Our 2023 Graduates were a talented bunch. Among them was Lauren Lederman – with no prior woodworking experience, she moved to Scotland to enrol in our Professional Course. Lauren quickly took to woodworking, creating high quality pieces and even securing the Public’s Choice Award at this year’s Graduate Exhibition.
We caught up with Lauren, currently in the US, to reflect on her time at the Chippendale School and find out what the future has in store for her.
How did you discover your passion for working, considering you had no prior experience in the field?
Prior to Chippendale, I’d spent a decade working in non-profits and social justice organisations. It was deeply meaningful work, but also challenging: the need was always there, and so the work was never ending. I knew I had to have a change. I wanted to be doing something physical, tangible, with a concrete start and finish. One day I saw a video of some gorgeous, ornate dovetails coming together, and I thought, “I want to learn how to do THAT.” My work in non-profits was largely about fighting oppression and inequality in the world. I recognised that I was entering a stage where, rather than fighting the things I didn’t want in the world, I wanted to create the things I did want. Woodworking was a very literal method of doing just that!
With no prior experience, I truly wasn’t certain how the course would go: leaving my career and moving to Scotland for the year was a huge leap of faith. But I deeply believe that with no risks, you get no magic. I took a big risk and received so much magic in return.
What is your creative process? What inspires you?
So often, my own self-criticism and preconceived notions of what something ‘should be’ stop me before I even begin. So for me, my creative process starts with just plain starting. That begins with grounding myself in curiosity and withholding judgement. I begin with sketches, and while more often than not I don’t love my ‘first drafts,’ I try to find the elements in my sketches that excite me and keep moving from there.
When I think about my inspiration, three main things jump out at me: nature and the wood itself, my background as a dancer, and my identities. I am in constant wonder at the natural world around me, and trees themselves are the most magical medium. How beautiful to be working with something with so much history, that is so wild, so alive? Without fail, every time I put a new board through the thicknesser, I am in awe of the beauty of the wood grain as it’s revealed. Being a dancer, movement has been my primary creative outlet, so it feels natural to bring elements of movement and flow to my designs. As a queer femme and a woman in woodworking, I’m drawn to creating things that are soft, delicate, and beautiful, but also undeniably strong.
Nature seems to be a significant source of inspiration for your work. Could you tell us about some natural elements that have influenced your designs?
I had the opportunity to live on the school grounds, so every night I had a magnificent view of the rural Scottish sky. The moon and the stars felt like friends during the course and were a huge inspiration in my work – as is clear to see in one of my works, The Loïe et Gab Cabinet. Flowers – in particular, trumpet flowers, lilies of the valley, and campanulas – were the main inspiration behind The Amy Chandelier.
Can you describe one of your favourite projects? What makes it special to you?
The Amy Chandelier, named in honour of my mother, was really exciting to make because it was such a different process from my first piece, a wall-mounted tambour cabinet. Unlike the cabinet, for which I had a really firm design concept that I didn’t waver from, the chandelier was a constant evolution. The entire process felt more wild and organic – beginning with selecting the log for the turned elements from Ralph Curry’s local sawmill and participating in the milling process/direction, which was an amazing experience. The design shifted dramatically based on the knowledge gained from guest lectures, conversations with my incredible tutor Graham, and the wood itself. It was exciting to be able to problem solve and to explore how letting my design evolve naturally could result in unexpected and delightful outcomes. My original design looked absolutely NOTHING like the finished piece, and I loved both what I created and the process of creating!
How do you feel about winning the Public’s Choice Award?
I feel so unbelievably honoured. I learned alongside an incredibly talented group of students who I am continuously amazed and inspired by. There were so many spectacular, innovative, and simply stunning pieces created by my cohort at the exhibition. It was deeply humbling to be selected.
I also feel like it was the loveliest affirmation I could have imagined: I decided to let my creativity truly run riot during the course, which felt scary and, after two weeks of individually gradient-staining over 200 tambours, didn’t always feel like the wisest decision! But that decision also felt really important. I knew my design choices were bold – I didn’t expect them to be to everyone’s taste – and I truly wasn’t sure how the visions in my head would turn out in reality. Still, I actively chose to take the risk and let creativity take the lead. Seeing people’s reactions to my work and winning the Public’s Choice Award was the best possible affirmation that the risk was worth it.
Can you share a memorable story or memory from your time at the Chippendale School?
After weeks of a friendly prank war between myself and two other students (and repeatedly finding my tools superglued to my desk), I snuck into the workshop shortly before the Christmas holidays and fully gift-wrapped their benches – including individually wrapping chisels, stools, and favourite coffee mugs. I will forever cherish the looks on their faces when they came in the next morning and discovered their “gifts”!
What would you say to someone considering enrolling at the Chippendale School?
Every tutor has unique skill sets – so ask as many questions as you can and talk to them ALL! Don’t be surprised when you find tutors taking very different approaches to completing the same task – there are many different “right” ways to do things, and part of the joy of the course is understanding the different approaches and finding the ways that work best for you!
What does the future look like and where can people find you?
I am currently based in Bozeman, Montana, where I’m working out of the Bozeman Makerspace. I’m thrilled to share that later this winter, I’ll be spending three months as a Fellow with the San Diego Craft Collective, an incredible organisation that brings craft and woodworking to the community as a vehicle for self-expression and personal growth.
I’m looking forward to continuing to blur the lines between art and furniture and in particular, to add more lighting and chandeliers to my portfolio.
Are you interested in pursuing a career in woodworking like Lauren? Take a look at our 30-week Professional Course to see how you too could become a fine furniture maker.