While school is not over for a couple of weeks, Saturday 21st November not only saw the opening of ‘Transformation’, the Sturt School for Wood class of 2015’s exhibition, it was also a very special occasion – celebrating the hard work and marking the great achievement and graduation of the class of 2015 – 12 students in total.  The event included many well worded thanks and speeches from inspirational individuals, well-known in fine furniture circles, including Rodney Hayward, David Upfill-Brown and Phoebe Everill.

Even though I can count on my fingers the amount of times I have met the class of 2015 I feel like I know each and every one of them – you have played a very big and special part in our lives this year (and beyond I hope), and its an absolute privilege and a pleasure. Congratulations all of you! I know it has been a journey for each and every one of you with twists and turns, ups and downs, with munts and marvels a plenty!

Class Photo
The Class of 2015 plus teachers – Neil and Pam – The beginning.

The graduation exhibition is aptly named Transformation celebrating the students unwavering dedication to learning the necessary skills and techniques,  and their personal commitment to delivering inspirational designs, technical precision and hard-work to transform their raw materials into art. The very delivery of such a fine exhibition also marks their own personal journeys and growth as individuals, artists and skilled craftspeople. You should all be very proud of yourselves and your own transformations. Every one of you will have got something different from the year and I hope it has given you as much as it has given us – a new sense of self and purpose, new friends and a new direction.

Although I thought starting this course would be the beginning, and the year the adventure for us – its clear now, that the fine furniture course at Sturt School for Wood is indeed the beginning, but the year is just the start of an ongoing adventure for us.

As those of you who know us you will know I am the proudest proud thing ever – not just because Chris was awarded the Studio Woodworkers, Australia Emerging Professional Award (which is awesome and amazing) in addition to his certificate (which is also fantastic) but because of how hard he has worked so far and the exceedingly fine furniture he has produced already and its only the beginning.

The exhibition of works by the graduating students from Sturt School for Wood 2015 is still on at Sturt Gallery, Mittagong, NSW and runs to the 5th December. Get on down there and do some Christmas shopping!


Beavering away

Life has a habit of getting in the way of many things if you let it – sometimes you don’t even realise its happening and before you even know it you don’t even remember when you last spoke to some of your closest friends and family (let alone write a blog post :(). If any of you are reading this – you know who you are and it doesn’t mean we love you or think of you any less – we’re just flat out. There is no real valid excuse other than life has got in the way, we realise its happened so not sure what the next step is… is acknowledging the problem a step towards recovery in this case?

Being time poor and the never ending quest for a work-life balance are topics of fierce debate – I see it all around me – we are constantly online – incessantly multitasking – there is no down-time – we are distracted from our own lives by other peoples lives (celebrity, friend, foe or otherwise). The question we all have to STOP and ask is … are these distractions providing inspiration, comfort, knowledge? Do they have and are they adding value in our lives, providing direction or contributing in some way? or are they one big fat time suck leaving us time poor and seeking something else?

Chris is in NO WAY distracted right now. His focus has never been clearer and his mission never more demanding. Chris is at school, heading towards 12 hours a day, six days a week at the moment beavering away on his chair project (actually 2 chairs and a table!!) and I have no doubt the end result is going to be remarkable. Take note all you aspiring woodworkers and furniture makers out there … if you are going to learn fine furniture making, let it be known there can be no half measures – not if you are really going to do justice to the ‘fine’ and quite literally make a new future for yourself.

TV Cabinet Front Shot
Completed cabinet with the walnut burl glinting in the sunshine.

Chris is giving his all to every project, not letting his current knowledge or skills hinder the design of the piece in question, challenging himself to learn and practice the trickiest of skills, techniques and methods. If there’s one way to learn – its by doing it and giving it your all. I think we thought, when we embarked on our new adventure it was going to be a challenge and we were right – but perhaps not in the way we expected. I think the lack of time for things other than work or school with both of us doing long days and travelling two hours plus per day is perhaps the biggest challenge. We haven’t yet nailed the coastie lifestyle but its certainly on the list of things to do and what we are doing now is enjoying a rare opportunity to change the course of our lives so believe me when I say watch this space – great things are coming. Becoming a designer/maker of bespoke wooden furniture that will last generations doesn’t happen over night you know!

PS We’ll catch up with you all soon. We appreciate all your support – thank you!

Beavering away

a design opportunity

Have you ever had that sinking feeling when you suddenly realise something isn’t quite right.

Despite the fierce dedication to the job at hand, whatever that may be – a task at work, an odd job around the house or perhaps the creation of a masterpiece (the case in this instance), despite maintaining a tunnel vision type focus, and repeated checking, double checking and triple checking that what you are doing is correct before going ahead and committing, whether that might involve saving/ fixing/ drilling/ cutting/ or sticking something… sometimes something goes awry!

Often once the brief denial/ figuring out something’s wrong phase passes then the speed at which sickening realisation sets in is astonishing. This is often followed by anger, despair, frustration and an outburst depending on who and where you are.

WELL – Have we got news for you, feel sick no more, do away with the negative roller coaster of emotion following your making what could be seen as a minor to significant error (munting things up is apparently the technical term). You have in front of you my friends A DESIGN OPPORTUNITY!

Completing the carcass
The tool cabinet is taking shape after exploring a design opportunity along the way.

This week Chris had his first ‘design opportunity’.

‘Yes – Some holes were made where they were not supposed to be…. Measured thrice from the end of the shelf and the base, the holes were dominoed in successfully, only for it to be revealed the base was the wrong way round and therefore it transpires that it was actually measured from the wrong end! So rather than the initially planned one divider… two dividers it is! This gives a small ‘cubby hole’ in the middle, but I kinda like it now!’ (@ChrisINeal)

As they say – there’s more than one way to skin a cat (I don’t need to say no cats were harmed in the making of this tool cabinet (so far) do I?) and the key is not to panic. There were a couple of solutions that were explored such as have the whole thing lean over and calling it modern art!

Valuable lesson learnt … who can’t use this approach on a daily basis (easier said than done perhaps) but it’s all about how you look at things and maybe whatever’s happened is an opportunity to follow a different path I mean really… what tool cabinet is complete without the perfect sized shelf for a whiskey tumbler!!

a design opportunity