Handmade: Britains Best Woodworker on Channel4

Handmade: Dream Bed

Episode 1

Skills Challenge: Woodcut Print Inspired by Nature
Big Build : Dream Bed

We arrived at the location as the UK went into its second lockdown, and, since the production company had taken every precaution to keep us safe, we were Covid tested at the gate and confined to our living quarters for the next week until a second negative test gave us the final go-ahead to participate in the competition.

In the months leading up to filming, the rigorous selection process had kept us all so busy there wasn’t much time to stop and think about the fact that we might actually end up on television - even though we had applied to take part in the show. Our focus for those months had all been on getting to take part, rather than what would happen if we achieved our aim. Being confined to our accommodation for the first week gave us the opportunity to reflect on how we had got there, and why.

I absolutely love the Reality TV competition format – from flower arranging to body painting; from SAS training to silverwork; from glass blowing to drag queens (unsurprisingly!) – I watch them all, and I’ve always wondered what it would be like to take part. I was also looking for a new challenge, and, if I’m honest, the chance to show off to a national audience was too good not to take. On a more serious note, I had also, for quite some time, been looking for a vehicle to represent the Transgendered and Non-Binary community in a positive light. I would never have come out myself had it not been for the older generation of pioneers who were prepared to be their authentic selves in public, and the thought that being a visible presence with a strong and positive message might inspire others was a powerful motivation for me.

So, with plenty of time to reflect, the anticipation and nerves had steadily been building, but when we saw the workshop for the first time, we all relaxed considerably. We were now in a much more familiar environment, and as Tim said, it was as close to woodwork heaven as any of us had got – every tool and machine under the sun had been provided, along with an incredibly skilled set of technicians to help us realise our designs.

My first design for the bed was ridiculously complicated, and there was no way it could ever have been made in two days. (It would have been a lovely bed though!) So I came up with what I thought was a much simpler version - a modern take on a classic design – something quietly glamourous with an elegant feel. Fusing Gothic, Classical, Tribal and Japanese influences, its success rested in producing beautifully clean lines and an immaculate polished finish.

Little did I realise that it also required considerable skill with the heavier machinery at hand, and having not been in a proper workshop for about thirty years, not only did I have to rely heavily on the technicians, but I also didn’t finish it, which made me seriously question the design choices I had made. Winning immunity in the skills challenge might have saved me from going home, but it also made me put enormous pressure on myself to succeed so that I could feel as if I had deserved the award.

As soon as Mel called for us to down tools, overcome with mixed feelings of relief at having got over the first hurdle, and feeling like an abject failure at having not finished, I burst into tears, and had it not been for a long heart to heart with Mel, I might well have given up there and then. Later, on relating the incident to my girlfriend, she said, “You’ve got in your head : you wanna sort that out, you muppet”… A reaction that jerked me back to normality!

As it happens, even though unfinished, the design got a great reaction from the judges. I’m proud of it, and am now offering it for sale (the finished version, of course!) Do get in touch through the contact page if you’re interested in buying one.

Mistis final Bed of Dream design
Mistis preliminary bed of dreams design