The pilot course for the Artichoke’s first free School of Furniture is now complete, and it’s been incredibly rewarding for both the students, and us.
The principle aim of our school is simple. Can we turn teenager’s ‘lights on’ to craft? It is a simple, grass roots objective.
We set the school up to help inspire any children who either may be curious about craft (but have never experienced it first hand), or perhaps those who are not being fully engaged by the subjects covered in the standard school curriculum.
While we still have lots to learn about how to run courses for teenagers, we are thrilled that not only all our students left having achieved the course goal (to make the wooden puzzle below), but they also left inspired (and with all of their fingers!).
One student in particular is now exploring a career in furniture making following his time with us. For that alone we really couldn’t be prouder and we look forward to helping inspire him and others further over the years.
Special thanks must go to Artichoke makers Wilma and Inigo, and also to our production manager John, for their enthusiasm in taking up the challenge to set the course up and teach our first students. We’d also like to thank Axminster Tools for their enthusiasm and generosity in providing our students with great hand tools to use during the course. And last but not least, thanks have to go to Kai Holmes who teaches design technology at the Kings of Wessex Academy in Cheddar for providing such a great group of children to teach (and for also helping steer us through the minefield that is children’s education).
Other blog posts on how the school was set up can be found below. If you are a furniture maker and would like to set up a school yourself, we’d be delighted to invite you here to meet our course manager and course tutors and share what we’ve learned so far.
We’re now in the third week of Artichoke’s School of Furniture. The free course is an initiative launched by us and with help from the Kings of Wessex Academy, and the aim is to introduce local children to our craft and to teach them some basic fundamentals of working with hand tools. If we can inspire any of them to consider craft as a career, then we’ve succeeded.
The students are really focused and hugely enjoyable to teach. Our thanks go to the team at the Academy for their enthusiasm and also to Axminster for the hand tools.
For us the journey is proving to be fascinating. We’re also learning huge amounts and we’ve got lots more to learn. This first year is very much a pilot, and as we progress we’ll no doubt improve the course content and how we go about it.
We’d like to pass what we’re learning onto other makers, and perhaps inspire them to start their own free course too. If you’re a cabinet maker and you want to find out more about how Artichoke’s course was modelled, do get in contact with firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d happily share what we’re learning with you.
Many Artichoke projects tend to focus on Georgian and Victorian period country houses, with the occasional sojourn to the later Edwardian or to earlier Jacobean and Elizabethan periods. It is fascinating to see how styles of architecture and interior detailing evolve through the English country house. Our entire post Norman history is deeply illustrated through our architecture.
One architectural style we find particularly beguiling is the Elizabethan country house. Our first major country house project, over 20 years ago, was Parnham House in Dorset, one of Britain’s finest examples of Elizabethan English country house architecture. We were commissioned by the owners to design various rooms including both kitchens, his private dressing room and a minstrell’s gallery, all also made in our own workshops in Somerset. With great sadness the house was horrendously damaged by fire in 2018 and it is now on the market.
Elizabethan Country House Architecture
The Elizabethan period (1560-1600) was a period of design transition in architecture. England’s understanding of the Italian Renaissance was just coming to the fore, spurned on by Henry VIII’s numerous contacts with Italy before breaking with Rome. When Elizabeth took up her reign, the country’s economy started to improve following years of recklessness from Henry. A focus back to farming put larger sums of money into wider groups of people, and a domestic building boom began. Many smaller houses were built and many larger manors were created, often through remodelling of earlier Tudor or Medieval homes.
An early introduction to, and naive understanding of Italian Renaissance architecture was fused with England’s already well established Gothic architecture with a little Dutch influence thrown in for good measure. This opulent mixture was brilliantly interpreted by England’s extraordinary craftsmen who elevated this new hybrid style to stunning levels of romantic architectural detailing.
Houses were typically symmetrical with long galleries and formal gardens, often laid out in an ‘E’ pattern. The medieval hall was replaced in importance by the long gallery which became the focus for family life alongside other living areas off the gallery. Key decorative characteristics included large mullioned windows with square heads and ornamental strap work (both internal and external), a detail originating in Italy via Islamic ornament. Extensive use of rich timber rectangular oak panelling was also prevalent, often made even richer with used of carved strap work ornament. Combined with ornate plaster work ceilings and carved overmantels, the affect was striking and powerful.
Creating a Design Backstory
This kaleidoscope of detail presents a challenge to joinery designers like Artichoke. You cannot compete with this sort of detail, and domesticity as we know it today simply didn’t exist.
For Parnham House we created a strategy, giving the furniture we designed the backstory of an Edwardian interior facelift. The kitchen design took on detail from the medieval and Tudor periods, albeit with a Edwardian twist. This approach was heavily influenced by Edwin Lutyens who took a similar approach with many of his buildings which are often Edwardian takes of medieval architecture.
The backstory is a great way to contextualise and harmonise design in an imposing period building, particularly a pre Georgian one when domestic rooms didn’t exist. A backstory gives design a single direction and stops design creep, ensuring the end result is sympathetic, elegant and above all for an Elizabethan house, deferent.
