A simple fact about bespoke furniture is that good design sells.
That’s a lesson that Fiona Gilfillan, one of recent professional course graduates has learned.
During her course, she made a spalted Sycamore and Elm console table, which sold at the graduate exhibition.
She was then commissioned by another customer to make a second console table.
Now she’s just completing a third, making her something of a console queen.
Fiona was the second student on our newly-introduced month-long intermediate course last year.
Then, despite not initially intending to make woodworking her life, she enrolled on our 2018/19 professional course.
Fiona is now setting up FeeMade from incubation space at the school.
Those spaces, Myreside Studios, are one of the ways we try to help graduates in their early careers.
Because we don’t believe that education and support should end when our students graduate.
Instead, in a more holistic approach, our Myreside Studios allow graduates to set themselves up in business from the school’s campus.
We give them good working space and full access to equipment and machinery.
They also have continued help from our tutors, so that they don’t have to feel isolated.
That’s important because our students build up close working relationships with other students, with everyone learning from each other.
Myreside Studios allow those working relationships to extend into professional life so that, in a very real sense, the school is a community of students and professional woodworkers.
Fiona also has one other claim to Chippendale woodworking fame.
She first came to us on a one-week introductory course, making her the only person to have completed all three of our courses.
Fiona is gifted and hard-working and we’re hugely pleased that she’s staying on at the school.Read More
It’s a good way for potential professional woodworkers to see if they really do have sawdust in their veins.
And if they do, and enrol onto our professional course, the introductory course fees are deducted.
It’s a route into woodworking that several professional course students have taken, having proved to themselves that woodworking is the career for them.
For Stephen, originally from Northern Ireland but now living in Edinburgh, it was a bold change of professional direction.
His previous career was in IT consultancy, with his own company, which he sold.
Stephen’s stand-out piece, for which he won this year’s Richard Demarco Prize, was a humorous statement on the vexed question of Brexit.
His “Strong and Stable Brexit Cabinet” was just as divided as the country on the issue.
His two-door cabinet in Walnut and Japanese Ash depicted the Union Jack on one door, and the EU’s stars on the other.
Also, one of the EU’s stars was missing…a visual quip about the UK’s intention to (maybe) leave the EU.
In our experience, furniture sells when it’s well-made and carries a design that turns it into a talking point.
Not only was Stephen’s cabinet extremely well made but his fun design gave it topical appeal.
In the run-up to the school’s graduation exhibition, several newspapers – including The Times – carried stories about his cabinet.
At the exhibition itself he was awarded The Richard Demarco Prize 2019.
This annual prize is awarded by Professor Richard Demarco CBE, one of the UK’s leading arts commentators.
Professor Demarco’s prize is awarded to the student whose work not only displays design and woodworking skill but exceptional artistic talent.
Stephen is now setting up Starship Unicorn Furniture from incubation space at the school.
These spaces, Myreside Studios, are another good reason to study at the Chippendale school.
They allow graduates to immediately set up in business and make full use of the school’s equipment and machinery.
They also still have tutor support in case of difficulty in those important early months.
It’s all part of the school’s holistic approach to teaching woodworking and helping our students post-graduation.Read More
We’re often asked how we can turn novices into professional woodworkers in only 30 weeks.
The answer is that we have the very best teaching methods and staff.
Our professional course has been running for well over thirty years.
So, we have learned what works to ensure that our graduates have all the skills they need.
Compare that to a four-year university course, with all the student debt that involves.
One successful student, who demonstrated talent in spades, was Gordon Young from Edinburgh.
Gordon began on the ‘conventional’ route, earning a Masters degree in civil engineering from Heriot-Watt University.
It’s a qualification that has some relevance to fine furniture making because it does involve an understanding of how to design things.
Other students often don’t have design skills when they come to us, which is why it’s the first thing we teach our students.
After all, if you can’t visualise a design in 3D you can’t easily make fine furniture.
