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Artweeks at the Sylva Wood Centre

posted on May 21, 2018
Artweeks 2018 montage

Artweeks 2018 montage

Now our first weekend is behind us, we’re looking forward to opening our doors to the Sylva Wood Centre again next weekend. We will be open from Saturday 26th to Monday 28th, from 1000 to 1700.

We hope to see you there!

 


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Crafting a future in wood

posted on May 4, 2018

Sylva Wood Centre craftsman, Alistair Buchan, talks about his journey becoming a furniture designer maker.

Guest blog by Alistair Buchan

Alistair Buchan

Alistair Buchan at his workshop in the Sylva Wood Centre

In 2015, I was working in a standard office job in London, but despite decent prospects and pay, it was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I decided that I needed a hobby which would allow me to express my creative side — woodworking and furniture design seemed to fit well.

I enrolled in a five-week night course near my hometown of Oxford, and soon after finishing the course I began researching careers and more formal training. I wanted to be able to make anything, and everything, that my imagination could throw at me. My research led me to the Furniture School run by Williams & Cleal, and after sitting down with Jane Cleal for an informal chat over a cup of tea, I enrolled on an intensive 40-week furniture course

My course started with work on a small puzzle requiring only hand tools, followed by a small dovetailed box which introduced me working with veneers, complex joinery, and design elements. Soon afterwards, I was introduced to heavy machinery, selection of timbers, and more design techniques and software, all of which came together in making a small side table.

Two of my projects won Somerset Guild of Craftsmen Awards, which I am very proud of, but I know these were also a testament to the guidance and nurturing from the team at Williams & Cleal. About halfway through the 40-week course, I started receiving lessons in the business elements of furniture making. My first draft cash flow soon revealed that starting a furniture making business can be quite a significant financial risk.

After leaving Williams & Cleal, I moved back to Oxford. I started meeting with local craftsmen to pick their brains about local suppliers and potential places to start up a business. Someone soon pointed me in the direction of Sylva Foundation and the Sylva Wood Centre in south Oxfordshire. I couldn’t believe my luck.

The Sylva Wood Centre is a perfect place to start a furniture making business. The charity offers workshop space, with access to a shared machinery workshop. I was able to start my fledgling business without investing in my own heavy machines, while paying reasonable workshop rates. The financial burden of starting a furniture making business could be really cut down by starting off my new career at the Wood Centre.

Cherry Blossom Chair

Cherry Blossom Chair by Alistair Buchan

In November 2016, I started ‘hot benching’ — where woodworkers can hire a bench for just a week at a time, in a shared large workspace alongside fellow makers. I started first with a few small commissions for various family and friends, which helped while I found my feet. This continued for the next year, and all the while I kept developing the business and my own personal design and making skills. There are a 13 other wood businesses at the Sylva Wood Centre so there is always someone to bounce ideas off, to ask for a hand with a glue up, or lift a heavy item.

Cherry Blossom Chair close-up

Cherry Blossom Chair close-up, by Alistair Buchan

In the summer of 2017, I decided to take the next step and graduate into my own proper workshop within the Sylva Wood Centre. Because of the popularity of the units, there weren’t any available units at the time, so I put my name to a waiting list. Meanwhile, I kept chugging away and used the time to develop a proper business plan and direction for Ali Buchan Furniture.

In March 2018, a unit became available, so I moved in. I hung my clamps on the walls, set up a few benches for laying out and gluing up, as well as my main bench for doing the dirty work. Three years after I decided to change my career, I’m now where I want to be: a small furniture design and making business, specialising in fine bespoke desks. Who knows what the future holds, but I am excited to see where Ali Buchan Furniture can go. It’s been a whirlwind three years but some of the best years of my life. Williams & Cleal and Sylva Foundation have been right at the heart of it all.

www.alibuchan.com  and  instagram.com/alibuchanfurniture


Meet more craftspeople at the Sylva Wood Centre


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Does life mean you to do a somersault?

posted on May 1, 2018

“Sometimes you have to check,” writes Ruth Pavey in her book, A Wood of One’s Own, “just in case life means you to do a somersault.” Join us at WoodWords 2018 to hear about her own modest upheaval – buying a piece of land at auction on the Somerset Levels with a view to creating a new woodland.

A Wood of One's Own, by Ruth Pavey

A Wood of One’s Own, by Ruth Pavey

‘Pavey’s love for her small patch of land shimmers off the page [in this] narrative of warmth, honesty and great spirit made all the more beautiful by Pavey’s own lively and accomplished drawings… this lovely book is itself a gift encouraging country-dweller and townie alike to marvel at the infinite possibilities at the heart of a single tree’ The Daily Mail, Book of the Week

‘Practical and full of helpful advice which has been artfully baked-in throughout. If someone asks you what you’d like for Christmas or a birthday don’t hesitate to reply, A Wood of One’s OwnWoodlands.co.uk

 

WoodWords 2018

WoodWords 2018

Ruth Pavey is one of five top environmental authors talking about their books at our unique WoodWords 2018 event.

