A blog by Jamie Wemyss about his projects and experiences as a student at the Chippendale International School of Furniture
When a piece of furniture is standing in front of you in its physical form, having evolved from only a seed in your brain, it fills you with an enormous sense of gratification. I have just completed my second term and have just experienced that sense of gratification for the second time.
I first realised a love of woodwork at my old school. It was the only subject other than Sport Science that really interested me, and it was helped by having a brilliant Design-Technology department. We designed and completed project portfolios, and were very lucky to even be able to make most of our designs. The big difference between now is that I am responsible for everything, from the design to using the machinery and completing the project.
If I am struggling with part of a project, I HAVE to make it work. To ensure I make progress, I have to overcome any problems, sometimes with the help of the tutors. Before, at my old school, I’d go down to the workshop the next morning to find the teachers had helped my project along; good for the eventual outcome, but not so productive as far as my learning and motivation were concerned.
This is one of the most inspiring things about woodwork – you don’t just get that sense of victory at the end of the project when it’s done and dusted, but experience small moral victories day-in and day-out. That is the satisfaction of the trade. I suppose this is where most of my learning at the Furniture School has come from so far. I am developing my attitude to challenges and committing to overcoming them rather than giving up. I now realise how much I was spoon-fed in the past.
One of the greatest lessons which is preached over and over again by Anselm Fraser, the School Principal, is: “Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, but never make the same mistake twice.”
It makes complete sense at a Furniture School where you are encouraged to think and learn for yourself. If you just go for it, you are likely to make a mistake pretty quickly, but it is through your mistakes that you learn the most. If I went to a furniture school, which taught every aspect of the trade, I would get bored incredibly quickly, but more importantly it would take far longer to learn something. I have one year in which to be a woodworking sponge and absorb as many tricks, skills and methods as I can, and I have the rest of my life to master them.
Being at the Furniture School is a breath of fresh air after being at university in urban Bristol. I’m back in the countryside in East Lothian, a mere minute’s drive from the village of Gifford where Pam and Craig supply my daily bowl of soup in the village cafe. In the evenings we go down to the Goblin’ Ha pub for some pints or a bit of food and there’s always a friendly crowd.
I managed to secure a commission for my second term veneer project, a sewing table designed and customised for the Wemyss School of Needlework in Fife. It was founded in 1877 and my mother is now in charge of bringing it into the 21st century. I hope that my design, which has combined tradition with a more contemporary touch, may help her achieve this transformation. It was a great project combining many different skills which have included designing a ‘swan’ logo for the Needlework School and displaying it on the marquetry top.
I had huge fun making my first project. It was a drinks cabinet, which is something that can be appreciated by all who like a drink, and even if they don’t, it’ll brighten up their room. With this project I again wanted it to mix tradition and modernity, using spalted beech and white ash – 2 lovely, stable woods to work with. My objective, apart from making a beautiful piece of furniture, was to achieve great functionality. When I make a bloody mary at home, I make about 4 trips between the kitchen and the drinks table. With this cabinet, you can make any drink within reason without having to move your legs, though your arms will still get a good work out!
I am looking forward to my 3rd term and even more excited about life after the course which I am currently planning. I feel like I want to learn a bit more before I start a business, which will give me time to decide where I want to be. My plan is to offer my services to workshops for free, but on the condition that 2 days a week I can use their workshop to work on my own commissions.
I will, of course, need work to come in which I am beginning to seek out, so if you like the look of the drinks cabinet or sewing worktable, please don’t hesitate to contact me for all kinds of bespoke projects.
Jamie Wemyss (07807 774350 firstname.lastname@example.org)