School of Furniture. Our First Graduates.

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.

Our first group of students focusing hard on their work.

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!).

wooden puzzel
A completed wooden puzzle, made by one of our students.

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.

Artichoke cabinet makers and course tutors Wilma and Inigo with one of our course students. Peter.

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.

The Artichoke School of Furniture

Creating Britain’s Future Makers

 

 

 

Creating Britain’s Future Makers

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.

Artichoke cabinet makers Wilma and Inigo oversee the first intake of the Artichoke School of Furniture

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.

Artichoke’s cabinet maker and course tutor Wilma helps a student.

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 andrew@artichoke.co.uk.  We’d happily share what we’re learning with you.

Removing waste with a chisel is a fundamental skill all cabinet makers learn.

Artichoke in Country Life Top 100

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.

country life top 100

 

To see some of the stunning work we have completed please click here.

To discuss your project with Artichoke, email us at newprojects@artichoke.co.uk

 

Profile: Tim Hellier, Managing Director

Tim Hellier, Artichoke Managing Director
Tim Hellier, Artichoke’s Managing Director

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 hellier in a canoe on a wide river
Tim midway through the Yukon River Challenge in 2017. He came second in his class

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.

Working with Weldon’s Beautiful Floors

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.

 

Two georgian panelled doors on a wooden floor
A beautiful pairing. Artichoke doors on a Weldon 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.

 

Bathroom with a slipper bath and dark wooden floor
A Weldon chevron patterned aged oak floor.

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.

The Artichoke School of 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.

 

Artichoke cabinet makers Inigo and Wilma

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.

 

A set of tools from Axminster
Kindly provided by Axminster Tools. A great kit for budding students to begin their making journeys with.

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.

Profile: John, Production Manager

John Hampton, Artichoke Production Manager

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.

 

The pulpit designed by Sir Anthony Caro
Pulpit in the church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Bourbourg. Made by John and colleagues for Sir Anthony Caro

To see some of the stunning work we have completed please click here.

Joinery, VAT & the New Country House

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.

 

Georgian country house kitchen
Kitchens in new builds are exempt from VAT. Not all appliances are however.
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.

 

As ever, do call us if you’d like to discuss this further on +44 (0)1934 745270

For more information on the range of project management services we offer, from design, installation and finish, please click here.

Partnership with Country Life Magazine

26 years seems like a long time to wait before creating your first advertising campaign.  Ironically, we’re busier than ever.  So why now?

As we’ve matured, we’ve gained greater understanding of what sets us apart.  Subconsciously we’ve always known, but it’s not been expressed until now.  To use marketing jargon, it’s about positioning.

Put simply, we design rooms which look as if they were always meant to be there and we then make them to ensure they always will be.  With each new project we are motivated by the opportunity to improve how clients live in their houses.  We are also motivated by legacy, and with every project we aim to create Britain’s future heritage.

 

Initial concept sketches presented by John Heywood (Art Director)

Among the Art Director’s initial sketches were this set of striking images (above) designed to illustrate that Artichoke is not simply a designer of kitchens, a skill we’d become well known for. We are a company which uses architectural expertise, joinery design, interior design and a deep understanding for household life to create beautiful and practical spaces which add value to our client’s houses for many generations.

 

The initial pencil sketch for ‘Georgian House. Family Home’

 

Matthew Cook water colouring the ‘Jacobean House, Family Home’ creative.

Bringing the Art Director’s creative idea to life required a delicate touch.  Matthew Cook is one of the UK’s greatest reportage artists with a wonderful ability to observe real life.  And it’s real life which Artichoke deals with daily.  The design decisions we make for our clients, and the quality of our craftsmanship, directly affects how they and their families live in their homes for many generations.

 

The first ad completed

Matthew is not only a professional illustrator but also an experienced soldier having undertaken two tours of Afghanistan as a corporal with the Parachute Regiment in the TA.  His work has been commissioned widely in publications such as Country Life, The Spectator and The Times, and we are delighted he agreed to illustrate our advertising.  You can see more of Matthew Cook’s work here:   https://www.theartworksinc.com/portfolio/matthew-cook/.

The beautifully written copy was written by Toby Ingram of Ingram and Macintyre

To see some of the stunning work we have completed please click here.

 


 

The New Arts & Crafts Period

We are on the cusp of a new Arts and Crafts period led by new craftsmen and the circumstances of its coming are remarkably similar to the original.

