I began my journey from a very different place. The world I previously inhabited, the corridors of power in Westminster, the choked up streets of Whitehall and the busy bars surrounding the Mother of Parliament no longer held the excitement they once did. I had long wanted to use my creative talents and actually ‘make’ something, produce something tangible.
After much thought and no looking back, I said farewell to my colleagues and my life in the city and relocated to the South coast to study fine furniture making and design with Marc Fish at his robinson house studio. It was a world of discovery, where everything is possible. I enrolled on to the 50 week designer/maker course. The intake is strictly limited and I filled the last place on the May intake. I was joined by 5 other budding furniture makers from various parts of Europe with varying levels of skill and experience. We were all very different, but we each shared the same dream - to design and make bespoke furniture to extremely high standards.
From the outset we were all in such a hurry to learn as much as possible. We would get to the studio for 7.30am in order to prepare for the day’s lessons. Those early days were intensive, teaching began at 9am prompt. We covered all the basics starting with tool preparation and sharpening, metal theory and timber technology. I was itching to start work on the first project, but it was a couple of weeks before we even saw our first piece of timber!
Marc would structure lessons so that morning sessions were classroom style involving lectures, discussion and demonstrations. After lunch we would get on to the practical lessons anything from sharpening to tool tuning. The days flew past and it wasn’t long before we began our first project. All students make ‘winding sticks’, a little used tool in the workshop but an exercise in precision. The winding sticks are used to check for wind or twist in timber and need to be identical is size and perfectly square. With our newly tuned planes we are able to achieve an extremely high degree of accuracy. So much so, that Marc promises a bottle of Champagne to any student able to produce these pesky little sticks of Maple to within two thousandths of an inch of each other and of course square on all sides too. At one point, Marc was looking at a very expensive trip to the wine merchants, with all students on track to achieve the almost impossible. In the end three of us celebrated at Marc’s expense, a pretty impressive result considering some of us had no previous experience of using hand tools.
As the weeks turned into months my confidence grew. The trips to timber yards, the drawing and painting classes, design discussions and homework sessions all helped to equip me with ‘tools’ I needed to design and make furniture.