Country Life magazine has listed Artichoke among the best craftspeople in Britain as part of its annual Country Life Top 100 Country House specialists review. This is the second year Artichoke has been listed.
We are in illustrious company. Also included in this year’s list are ADAM Architecture, Craig Hamilton Architects and Joanna Wood Interior Design, plus many other professionals we have worked alongside with our clients over the last 25 years.
Country Life magazine is a magazine perfectly aligned with Artichoke’s focus on creating heritage through sympathetic joinery design. The title has deep connections to Sir Edwin Lutyens, an architect we admire greatly having worked on several of his houses. It also is one of the few magazines with a focus solely on English country house architecture, interiors and rural country pursuits.
The full Country Life Top 100 list can be reviewed here.
To see some of the stunning work we have completed please click here.
Tim Hellier joined Artichoke as Installations Manager 12 years ago, and was responsible for the successful completion of every Artichoke project until his promotion to Managing Director in 2018. For more information on the range of project management services we offer, from design, installation and finish, please click here. Prior to joining us Tim was a respected furniture designer and cabinet maker.
Before discovering his love of furniture, Tim held a passion for photography and was trained by Peter Parks, one of the UK’s foremost original natural history programme makers. During his film making career, Tim worked with marine natural history company Image Quest where he worked with David Attenborough on the Blue Planet series (filming the macro micro marine and coral footage).
Tim is also a trained pilot, gaining his licence following the RAF flying scholarship he was awarded when he was 17.
Tim is also a keen rower and was Captain of rowing at Radley College. In 2017 he entered the gruelling Yukon River Challenge in Canada, a 3 day race over 440 miles between White Horse and Dawson. Tim came second in his category, raising over £7,000 for The British Heart Foundation, Artichoke’s chosen charity.
There has been some confusion recently about the difference between English Heritage and Historic England, and in particular which organisation is now responsible for overseeing amendments to listed houses.
Until recently, English Heritage was the name of the body responsible for looking after England’s historic monuments and listed buildings. Their responsibilities stretched from looking after national public monuments such as Stonehenge, to works on private listed houses. In 2015 it was decided these two quite distinct responsibilities should be separated.
The body now responsible for England’s listed houses and buildings (and also the Heritage at Risk register) is called Historic England. They are a public body funded by the Government, and their role is principally to manage the National Heritage List for England, which is a database of England’s designated heritage assets (such as listed houses, churches, scheduled monuments and battlefields). So, clients with listed houses will be dealing with Historic England on matters concerning alterations to their listed property.
English Heritage, the body that listed home owners used to deal with is now a charity completely separate from the listed buildings process. Their role is now to care for hundreds of historic ‘public’ sites across the country, such as Hadrian’s Wall, Dover Castle, Osborne House and Audley End House (below)
How does each grade of listing affect your project?
Listed private houses are essentially those considered worthy of protection owing to their architectural or historic interest, with listings separated into Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II. Regardless of the grade a house is listed at, Historic England has extra control over what changes can be made to its interior and exterior. In general, each listing covers the whole building as well as any attached structures, additions or fixtures and in many cases land or buildings which come within the surrounding land or curtilage of the building (such as barns, outbuildings etc).
And, as can be the case with VAT and listed houses, there is little consistency between planning districts and planning officers. Some Conservation Officers can be quite relaxed, while others can become extremely excited about what would appear to be the smallest detail.
We work with one particular client who will only deal with one of his council’s two Conservation Officers, so it is often worth discussing this with your architect first (if they are local), as working with the right Conservation Officer for your project can really make a difference.
For more information on the range of project management services we offer, from design, installation and finish, please click here. As ever, do call us if you’d like to discuss this particular matter further +44 (0)1934 745270
Artichoke strives to design beautiful rooms which sit comfortably and elegantly into their surroundings. However we cannot do this alone. We work alongside many other trades such as decorative plaster specialists, specialist finishers and lighting companies in order to deliver these spaces immaculately.
Weldon is one business with whom we have formed a close working relationship over many years of collaboration. Our companies share many similarities. Both were founded in 1992, and both are driven by a passion for innovation, design, and an uncompromising pursuit of excellence. Our most recent collaboration was in a former Georgian hunting lodge. For this project, Weldon was contracted to design and make the hardwood flooring for much of the ground floor.
Weldon is committed to delivering the highest standards of quality and service. A fact born out by their two Royal Warrants, a mark of recognition to Her Majesty The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and also HRH The Prince of Wales.
Weldon specialise in marquetry and parquetry floors, as well as the most heart melting antique floors. Their skill and reputation has led them to design and make floors for Buckingham Palace, The Victoria and Albert Museum, Blenheim Palace and Windsor Castle.
By sticking rigidly to their core principles of beauty, endurance and quality, Weldon has maintained incredibly high standards of craftsmanship throughout its 25 years of trading. These efforts are matched by their efforts to give back. The provenance and tractability of raw materials is fundamental to Weldon’s approach, and they are dedicated to obtaining new timber from sustainable sources. The Company has planted over 3,000 trees in the last 10 years, providing more sustainable timber supplies in the UK.
