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Handmade: Britains Best Woodworker on Channel4

Handmade: Drinks Cabinet

Episode 5

Immunity Challenge: Steam Bending
Big Build: Drinks Cabinet

The less said about the steam bending challenge the better : Radha and Charlie’s collections of random shapes came out beautifully, while my attempt at making identical forms didn’t fare so well, and resulted in my cutting them all up into smaller pieces in order to make some sort of flower-type thing, which was not a success. Admitting to Alex, as I handed it over for judgement, that this was probably one of the ugliest things I’d ever made, elicited the response, “You said it, mate”…!

The Drinks cabinet provided the opportunity to pull out the stops. After making smaller items in the previous three challenges, it was time to step it up and go big or go home… Actually, when you sit down to design a drinks cabinet, and count up all the things a well stocked one should contain, generous proportions are unavoidable. As a well versed practitioner of recreating period detail, the requirement of the brief to ensure that it sat comfortably in a particular decade made it the perfect challenge, so naturally I chose the one decade of my life where I was at my least happy!

For me, the 80’s was not a good time : With the exception of girls’ fashions (which I studiously avoided admitting a likeness for, as I struggled with my gender issues), I disliked pretty much everything about the period – my schooling in particular, where I felt very out of place and uncomfortable, but also war, the politics, the clothes, the music, the decoration, the rampant racism and homophobia, and the burgeoning age of the cult of the self – in fact the zeitgeist of the time in general. It wasn’t until I got to college in 1986 that I discovered the Memphis movement, and it radically changed my view. Described as ‘A shotgun wedding between Bauhaus and Fisher Price’, it was iconoclastic, colourful, free-thinking and fun, and unashamedly populist. Its influence was widespread, and even though many of its elements were horribly watered down and regurgitated for the mass market, it was so far removed from what had been considered ‘good taste’ at the time, that it appealed to me instantly. David Bowie amassed a huge collection of Memphis furniture, and Ettore Sottsass was, perhaps, its greatest and most well known proponent - my Drinks Cabinet design was an unabashed homage to him (albeit horribly watered down to make it possible to construct in two days!), and I think it embodied the period perfectly.

Thankfully the judges agreed and awarded me Woodworker of the Week for the second time in a row, which, I have to say, was as welcome as it was unexpected.

And that, dear reader, was good enough to put me in the final!

In all the madness of filming the previous episodes, I had barely given the competition itself a thought. With each challenge came the need to focus so intensely on the task in hand that the overall reason for being in this surreal situation was pushed to one side. At the end of this penultimate task, I was utterly spent. The physical demands of making something so large in such a short space of time were more than I had expected, and knowing that the next day would bring the final challenge made it a daunting prospect…

Misti's design for the drinks cabinet