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6th Dec 2017

Where it all began … no, not in a stable but at Rycotewood

Rycotewood, originally based in Thame, has delivered furniture education since 1938. It is a renowned centre of excellence, delivering vocational training in the design and craft of furniture from entry level to BA (Hons).

Last week we attended 'Thinking Through Making'; an exhibition hosted at Oxford Brookes University, celebrating 80 years of furniture design and craft at Rycotewood.  We were treated to a wonderful collection of furniture, exhibiting truly expert workmanship and passion for the craft.

Rycotewood is particularly significant to us as this is where Barr Group Director Stuart Barr & BarrJoinery Director Josh Hudson began their careers in the woodworking industry, almost 20 years ago. Stuart and Josh were brought together through a meeting of minds which was based on the values which become entrenched in any young joiner; those of precision and attention to detail.  They both found themselves in possession of the ability to bring design to life … and the rest is history

In the company of some truly great Rycotewood alumni, we hope you will enjoy some of their thoughts:

The sketchbook of a maker extends beyond pen and paper. We can explore and discover hidden aspects of the materials by making and experimenting, and materials feedback into design to enable us to create work that could not be conceived solely on a computer or paper. It is incredibly rewarding to work in this way, making discoveries and finding out secrets; part science, engineering, art and design.’ Charlie Whinney, former Rycotewood student, renowned designer, architect and craftsman.

Our director Josh Hudson recalls a particular tutor who was a great influence and contributed to his early enthusiasm for wood working, Andrew Shenton. Andrew’s career includes winning two Guild marks from the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers, won various design competitions, worked for prestigious clients including The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, TWR Racing, Seymour Hotel, Gotrel Jewellers and No5 Chambers Birmingham before going on to teach at Rycotewood and then moving on to Buckinghamshire New University. Andrew Shenton is now an academic consultant at the Pakistan Institute of Fashion & Design, now international voice of the furniture industry.

‘Sociological research indicates that it takes 10,000 hours of application to become expert at any task be that manual or cerebral. I have always argued for parity of status between the applied and the academic. Having tasted both, I believe that designing and making is a perfect balance resulting in a synergy that has fed a lifetime’s practice. I began this journey at Rycotewood in 1974.’ Matthew Burt

It is wonderful to see that incredible work still being produced in what some have deemed a declining industry. We look to establishments such as Rycotewood to continue to push the boundaries of furniture making and inspire the future of joiners, cabinet makers and manufacturers of all beautiful things. 

 ‘It seems to me that an object should possess a character born of honest and thoughtful regard to function and the expression of the material in which it is made, as wel as expressing the way it is made… combined these will intrinsically provide an indefinable depth of quality and richness that is by its very nature desirable.’ Simon Pengell

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