Every year at the Chippendale School, we welcome dozens of people who have decided to swap their previous careers for the fulfilling journey of furniture making.
One of these career-changers was John Heuchan (Laurel & Wood) who joined us on our 2020/21 Professional Course. Before the pandemic hit, John worked in the construction sector, however, in 2020 he began to re-consider his career choice.
Keep reading to hear from John on what his woodworking journey has been like so far…
You had previously worked in construction and also in farming. What made you make the switch to woodworking, and how did you know it was the right time to change career?
Having grown up on a farm and deciding that following in my father’s footsteps was not for me, I went on to study construction project management at university.
I had been working as a construction project manager for just over a year when the pandemic hit – it prompted me to reconsider my career path and I realised I didn’t want to sit at a desk for the rest of my life. I stumbled upon the Chippendale School while searching the internet and quickly decided that I wanted to do the Professional Course.
I knew it was the right time to change as I am still young and I had nothing to lose, so decided to ‘take the plunge’ and attempt to create a successful career as a furniture maker.
Why did you choose furniture making as a career path? And why did you choose the Chippendale School as the place of study?
I had always enjoyed being creative and making things, and had often considered leaving the path I was on and taking up a joinery apprenticeship.
Having researched my options for furniture making courses, the Chippendale School seemed most appropriate for me as it was ideally based in Scotland. This meant I could lean on the support of friends and family nearby to see me through the course. Having previously lived in Edinburgh, I also knew this would help when trying to get my name out there and find work after the course.
How did you find the transition to becoming a woodworker full time? Have there been any surprises?
The transition to becoming a full-time woodworker was challenging to start with, as work would slowly come in with no clear idea of when it might stop. I worked very hard to build up a network of contacts and have now worked on several projects with several different interior designers across Edinburgh.
Work has been steady and now I have reached a point where I have many good contacts I work with regularly, and now I have people getting in touch through word of mouth referrals which is a great feeling.
What is your advice to anyone contemplating changing careers?
It is naturally a risk changing careers, but as long as you are committed to making it work and put in the time to make it a success then you can make your business whatever you want it to be.
What is the inspiration behind the designs and style of your woodworking business, Laurel & Wood?
The opportunity for creativity is what inspires me and I love to try new things and experiment with new materials. No two designs are the same and that is what makes every piece unique and special. Laurel & Wood is all about creating beautiful furniture, both fitted and freestanding, that will naturally and seamlessly fit into my client’s homes.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since graduating from the School?
That making mistakes is nothing to be afraid of – learning from them and finding solutions is all part of the journey to becoming a better woodworker.
The Professional Course is ideal for those wanting to make that bold leap into a new career, as it sets you up to successfully build your own woodworking business – from the initial design stages and learning techniques right through to how to set up and market your fledgling business.
Sign up for our 2023/24 Professional Course here.