Tickets limited and selling fast – buy yours now!

24th May: 6.30pm at the Sylva Wood Centre (Ox14 4QT)


Ruth Pavey is a gardening journalist and writer based in London. After years spent living amid its urban thrum, Ruth yearned to reconnect with the British countryside and she endeavoured to realise her long-held dream of planting a wood. Touring to the West Country in the late 1990s, she found herself in the Somerset Levels. On seeing this expanse of reclaimed land under its wide, soft skies she was struck by its beauty and set-out to plant a wood, tree by tree. She bought four acres, and over the years transformed them into a haven where woodland plants and creatures could flourish an emblem of enduring life in a changeable world. A Wood of One’s Own (Duckworth) is the story of how Ruth grew to understand and then shape this derelict land into an enduring legacy a verdant landscape rich with wildlife.


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Artweeks at the Sylva Wood Centre

posted on April 26, 2018

We’re looking forward to opening the doors to the Sylva Wood Centre during Oxfordshire Artweeks. This year we will be open from 10am to 5pm on the weekends of 19/20 and 26/27/28 May.

Artweeks at the Sylva Wood Centre

Artweeks at the Sylva Wood Centre

The Sylva Wood Centre in Long Wittenham is a community of small businesses and woodworking professionals who design or make in wood and related crafts, run by Sylva Foundation. Meet the resident designers alongside invited craftspeople, and marvel at the fine furniture, unique woodcarving, traditional wooden boats, small pieces in beautiful woods, original soft furnishing, outdoor furniture, screens and buildings in oak, prints and pieces made in mixed media combining wood, metal, resin and textiles.

Meet the makers, tour their workshops, buy gift vouchers for craft courses, and buy or commission individual pieces. Watch live demonstrations during the day, and enjoy the pop-up HardWood Café. Visitors can take a stroll outside in the developing Future Forest and Community Orchard.

Oxfordshire ArtWeeks

Oxfordshire ArtWeeks

For more details about our group exhibition, and to explore a veritable colony of other wonderful galleries nearby in Oxfordshire, visit Oxfordshire Artweeks.


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Tree Charter legacy lives on

posted on April 17, 2018

The Charter for Trees, Woods and People, launched in 2017, continues to result in media interest and actions on the ground. This week is the inaugural meeting of the new Tree Charter UK Board.

Sculptor Simon Clements (based at the Sylva Wood Centre) features this month in the Countryside Magazine, in an article highlighting the best of British craft and focusing on his work creating the Charter Poles. Another of the Sylva Wood Centre craftspeople, Rodas Irving of Oxford Oak, recently returned from Grizedale Forest in Cumbria where he completed installation of seating around the base the ‘Strengthening Landscapes‘ sculpture; one of 11 Charter Pole sculptures located around the UK.

Now that the Tree Charter exists, the next step is to embed it into the fabric of society. A Tree Charter UK Board has been established comprising of organisations which played a key role in developing the Tree Charter to date, and can ensure a broad range of views are represented. We are pleased that Sylva Foundation CEO Gabriel Hemery is one of the Board members, which will meet for the first time this Friday.

Read more about the Tree Charter.

 


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WoodWords 2018 tickets now on sale

posted on March 9, 2018

WoodWords2018

Thursday 24th May, 6:30 – 9:30pm

SYLVA WOOD CENTRE, OXFORDSHIRE, OX14 4QT

WoodWords 2018 brings together five authors who share a passion for trees and the environment, and a common fascination in our relationships with nature. At this, our second WoodWords literary evening, they will tell the stories behind their latest books – splinters and all.

This unique event takes place in the Sylva Wood Centre – an exciting hive of creativity in wood that brings fine furniture and industrial woodworking together, set amongst a new community woodland and orchard. Dress down, enjoy drinks amongst the sawdust and wood chips at The Wood Bar, admire the incredible creativity of our resident designer-makers and, of course, meet the authors and buy signed copies of their books.

Tickets are £20 each with all proceeds contributing towards the charitable work of Sylva Foundation. Purchase your tickets here


About the Authors and their books

Around the World in 80 Trees

Around the World in 80 Trees

Jonathan Drori, a former documentary film maker and executive producer at the BBC, has been a Trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Woodland Trust. He is on the board of the Eden Project and is an Ambassador for the WWF. Around the World in 80 Trees (Laurence King) celebrates trees as one of humanity’s most constant and most varied companions. They offer us sanctuary and inspiration and of course the raw materials for our lives. Jon uses plant science to illuminate how trees play a role in every part of human endeavour, from the romantic to the regrettable.

