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Case Study: Craft Designer - Robert

What do you do?

As a craft designer, I create furniture that is inspired by 18th and 19th century designs. After I have built a piece, such as a chair or a wardrobe, I carefully 'distress' the surface of the wood, using a range of tools that scratch, gouge, scruff and scar the wood, mimicking decades of wear and tear. I then use paints and other textures to further enhance the wood's surface.

I treat my work like art, not reproductions. I love what I do.

What is your background?

I began as a ceramic pottery maker, making mugs and teacups, but I couldn't make enough money. I switched to wood, since people are willing to pay more.

I discovered my abilities in wood quite by accident. I used to make chests and chairs to display my pottery on. People said they wanted to buy the chests and chairs. At first I said they weren't for sale, but they offered a high price and I had to accept. I soon realised that I should turn to woodworking.

What characteristics do you need to be successful in your job?

You need manual skills to work with your hands and you need to have an eye for proportion. Also, you need to work hard, because even the little pieces take a lot of time and dedication.

What other jobs could you do using the skills from this job?

As a craft designer, I could work in any medium, such as clay or glass. The only differences are the tools that I would use in each medium. If you are creative and good with your hands, you can learn anything. The skills are generally transferable.

What changes will there be in the future?

I think there will be more demand as the general public is becoming more appreciative of hand-crafted items.

Craftspeople are becoming more organised in promoting their crafts. Technology has changed the job, because people now have mailing lists on computers, websites and virtual shows. This has made craftspeople more businesslike. However, a basic saw is a basic saw. Gadgets exist but you don't need them for quality work.

Are there many opportunities to enter this career?

There are opportunities for talented people to succeed in this field, but you need to stick at it.

What do you like about your job?

I enjoy the creative process. First, I meet the clients and get a feel for what they want. Then I start to visualise in my head the kind of piece that will make them happy. Through my work, this idea takes form. I measure and cut the wood and then put it together. Once the piece is completed it becomes a canvas for me. By using certain colours and techniques, I give the piece a personality and a soul. All of this work is very rewarding.

I also enjoy watching the client's reaction when they see the completed piece.

What do you dislike about your job?

It's not all creativity in my job. Sometimes you have to do accounting, fill in tax forms and all the things that go along with running your own business. It's really only a small part of the job, but sometimes it seems to take forever. Also, as a craft designer, it can be hard to make a living.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?

Listen to your feelings, be true to yourself. You don't have to be a banker or a lawyer to be happy. If you work hard at it, you will be able to support yourself and you will love coming to work in the morning.

A day in the life

9:00 am - 10:00 am

Meeting with a client to discuss a piece that I am working on. We discuss proportions, measurements, the type of wood and I give an estimate for the work.

10:00 am - 1:00 pm

Visualising the piece, drawing sketches and thinking of new ideas.

1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Eating lunch while talking on the phone to clients.

2:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Giving the furniture 'soul' by distressing it, to make it look old and used. This is done by using a range of implements to scratch, gouge, scruff and scar the wood.

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