Artichoke is slightly late to the party in this regard, although we are now proud to have set up the Artichoke School of Furniture, a series of five free introductory courses designed to introduce local school children in Cheddar to the basics of our craft. The first fully booked course starts in April 2019, and we couldn’t be prouder.
It has been immensely enjoyable sharing the first quarter of a century of our journey with Weldon. If you’re in the process of renovating a period building (or building a new one), you could do no wrong by speaking with them. We couldn’t think of a better foundation on which to fit our furniture.
At Artichoke we believe what we do enhances people’s lives. Our vision is that in 100 years, English design and craftsmanship will have continued to flourish, and our interiors will be celebrated by future generations.
We count ourselves very fortunate to have found our craft, although much of the team have discovered Artichoke via rather circuitous routes. Among our ranks is an ex prison officer, an ex ad man and an ex paramedic. Despite our eclectic backgrounds, we are united in the belief that the skills we are lucky enough to have learned should be passed on.
To help realise our vision, we are delighted to be launching the Artichoke School of Furniture. A series of free introductory courses for Somerset teenagers, who are interested in learning the basic skills of furniture making. The aim of these courses will be to try and light the first spark of enthusiasm for cabinet making.
The initial five week pilot is being run for youngsters studying at the Kings of Wessex Academy in Cheddar, before being rolled out to the wider community. The course will be run by Artichoke cabinet makers Wilma and Inigo, and accompanied by Kai Holmes who teaches Design Technology at the Kings of Wessex Academy . The students will be in excellent hands.
Wilma completed the one year Williams and Cleal furniture course before joining Artichoke in 2018. Prior to this she was a Prison Officer in Bristol. Inigo began his furniture journey in France, first as a restorer in Paris before completing his apprenticeship at La Bonne Graine. He eventually began his own furniture making business while simultaneously running evening classes for French teenagers.
Learning the skills which which make our our craft so compelling is hugely fun, but we cannot run a course like this without a great set of tools. We are particularly grateful to the amazing team at Axminster Tools who have generously provided our students with the use of the most amazing starter kit any budding maker could wish for.
We have great hopes for the Artichoke School of Furniture, which first started as a gem of an idea in 2017 and has largely been driven by our production manager, John Hampton, a deeply passionate and committed craftsman. We have since been notified of other organisations also looking at grass routes education. The Carpenter’s Company, of which our company founder Bruce Hodgson is a member, has a long tradition of delivering high quality education training in building crafts and building conservation. The Furniture Maker’s Company, a livery company dedicated to supporting furniture making trade in numerous ways is also hugely proactive in this area. We hope our combined efforts help us achieve our vision.
The first course starts in April 2019, and we can’t wait to report on our first Students’ progress! We will report back.
To see some of the stunning work we have completed please click here.
Our production Manager John, first gained a BA Hons in fine art painting at Winchester School of Art. After finishing his degree, he first worked as a technician before moving to London to become a display and lettering artist at Simpsons of Piccadilly. He then moved on to work as a prop maker and carpenter for the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.
Following his time in London, John moved to Somerset, and joined a team of other expert makers who were commissioned to make a pair of large oak installations for the modernist British sculptor Sir Anthony Caro. The installations were installed into the church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Bourbourg, Northern France, seen below.
John joined Artichoke in 2011 as a maker and now leads our skilled team in the workshop.
To see some of the stunning work we have completed please click here.
A previous article about Kitchens and VAT in Listed Property has helped a number of clients new to listed buildings gain some understanding of how their home’s listing affects their VAT position.
A number of Artichoke’s clients are, however, building new country houses, and in these, the VAT position is slightly different. Somewhat frustratingly, the advice from HMRC also tends to be somewhat woolly and vague (in our opinion!).
Firstly, it’s worth double checking that your house is in fact considered a new build. If the house you are building is yours and you plan to live in it (not run a business from it), it’s separate from other buildings, and you are building it from scratch, it should be considered a new build for VAT purposes.
Now you and your builder will need to work out what is, and what is not VAT-able. The general rule of thumb is that if you tipped your house upside down, anything that fell out would be subject to VAT. However, as with all forms of tax, there are grey areas.
Kitchens and VAT
Your kitchen furniture for instance is zero rate-able for VAT, as are some appliances which are considered part of the building; an AGA for instance is considered by HMRC as forming an intrinsic part of the building, but an integrated oven (which can be removed easily) is not.
The extraction also forms an integral part of the building and can be zero rated. Other elements of fitted furniture however, such as wardrobes, are not exempt from VAT although panelling is in some cases if it is considered architectural joinery. Doors and architraves can also be zero rate-able for VAT purposes in as much as they are considered forming part of the building.
Builders and Architects Fees
Your builders labour is exempt from VAT on a new build, but your architects fees are not (unless they are not VAT registered).
The HMRC VAT claim form for new builds is worth reading, and as ever, we would advise asking your accountant to clarify this before employing a builder as the rules change.