The Long, Long Life of Trees

The Long, Long Life of Trees

Fiona Stafford is a professor of English language and literature at the University of Oxford. In 2014 she wrote the text for the Charter of Trees, Woods, and People. Fiona’s book The Long, Long Life of Trees (Yale University Press) is a lyrical tribute to the diversity of trees, their physical beauty, their special characteristics and uses, and their ever-evolving meanings. Each of its 17 chapters is dedicated to a common British tree, drawing on folklore, natural science, literature, cultural history, European art, ancient mythology and modern medicine to illuminate each trees’ central place in western civilisation. The book was formerly Sunday Times Nature Book of the Year.

The Last Wilderness

The Last Wilderness

Neil Ansell is a writer and award-winning television journalist. The Last Wilderness: a journey into silence (Tinder Press) explores the experience of being in nature in the context of a series of walks that Neil takes into the most remote parts of Britain. He illustrates the impact of being alone as part of nature, rather than outside it. In the book, Neil explores the coastal oakwoods, northern birchwoods and relic pinewoods of Scotland, and as he walks he reflects on his past, including years spent as a forestry worker in Wales and Sweden. As a counterpoint, Neil also writes of the changes in the landscape, and how his hearing loss affects his relationship with nature as the calls of the birds he knows so well become silent to him.

A Wood of One's Own

A Wood of One’s Own

Ruth Pavey is a gardening journalist and writer based in London. After years spent living amid its urban thrum, Ruth yearned to reconnect with the British countryside and she endeavoured to realise her long-held dream of planting a wood. Touring to the West Country in the late 1990s, she found herself in the Somerset Levels. On seeing this expanse of reclaimed land under its wide, soft skies she was struck by its beauty and set-out to plant a wood, tree by tree. She bought four acres, and over the years transformed them into a haven where woodland plants and creatures could flourish an emblem of enduring life in a changeable world. A Wood of One’s Own (Duckworth) is the story of how Ruth grew to understand and then shape this derelict land into an enduring legacy a verdant landscape rich with wildlife.

Green Gold: the lost journals of John Jeffrey

Green Gold: the lost journals of John Jeffrey

Gabriel Hemery is co-founder and Chief Executive of the Sylva Foundation. His first book The New Sylva (Bloomsbury) was published to wide acclaim in 2014. His latest book Green Gold (Unbound Publishing) is a fictional biographical novel based on a true story. In 1850, young Scottish tree-hunter John Jeffrey is despatched by an elite group of Victorian subscribers to seek highly-prized exotic tree species in North America. Three years after setting out, after traversing British Columbia, Oregon and California, John Jeffrey disappears without a trace. Was he lost to love, violence or the Gold Rush? The discovery of his missing journals finally reveals the truth behind an extraordinary adventure.


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Greenwood DIY for women 5May2018

posted on March 2, 2018

Greenwood DIY for women

5th May 2018

9.00am to 5.00pm

Come and learn to make some shelves to your design, shape and size, which you could use for books, shoes, clothes, tools or much more besides in the company of women.

Greenwood DIY for women

Greenwood DIY for women

During the day, you will learn to use common hand tools such as drills, knives and saws to transform ash poles and larch boards into some shelves. You will learn the basic principles of green woodworking and leave with the skills to tackle more green woodwork projects at home.

The course is aimed at those who self-identify as a woman.

Suitable for beginners / no woodworking experience necessary!

Cost: £100 per person (materials included)

Venue: Sylva Wood Centre, Oxfordshire, OX14 4QT

Tutors: Amy Cox and Ffion Jones

 

book-now

Booking now closed

 


About the tutors

Amy and FFion crossed paths at the Cherry Wood project, where they did an apprenticeship in green woodworking and woodland management.

Amy now works as a coppice worker and crafter based in Gloucestershire. Her coppice products are sourced from Westonbirt arboretum, where she is an active member of the coppice restoration project. She also loves making baskets. www.amyrosecrafts.org.uk

Ffion is a green woodworker and builder based in the bristol area. She uses traditional hand tools and techniques to create beautiful and functional items.She cuts her own materials or uses local sawmills supplying British timber, and likes turning bowls.


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Farewell to Paul Sellers

posted on February 19, 2018

Last week we said farewell to Paul Sellers and the team at Rokesmith, who have built up an incredibly successful business over the last two years.