Not only that, but we also bring in Isa Dorster who teaches at the lycée des métiers d’art georges guynemer near Montpellier.
She is a renowned expert in the subtle art of teaching 3D visualisation. Isa augments our own tutors who can also teach computer aided design.
Gordon therefore had a head start on some of our students, design-wise. But he’s also someone who has always been a natural at making things.
He proved that with his beautiful and functional desk in Oak and flamed Beech.
It was sinuous and tactile but, a cardinal element for every piece of furniture, utterly practical.
Its design was made special by Gordon fashioning the two contrasting woods to converge on the top.
He joined them together with a seam of macassar ebony veneer, with the seam then falling down the side of the desk.
Gordon also demonstrated a real talent for gilding on the course, particularly his parquetry chess board framed in oak.
Gordon gilded his chess board frame with copper, then treated it with alcohol to create an aged effect.
This was then sprayed with copper nitrate acid to turn Verdigris, which describes the resulting green pigment.
Gordon is setting up Twin Tree Design, and intends to pursue a career in general bespoke fine furniture.
We’re delighted that he has chosen to stay on at the Chippendale school and work from our on-campus incubation space, Myreside Studios.
This allows our professional course graduates to immediately get started in their new careers. Importantly, they still have access to the school’s equipment, machinery and tutor support.Read More
Woodworking is a passion that many people have, but don’t immediately pursue as a career.
Many of our students are people who have made the decision to leave their industry mid-career.
They’ve taken the conventional route and gone from school to university and then into a humdrum world of work.
Then, after years doing jobs that haven’t been fulfilling, they finally decide to follow their dreams.
But we’re always happy to take students on our professional course straight from school.
So, if you’re uncertain about moving onto higher education, why not consider a career in fine furniture and design?
Our 2019/20 course starts in October and we still have a couple of places remaining.
Our nine-month course is designed to turn novice woodworkers into craftsmen and women.
And we’re delighted that so many women are now enrolling on our one-week introductory course, one-month intermediate course and our flagship professional course.
Student of Year
Indeed, in the last four years, two female students have won our Student of the Year award.
Most of the school leavers that we take in are from the UK, but not this year.
Julius Schmalbach, from Hamburg in Germany, came to us with a little woodworking experience, but no formal training.
But he did have a small workshop at home, and taught himself to make simple pieces such as a table and bedside cabinet.
His first piece with us was a beautifully-designed ash chair with a woven cane back.
It had fine proportions and was exceptionally well crafted, with steam bent and laminated legs.
Underlining his professionalism, the chair was entirely his own design, which he fine-tuned from a mock-up that took four weeks to make.
It’s the first skill that students learn at the Chippendale school, because without being able to visualise your design in 3D, you can’t accurately construct your design.
However, we have the tutorial expertise to ensure that all our students easily master the dark arts of design and visualisation.
We then encourage students to make a scale model of their proposed piece.
That helps them understand what it will look like from all angles and how it will be joined together.
Most students wouldn’t have started with so ambitious a project, and Julius’ painstaking approach to his design gave him the necessary confidence.
Confidence is also something that we instil at the Chippendale school and, as the course progresses, everyone’s confidence increases.
That was certainly true of Julius because, having taken time and trouble over his chair, he then made a small bench made out of oak, which took him four days!
His signature piece was a lovely cherry veneered writing escritoire, with two drawers held together with hand-cut dovetails.
It was another ambitious project, particularly to veneer around corners, and to make its cherry octagonal tapered legs.
It’s a lovely and practical piece of furniture, with a high level of attention to detail. For example, the handles are also made from well-turned pieces of cherry.
Not content with that, he also completed a walnut medicine cabinet, with star-shaped mirror cut-outs.
The pieces of mirror are gilded in white gold to lend it a magical quality and, inside, it has two drawers and two shelves.
Julius shows that woodworking skill can be learned at any age.
So, if you think a career in furniture design and sawdust might be for you, don’t delay…contact us today!