Symm Administration – a Blow to Traditional Craftsmanship?

The recent news that renowned construction business Symm & Company has fallen into administration after over 200 years in business is a stark reminder that traditional skills need protecting and nurturing.

Both Symm, Artichoke and many others have been committed to employing and training generations of craftsmen and women, and investing in these skills further through formal apprenticeship schemes. While smaller, independent construction companies have often struggled to afford to run valuable apprenticeships, larger traditional builders like Symm took on this responsibility with great enthusiasm.  The onus is now more on companies like ours to train the period joinery specialists of the future and to keep driving this investment to ensure the traditional joinery industry stays healthy and thrives.

As part of this commitment, we are delighted our free School of Furniture’s second year is about to begin.

The principle aim of our school is simple – to inspire young people who, through their experience of a narrowing and academically focused curriculum, may not have had the opportunity to explore their creative and practical potential.  Our ambition is to highlight to these youngsters that there are a wide range of artisan skills and crafts which are highly valued and appreciated and from which a successful career can be carved.  Kai Holmes who teaches Design Technology at the Kings of Wessex Academy is keen to show the students that, only a short walk from the school gate,  is a thriving community of Britain’s best craftsmen and women who are making a living doing something they love and feel passionate about.

Symm administration calls for better training
Artichoke maker Wilma teaching student, Peter

 

Artichoke Founder Bruce Hodgson said: We are set to launch the second year of the Artichoke School of Furniture this year, with the aim of inspiring young people to consider a career as an artisan.  We also run an apprenticeship scheme, for which we recruit on the basis of attitude rather than skill. This investment means we are able to continue to strive to achieve our company vision, which is that in 100 years, English design and craftsmanship continues to flourish.”

He continued: “The Symm administration is a great sadness, not just because many fine craftsmen and women have lost their jobs, but because a company that was a well-regarded supporter of heritage craftsmanship no longer exists to sponsor some of the next generation of joiners, carpenters, cabinet makers, stonemasons, decorators and plastering specialists.”

Our resolve to support these specialist skills is further strengthened by the knowledge there is client demand for exquisite period joinery and the supporting finishing trades typically found in large town and country houses.  Artichoke hopes to continue inspiring the artisan workforce so that the industry may stay prosperous, and Britain’s future heritage is protected.  We encourage our fellow specialists to do the same.

 

School of Furniture. Our First Graduates

The pilot course for Artichoke’s first free School of Furniture is now complete, and it’s been an incredibly rewarding experience for both the students and Artichoke.

The principle aim of our school is simple. Can we turn teenager’s ‘lights on’ to craft?

We set the school up to help inspire anyone who has a curiosity about craft (but has never experienced it first hand), or those who are perhaps not being fully engaged by subjects covered in school.

Our first group of students focusing hard on their work.

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 feeling 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 at Artichoke.  This alone, was an outcome to be proud of and we look forward to helping to inspire him and others further in the years to come.

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

Special thanks to Artichoke makers Wilma and Inigo, and to our production manager John, for their enthusiasm in setting up the course and for teaching our first students.  We’d also like to thank Axminster Tools for their generosity in providing our students with great hand tools to use during the course.  Last but not least, thanks have to go to Kai Holmes, design technology teacher at the Kings of Wessex Academy in Cheddar, for providing such a great group of students (and for 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

 

 

 

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