Handmade: Garden Building
Episode 6 Final
Immunity Challenge: Marquetry
Big Build: Garden Building
Wood is brilliant : I think it’s safe to say that without it, our civilisation would have taken a very different direction. It comes in a bewildering array of colours and exhibits a huge range of physical properties, and because of the ease with which it can be worked, it has enabled humanity to create shelter and stay warm, to hunt and fight, to travel on land, sea and in the air, and its fossilised remains powered the industrial revolution. It has completely driven the formation and evolution of our modern society. It is sustainable and endlessly recyclable, and the trees from which it comes are one of the prime movers in negating humanity’s impact on our fragile planet. It is a wonder material that resonates with us on a deep (and, dare I say, evolutionary) level, and I have loved working with it in a very basic and unskilled way ever since I was a child.
After thirty years of designing furniture and interiors, it dawned on me that whenever one of the craftsman I had commissioned turned up with the finished product of one of my designs, I felt jealous that they had all the fun of making the piece. So, at 47, and at the point where my career was about to really take off, I decided to abandon it and start making things instead.
The most difficult part of the process was getting my hands to do what my brain knew was possible. Having worked with, and learned from, a host of incredibly skilled craftsmen over the years, my knowledge of what to do was unsurpassed, but how to actually do it myself was foreign territory, and it took me roughly four years before I felt even vaguely confident in my abilities as a maker.
It was at about this time that the opportunity to take part in a woodwork competition show called ‘Good with Wood’ came along, and for various reasons, it seemed like the right thing at the right time, so I applied to take part. Had the show been promoted with its eventual title of ‘Handmade : Britain’s Best Woodworker’, I would probably never have got involved!
Getting to make things for the first time, that I had designed again and again in the course of my career, was as exciting as it was challenging, and doing it with machines I hadn’t used since my schooldays, in an unfamiliar environment, while being filmed and bombarded with questions, was an amazing experience, and my heartfelt thanks go to Plimsoll Productions and Channel 4 for making it happen and for allowing me to be a part of it.
In just eighteen days of filming, nine of us created one hundred and five objects. Some were truly great, and some were less so (my lamentable attempts at steam bending, marquetry and pole lathing, for example), but the fact remains that it was an extraordinary achievement, and my huge admiration goes out to Chantal, Tim, Jade, Michelle, Joe, Billy, Radha and Charlie for their involvement in this remarkable effort.
I should also mention the true heroes of this undertaking : Our supremely gifted technicians Fran, Christina, Leila and Thom, who not only kept us safe, but without whom none of our efforts would have been possible.
So, after a month of living in a field in Wales, and having brought it on myself pretty much on a whim, this mad journey has come to an end, and I find myself awarded the title of Britain’s Best Woodworker…
Am I ?
Certainly not! I couldn’t even lay claim to being Britain’s second best woodworker – in fact – I’m not a woodworker at all : I am a sculptor - someone who simply loves making things – and wood – this remarkable material - gives me the opportunity to do it to the very best of my ability.
To have those abilities recognised by our judges Helen and Alex, and to be given a brief platform to promote tolerance and acceptance of diversity has been an honour and a privilege.
Thank you all for the love and support!