Training the Next Generation of Designers and Makers

Artichoke’s interest in training young people in the joinery craft skills required to add value to a building’s architectural heritage is partly fuelled by the reduction in government funded education in this area.

On a macro level, the number of UK students studying at key stage 4 is in long term decline, and it has been for a generation.  In the first 20 years of this century, the number of Design and Technology GCSEs taken by 16 year old students dropped by two thirds, from 420,000 pupils to 150,000.  On a micro level, the secondary school local to our design studios and workshops in Cheddar has closed its teaching workshop.  Clearly this is not sustainable and it will seriously affect our collected abilities as a country to design and make the high quality joinery our heritage buildings deserve.

We have previously written at some length about the Artichoke School of Furniture, a series of free introductory classes aimed at whetting the appetite of eager and curious 16-17 year olds.  Sadly Covid-19 put a stop to the 2020 course, but it will continue in 2021.  Now, appetites whetted, some past students of our course are looking into the next steps of their craft based career path. This article is partly for them and partly for anyone else interested.


The Building Crafts College

The Building Crafts College was founded 125 years ago by the Worshipful Company of Carpenters.  Artichoke’s founder and creative director Bruce Hodgson is a governor of the college which aims to train young people in a wide range of construction crafts, such as joinery, stone masonry, conservation and construction.  The college’s main focus is to give students the skills needed to produce work of a high standard and help them into suitable employment from there on in.

Bench joinery courses at The Building Crafts College.


Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust 

Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust financially supports students through their craft based education.  Sometimes they might fund a course (fully or partly) by way of a scholarship; other times they might provide funding towards an apprenticeship.  QEST’s remit covers a huge variety of craft skills from from furniture making to cob building and decorative plaster work.  The choice is endless.

QUEST fund students in courses or apprenticeships in craft skills such as decorative plaster work.


The Creative Dimension Trust 

The Creative Dimension Trust (TCDT) offers fully funded workshops and work experience placements to young people who show potential in forging a career pathway where precise hand-eye co-ordination, and the ability to understand and construct 3-dimensional shapes are prerequisite. They offer a wide range of funded workshops from gilding to sign writing on skateboards and architectural model making.  Workshops take place on location, often at a companies workshops over a 2 or three day period and they are an excellent introduction to a particular craft based industry.

This workshop gave students an opportunity to gain a working knowledge of the ancient craft of gilding.


The Furniture Makers Company

The Furniture Makers Company is a city of London Livery company and charity aimed specifically at supporting the Furniture Industry.  They provide scholarships and bursaries to students at colleges and universities that teach furnishing related courses.   They also offer seminars and facilitate tours of workshops and industry experience.

The Furniture Makers helps fund students through their apprenticeships.


Williams & Cleal 

There are a number of private furniture courses across the British Isles, but Williams & Cleal is local to us and a number of our staff have left there to join us.  Some may shy away from the word ‘private’ but before you do, consider that British universities cost £9,000 per term and that’s before you’ve paid the rent and purchased your first cider.  In the long run, a 40 week course at Williams & Cleal is likely to be more cost effective than 3 years at University, and the skills they teach in cabinet making are outstanding.

Students at Williams & Cleal learn high level furniture making skills quickly on their 40 week course.


Sylva Wood School

The Sylva Wood School is part if the Sylva Foundation and is a relatively new initiative with excellent grass roots aims and a very broad spectrum in all facets of woodcraft, education and sustainability .  Their mission is to educate the next generation of makers and support them in creating opportunities for young people in working with wood and its value as a sustainable resource.  They are also unusual in that they work with young people of school age.  The head of the wood school is Joseph Bray who spent 13 years delivering the furniture degree programmes at Rycotewood.


We will add to this list every now and then, but it would be well worth a conversation with each of the above organisations to get a feel for the options available to you.  Do email us to if you would like to discuss this further.

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