Paul Sellers and his son Joseph moved into a small unit at the Sylva Wood Centre two years ago. During their time with us they took on several new staff members, and the company expanded their online tutorials, published a book, and offered several woodworking classes at the centre. We were delighted to include a talk from Paul in our inaugural WoodWords event in 2016, while the company sponsored a number of plots in the Future Forest.

In a generous gesture, the team have made a short film to reflect upon their time with us at the Sylva Wood Centre, featuring interviews with a number of the craftspeople. We wish Paul and his team every success in their new larger unit, just a few miles away, and look forward to future collaborations.

 


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Forestry Yard opens at Sylva Wood Centre

posted on January 29, 2018

Sylva Foundation is delighted to announce the opening of the Forestry Yard at the Sylva Wood Centre. The Forestry Yard will be occupied and run by Face North Forestry, a local and expanding forestry contracting company.

The Forestry Yard at the Sylva Wood Centre

The Forestry Yard at the Sylva Wood Centre, with Nick Keighley of Face North Forestry

The Sylva Wood Centre is a growing hub of wood-using businesses: currently 13 wood-based businesses operate from the site; from boat builders, to woodcarvers and fine furniture makers. The focus of the Sylva Wood Centre is to support the growth of wood-based businesses and in particular the use of home-grown timber. The addition of the Forestry Yard will help the Sylva Wood Centre to achieve this last goal, shortening the supply chain between woodland and end use.

Nick Keighley - Face North Forestry

Nick Keighley – Face North Forestry

Thanks to a Countryside Productivity Grant, Face North Forestry purchased a new mobile sawmill. This will allow the business to select timber to be milled, which may have previously been used for firewood, adding value and locking up carbon for the long term. This timber will be available for use by the businesses at the Sylva Wood Centre; in fact Face North Forestry are already collaborating with two of the businesses.

Meanwhile, the new forestry building was part-supported by a capital grant to Sylva Foundation from LEADER, whose funds are distributed by the Oxfordshire Leader Action Group (LAG) made up of representatives from local trusts, organisations and district councils. The LAG is chaired by South Oxfordshire district councillor Elizabeth Gillespie, who said:

“Our group visited the forestry yard and we were all impressed to see how the funds are supporting the local environment and small wood businesses based at the Sylva Wood Centre.”

Nick Keighley of Face North Forestry said:

“Moving into the Forestry Yard at the Sylva Wood Centre will allow me to grow my business. I have always been frustrated by good quality timber not being used to its full potential, but local supply chains have been decimated over the last few decades with the closure of many small sawmills. The yard will allow me to add value to the timber I fell, while being based at the Sylva Wood Centre means there is a readymade customer base for my products”

Paul Orsi, Director for Forestry at Sylva Foundation said:

“The addition of the Forestry Yard at the Sylva Wood Centre is crucial to seeing more local timber being used by the businesses we support. The development of the Forestry Yard was supported by a LEADER grant which was vital to allow us to take this project forward”

More information: www.sylva.org.uk/wood


£1.55 million available to boost rural areas in the county

Grants of up to £100,000 are available to community groups, small businesses farmers and foresters for projects that support the rural economy.

The Oxfordshire LEADER fund aims to support a wide range of activities in the countryside such as assisting local small businesses, supporting local heritage and cultural events, attracting tourism and visitors increasing foresters and farmer’s productivity and helping to diversify services.

Contributions are available for capital costs such as building work, equipment and for projects located in the Oxfordshire LEADER area until September this year.

Oxfordshire LEADER is welcoming expressions of interest for support until September this year and all funds will be allocated by March 2019.  For further information on the programme and criteria for funding, visit the website http://www.oxfordshireleader.org.uk

If your project is eligible, you can contact Sophie, programme manager, on 01235 422245 or email Oxfordshire.leader@southandvale.gov.uk for further guidance.


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Courses available at the Sylva Wood Centre

posted on

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve held two very successful courses at the Sylva Wood Centre. Some places are still available on other courses this spring.

Tutor Colin Henwood with students during the canoe paddle making course

Tutor Colin Henwood with students during the canoe paddle making course

Greenwoodworker Peter Wood took eight students through their paces during a one-day course, with all students returning home with a handy greenwood stool. Master boatbuilder Colin Henwood helped students dip their proverbial toes in the water by crafting a canoe paddle from ash over two days.

We have four further courses listed with various spaces still available.

Book soon to avoid disappointment:

Pole lathe workshop 17th February

Guitar maintenance and repair 3rd March

Introduction to wood carving 17th March

Greenwood DIY for Women 5th May

 

Courses at the Sylva Wood Centre

 

Steve Kendall luthier

Steve Kendall luthier

Category: Courses, Sylva Wood Centre
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