SHETLAND FINE CRAFT

Profile

Shetland Fine Craft-  Alex with a recently completed farmhouse lath-back Windsor rocking chair made from Scottish Burr Elm.
Shetland Fine Craft- Alex with a recently completed farmhouse lath-back Windsor rocking chair made from Scottish Burr Elm.

My interest in woodwork began at the very early age of 5, practising cutting joints in the garden using my father's workmate. This early interest developed to a point where at 13 years old I bought myself a lathe and a planer/ thicknesser with money I earned from grass cutting. My father generously gave up his shed at the bottom of the garden to accommodate my ever increasing stack of timber and tools.

I taught myself woodturning from various books and would sell the results of my labour locally. This was of no great surprise to my family as in generations past there were 3 French polishers, a wood turner, a cabinet maker, an organ maker and a wooden ladder maker - so obviously working with wood must have been in my blood.

Whilst studying at the local Grammar school, I undertook work experience at a local upholsterers and was taken on during the school holidays to repair chair frames and complete small upholstery projects.

On successfully completing my A-levels - one of which was Design and Technology (Woodwork - grade A) I decided to delay going to university for 2 years to gain more hands-on work experience which was now in cabinetmaking. I managed this by being employed as the sole designer/draughtsman and one of the cabinet makers, at just 18 years old, for a luxury caravan company, as well as continuing to do private commissions.

I was inspired by various cabinet makers and designers from the Arts and Crafts Movement, such as Ernest Gimson and The Barsleys and their ethos, but even more so by the writings of Alan Peters and James Krenov both of whom were contemporary furniture  designer/ makers. I knew what I wanted to design and make, and how I was going to achieve it. So now was the time to go to University. This happen to be The Buckingham College Of Brunel University, High Wycombe. Here I worked long hours, 6am - 9pm almost everyday for 3 years, pushing my skills and the course content to their limit. All the time trying to learn as much as possible about all aspects of the furniture trade. Eventually becoming highly skilled in cabinet making, chair making, upholstery and finishing.

While at university it just so happened that I lived directly across the road from Kitchener Works, the premises where Stewart Linford, the last professional Windsor chair maker in High Wycombe worked. I arranged a meeting with Stewart Linford and was offered a part time job for almost 3 years whilst at university. It was during this period that my passion for Windsor chairs began, and I learned so much about their design, construction and the finer details of the appreciation of timber, patterning and grain orientation.

The way the degree course was set out, all the written finals were achieved in the 2nd year, allowed me the opportunity to take on further qualifications in my 3rd year to include Advanced City and Guilds in cabinet making, chair making, industrial polishing as well undertaking qualifications in tree felling and traditional polishing.

Shetland Fine Craft- Assortment of some of the hand tools used for chair making.
Shetland Fine Craft- Assortment of some of the hand tools used for chair making.

Upon gaining my degree in 1993, I immediately set up a cabinet making workshop out of an old barn in a small village in Lincolnshire, designing and making both traditional and contemporary furniture, as well as restoration work. I won various awards along the way for my business, building a reputation for fine quality handcrafted furniture at an affordable price. Commissions eventually came from all four corners of the UK and from the USA.

After 12 years of running the business and then starting a family, I took on further studies. At the same time as running a cabinet making business I also qualified as a registered nurse from the University Of Nottingham.

In 2008 I moved to Shetland with my family to realise a dream to build our own house and workshop and eventually renamed the business Shetland Fine Craft. From this workshop I continue to challenge myself, to keep my skills sharp and at a distinctively high level, to design and make both traditional and contemporary handcrafted fine furniture that can be appreciated now and for future generations to come.

Qualifications

1990

City and Guilds Carpentry and Joinery

Distinction

1992

City and Guilds Traditional Polishing

Distinction

Certificate Of Competence in Chainsaw Operations FTC 10, 11

1993

BA(Hons) Furniture Design and Craftsmanship - The Buckinghamshire College, Brunel University, High Wycombe.

Additional recognition in achieving a level of distinction in Cabinet making.

Advanced City and Guilds Cabinet Making

Distinction

Advanced City and Guilds Chair Making

Distinction

Advanced City and Guilds Industrial Polishing

Distinction

Awards

1990

Merlane Trophy - Institute Of Carpenters (East Midlands) - Top Joinery Student in the East Of England.

1994

Prince's Youth Business Trust - New Business Award - Regional Winner

Shell Live Wire - Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award - Lincolnshire Winner.

Shell Live Wire - Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award - Regional Finalist

1996

Prince Youth Business Trust - 10/10 Ten out of 10 Business Award.

1998

Prince Youth Business Trust - Business Award For Achievement

2002

Shell Live Wire - Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards - Business Award For Achievement.

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