 

 

Arts and Crafts (version 1.0) started in the UK in around 1880 and it spread across Europe rapidly.  It followed a period of huge change in the UK, a period in which industrialisation totally changed the lives or ordinary working people.  The arts and crafts movement poured scorn on the mechanisation and materials of industry, and it was in many ways a cry for help.  This new movement focussed on design, on craft and on traditional skills.  The glue that held it together was idealism and it established a new set of principles for living and working.

Fast forward 140 years to today, and society is in a similar place. We have followed twenty years of extraordinary technological change, both in manufacturing and computing, and there is an underlying feeling that society is yearning to get back to working with its hands.  People are suffering from TMT (Too Much Tech).   In the same way that the burgeoning Victorian industrial mass manufacturing methods placed limits on design (the design of cast iron bridges were controlled by the way the parts could be manufactured), so too have modern automated manufacturing methods steered high street design of today.  Modern furniture looks the way it does (often bland) because its design is restricted by the functionality of the machinery that makes it at scale.  To overcome this technical constraint, the furniture is marketed slickly and heavily using budgets made available through the large profits generated.  The consumer is none the wiser.  If the tail is manufacturing, design is the dog, and both then and now, the tail has been wagging the dog.  The new craftsmen are fighting against this and it’s producing wonderful furniture rooted in rooted in craftsmanship and narrative.

 

close up view if library furniture
Shows the work of Artichoke craftsmen for a grand Georgian library.

Take bespoke kitchen and architectural joinery design and craftsmanship, a field we specialise in.  For the last 10 years, interiors magazines have been groaning with mass produced ranges of pre-designed kitchen furniture.  These products are pre-designed so rooms can be laid out rapidly, and the furniture is designed in such a way that it can be mass produced, allowing manufacturers and kitchen retailers to generate significant margins through economies of scale.  Their motivations are financial in much the same way as were the motivations of the Victorian industrial manufacturer.  It is an approach which has made many people very rich, but we would argue an approach that will not continue to delight future generations.  It is a temporary approach, and one we have written about before.

A small group of designers and craftsmen, ourselves included, have never subscribed to this approach.  Our company vision is that great design and craftsmanship will be thriving in 100 years, and if we are to create Britain’s future heritage today we have to design and make furniture which will sit appropriately and elegantly into its surrounding architecture for centuries.  This simply cannot be achieved with automated processes which constrain design.  Each room we design requires its own very personal touch. Each moulding and the materials we chose for each project have to be intensively scrutinized to ensure they will still look as good today as they will for the next generation.  This is why Artichoke only makes around 20 kitchens a year; you cannot mass produce one offs.

A recent article in the Spectator backs this up.  The piece focuses on the work of George Saumarez Smith, a partner at classical architects ADAM Architecture.  The premise of the piece is that while classicism never went away, it did become unfashionable for a period before now coming back.  That’s the great thing about classicism.  You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone, and eventually it always comes back.  You can only achieve the quality that authentic classical and traditional design demands by designing and making it properly in the first place; with love, by hand, and with an obsessively focussed attention to detail.  And herein lies the problem.  To create the level of detail needed to pull off a fine classical or traditional interior requires complete dedication to the craft and a rigorous focus on the detail; and this doesn’t sit well with shareholders looking to make a fast buck.  So they turn to automation.  How many public craft based design or cabinet makers do you know?

 

capital of a Corinthian column.
A sketch by George Saumarez-Smith shows the capital of a Corinthian column.  To make this well it needs to be made by hand.

As designers we often take inspiration from the great periods of classical English architecture, from early Georgian to Edwardian. We take a particular interest in period house detail, materials and finishes because they are the ones we love and admire the most.  They are almost always the ones created by hand, with love.  As craftsmen, we make furniture with integrity using traditional skills, not because we are stuck in the past, but because these methods have yet to be improved on by modern technology. Naturally we embrace technologies which make us more efficient, but when it comes to the integrity of our furniture, we do not believe in taking short cuts. Ever.

At Artichoke, we’ve always been arts and crafts; creating Britain’s future heritage cannot be achieved any other way.

Welcome to Arts and Crafts V.02.  We hope you enjoy the ride.

To see some of the stunning work we have completed please click here.

To discuss your project, email the Artichoke team at newprojects@artichoke.co.uk or call on +44 (0)1934 745270.