SHETLAND FINE CRAFT

Furniture

Shetland Fine Craft- English Walnut door.
Shetland Fine Craft - Carefully chosen flame effect pattern for a door panel out of English Walnut.

I was always taught that "form follows function", and although this is an idea from the Modernist Movement. I design my furniture loosely based on this principle. First the furniture should be fit for purpose/ function, second, embellish and shape it to make it pleasing to the eye. It isn't right that a piece of furniture looks good but does not perform its purpose.

As a furniture maker my influences in furniture design are varied but all have a common theme - Hand Craftsmanship.

From the Arts and Crafts Movement and the philosophies of John Ruskin- placing values on the joy of craftsmanship and the natural beauty of materials to the forefront, and essentially being anti industrialisation; through to Alan Peters, and James Krenov - who believed that the natural competitive attitude of the "professional" furniture maker seeking the next dollar (or pound), causes one to compromise one's values as a craftsman.

When I design my furniture I use a very free form approach similar to that of Sam  Maloof and James Krenov, whereby I start with a basic form or idea be it table, chair, bed etc. and use time honoured  ratios  to develop a piece of furniture. I rarely use working drawings, unless absolutely necessary, relying on notes and sketches, as this I feel can stifle creativity and can be too rigid. Instead, using a more "seat of the pants " approach developing the piece as I go making decisions on shapes, thicknesses etc.. If it looks right, it is right. What can look good on paper does not always look good in 3D.

Shetland Fine Craft- Yew Creepie.
Shetland Fine Craft - Creepie showing Yew wood grain pattern to enhance design.

Quite often full size mock ups are made to judge sizes and relationships and developed with the help of the client. I very often do not use any measurements when designing a piece of furniture unless there is a specific need to, for example to house objects of a certain size or to fit a given width. This is because I have found many people/ clients tend to choose sizes for their furniture that they are comfortable with in their mind eg 36", 24" or 50cm ,100cm but from an aesthetic point of view the actual sizes that look right maybe slightly different. The mind can play tricks with measurements and numbers as these are artificial.

Very often furniture made today, be it traditional or contemporary in style, can look boring, flat and lifeless, where as with some thought put into the design a piece of furniture can come alive and make a visual impact. Furniture from my point of view should have  visual movement and a presence of its own.
I always strive to push the boundaries of my creativity, so as not to become stagnant in my furniture making and to keep my craftsmanship at its peak.

Shetland Fine Craft- American Black Walnut dining table and 10 matching chairs.
Shetland Fine Craft - American Black Walnut dining table and 10 matching chairs showing carefully selected grain pattern.

All the timber I use is carefully selected from trusted sources that I visit regularly as needs be, sometimes travelling great distances to find the right piece of timber often combined with a family break. Careful attention is given to variation in wood grain and colour to create harmony in a piece of furniture seeking out highly figured unique pieces of wood to be used selectively to give the greatest impact. Quite often it is the piece of timber itself that dictates what furniture will be made out of it.  This is achieved by selecting timber at source, sometimes purchasing in the round and milling it for particular jobs years in advance. This way I can use the right piece of timber for the right job instead of having to use what is available at the time. The timber is either FSC accredited or from wind blown trees from country estates enabling me to identify each tree's origin.

Whilst I do create original one off unique pieces, I do not try to seek originality in my designs at the expense of a well made functional piece of furniture. Many pieces of furniture that you see today are designed for the sake of designing, sometimes over designing for the sake of it for which the client ends up paying for unnecessarily.

Craftsmanship

Shetland  Fine Craft - English walnut stationary cabinet
Shetland Fine Craft- Walnut Stationary Cabinet with Cedar of Lebanon draw sides and bottoms, Sonokeling Rosewood handles and hand chip carving on all inside facets.

Staying true to my forefathers and the Arts and Crafts ethos, the only part of the construction process that uses machines is that of the gruelling crude initial dimensioning of the timber - sawing and planing.

After this process, 99% of the work is then achieved by hand. This is because the overdependence of power tools removes the "fingerprints" of the craftsman left on a finished piece of furniture that only handwork can leave. Far too often furniture can look lifeless and boring using plain timbers and simplified machined joints and components with the end goal of producing a piece of furniture as quickly and cheaply as possible for maximum profit. By employing hand skills, not only is sawdust replaced by shavings but the noise from power tools replaced by the gentle sound of hand planes and chisels resulting in a quieter calmer workshop to work in, which reflects in the furniture made.

Shetland  Fine Craft - Hay rake console table
Shetland Fine Craft- Hay rake detailing - American Black Walnut/ Maple handcrafted cock beading inlay and chip carving.

Cabinet making is 90% joints and 10% shaping of the wood. Chair making is 10% joints and 90% shaping. Without being highly skilled in both these aspects of furniture making it can almost be impossible for a furniture maker to traverse between the two crafts successfully without  making compromises - a chair maker producing joints of a cabinet that are not crisp and elegant, or a cabinet maker producing chairs that look like a joint project with no finesse.

Being highly qualified and with over a quarter of a century of experience in cabinet making and chair making, means that you, the client , can be rest assured that you get the very best of both worlds.

Cabinets, tables and chairs not only compliment each other but with the correct attention to detail become a practical piece of furniture as well as a piece of art in their own right.

Shetland  Fine Craft - Hay rake console table
Shetland Fine Craft- Hay rake underframe, using draw bored mortise and tenons and hand chamfered edges.

I cut all joints, dovetails etc. by hand, and this gives the joint a delicateness and finesse that cannot be matched by any machine and does not compromise strength in any way. Hand cut dovetails are used on all the drawers and these drawers are made with tight tolerances so that they effortlessly glide in and out of the carcase as if floating on air.

Modern technology is only employed if it is superior to the traditional methods.

You can be rest assured that whether your piece of furniture is traditional or contemporary, rustic or minimalist, the same time honoured methods and high quality materials will be used and your new piece of furniture will receive the highest care and attention to detail that will exceed your expectations.

Skip navigation Home page Site Map Contact us Top of the page Accessibility Statement