.
While we’ve been in lockdown, we caught up with one of our current students, Fran Bullinger from Germany. Fran is a student on our Professional Course, which provides a basis from which students can launch their own career in woodworking and fine furniture making.
We spoke to Fran to find out how she came to study on the Professional Course, what her favourite projects have been and what she plans to do after she graduates.
What led you to study at Chippendale School?
“There are a number of reasons why I ended up going to the Chippendale School – the short version is I wanted to learn woodworking in order to make the things that were then only drawings on paper.
“After working for Victoria Meacham and learning upholstery, I realised I needed to expand my knowledge if I wanted to make my own furniture. I couldn’t find any work experience though, because most independent businesses are too small to support apprentices and I didn’t meet the requirement of official apprenticeship schemes. I did some research and found the professional course at Chippendale.”
What were you doing prior to studying at Chippendale School?
“I moved to the UK to study media production in Lincoln. I really enjoyed the course because it came with the freedom of working on passion projects and I found ways to combine digital and non-digital work.
“Work experience in the ‘real world’ however was too digital-heavy and I missed a more-hands on approach. After that I worked as a barista, as well as working with art festival organisers.
“Here already (and really all my life) there were many signs that I needed to head towards furniture design, I just couldn’t see where all the strings were leading to just yet. Moving to Edinburgh a year and a half ago, I set out to find what my true calling was. That is when I got in touch with Victoria Meacham and everything just suddenly clicked.”
What do you hope to gain from your course studies?
“I think there are different factors that led me to the course that are also reflected in what I want to gain from it. One is very simple in that I have a hankering to learn new craft skills. That’s always been what I do, I make things. And what better material to use than wood.
“But the goal is not just to learn a new skill, but to take it further and make it my profession. The school allows me to build up a portfolio with the support and knowledge of the tutors. If everything goes well, I will be able to earn my living doing a thing that brings me joy – how cool is that? It’s not just about woodworking knowledge though, but making connections with likeminded people. A friendly level of competition is great to push your skills and designs further.”
What kind of projects have you been working on so far? What has been your favourite and why?
“The focus of all my designs is bringing people and nature closer together again. For my first project I worked on a coffee table that showcases falling rain meeting a water surface. The design is very contemporary and follows simple lines that are then contrasted by the carved ripples on the top. While originally, I envisioned a more disrupted surface, talking about ways of achieving this with tutors and evolving the design over time, resulted in a much more simplified effect that gives the piece the tranquil feeling I was hoping for.
“With new-found confidence the second piece is a lot more ambitious. This time, a 1.80m tall cabinet again follows a very simple and contemporary structure. The front however acts as a window into a forest made out of different stained pieces of veneer. I am very excited to see the finished result but for now with lockdown in place the work has been put on pause.”
How has your experience of lockdown been?
“I miss going to the workshop, it was my happy place. Luckily, cutting veneer for my second project can be done from home so I’ve kept myself busy.
“But the reality of living in a small flat that also has to function as mine and my partner’s workspace is that your personal space, your ‘I-just-need-to-step-away-from-work’ space, is as good as non-existent. So mentally it has not been easy, but it could also have been a lot worse. This way I have had time to also think more about other projects I want to work on and fun things like business plans.”
Do you have any plans for what you’d like to do after you finish the course e.g. set up your own business?
“I would love to have my own business. I’m planning to rent out workshop space at the school after graduating and work on some commissions that are in the making at the moment. That will hopefully get the ball rolling.”