For John, it’s always been about the hand-skills. When he decided to be a furniture maker he wanted to use his hands to make exceptional things from wood – he wanted to be a craftsman. Today hand-skills are still at the centre of everything that they do at their workshops and school in the heart of Sussex, they are the foundation upon which everything else is built.
The first 12 week term of a long course here is practically machine-free, they are teaching craftsmen and women to be confident in their skills and abilities and giving them an in depth understanding of wood and all of its many foibles and eccentricities, they must know how this remarkable material likes to be treated if they are to get the best from it. An in-depth understanding of techniques and materials, old-school and cutting edge, all form a vital part of the initial training, this together with a possible 55 hours of bench time each week and a maximum of six students, means that the acquisition of new skills is rapid and efficient. Combine these skills with training on their up-to- date machinery and you have the perfect balance for fulfilling and viable furniture-making career.
More than 25 years of running a successful business and almost as many years teaching and writing about woodwork and furniture give John the perfect platform for running a school that encourages, and allows, people of all ages and from all walks of like to realise their potential to make beautiful things from wood. Teaching is an important business and not something that he will entrust to anyone else, student numbers are kept small and personal attention is maintained at a high level.
Separate workshops on-site create a lively and supportive environment where former students are busy building successful businesses, designing and making exceptional pieces of furniture – these workshops never fail to give huge inspiration to both John and his current students.