news

Sylva Wood School enews

posted on October 24, 2019

We’ve released another enews for those interested in our activities related to the Sylva Wood School.

We’ve enjoyed a busy autumn at the Sylva Wood School delivering many successful courses. It’s been great to have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from everyone who has taken part. We hope you enjoy reading more about some of these in the enews.

Our spring schedule of courses is now live on our website. We have a great range of courses available including some favourites with our expert invited tutors, as well as some new courses led by me. Perhaps we’ll be able to welcome you to join us on a course soon.

Our courses would make a unique Christmas or birthday gift for someone special. We have vouchers available on our online shop if you are not sure which course they would prefer.

Best wishes,
Joseph Bray

To find out more about our recent events, and the new programme of courses for spring 2020, click here.

Wood School enews-Oct19

Read more from our Sylva Wood School enews-Oct19

 


Comments (0)

Sylva summer school shines a light on under-utilised home-grown timber

posted on October 7, 2019

Earlier this year the Sylva Foundation approached Grown in Britain (GiB) to collaborate on a project to promote the potential of under-utilised home-grown timber aiming to inspire innovation and creativity. Students and recent graduates from Rycotewood, the renowned furniture college in Oxford, were asked to explore the potential of Douglas-fir and Alder for furniture making. To add to the challenge, the Douglas-fir was kiln-dried whereas the Alder was freshly sawn, resulting in differing methods of working.

GiB CEO Dougal Driver set out a design brief that challenged the participants to think creatively and work collaboratively.

Sylva-Summer-School-2019-GiB

Sylva-Summer-School-2019-GiB

Marketing at conferences and shows can mean many journeys up and down the country often end up with a car boot full of pull-up banners, folding tables, and plastic leaflet holders. Finding a beautiful off-the-peg solution that is easy to use and assemble, that displays marketing materials effectively and is well crafted in sustainable materials is impossible. 

Your brief for this Sylva Summer School is to work exclusively with two under-utilised home-grown timber species, Douglas-fir and Alder, to design and prototype a solution. We would like you to develop a functional concept that can be dismantled easily, fits into a car for transportation, and is not too heavy to be carried by the user. 

 

With only five days to develop a fully-functional response the group had to work at a fast pace. To kickstart the creative process they were given a talk by Sylva CEO Gabriel Hemery arguing the case for the increased use of home-grown timbers . This was followed by a tour of our workshops, timber store and recently planted ‘future forest’. There is so much to be inspired by the Sylva Wood Centre, but they were particularly taken by the ‘House of Wessex’, an Anglo-Saxon house being faithfully reconstructed using traditional methods.  The day ended with a visit from furniture designer-maker Richard Williams, who gave supportive feedback on their emerging ideas. He encouraged them to explore the materials and allow that experience to inform the direction of their ideas.

The project gave everyone the opportunity to work within the professionally equipped workshops and to experience working with both timbers for the first time. They worked tirelessly all week helping each other to solve problems and making the most of the opportunity to produce three excellent solutions.

Andrew, Carina, Daisy, David and Paul collectively produced three collapsible tables with some beautiful detailing – all ready to be loaded into a car ready for the next marketing event! We are very excited about the potential of these products and of these students. They are a credit to Rycotewood and have a very bright future ahead of them.

We are very pleased to promote the project during GiB week and believe that our summer school has shone a light on under-utilised timber species that could have a very bright future. We would like to thank GiB for working with us and their member Vastern Timber for supplying the Douglas-fir. After such a successful week we plan to offer an annual summer school experience to continue to explore the potential for home-grown timber.

The Makers

Tutor:    Joseph Bray, Head of Wood School. Sylva Foundation

  • Andrew Joye, @andrew.joye
  • Carina Day
  • Daisy Brunsdon, @lula_furniture
  • David Cheng
  • Paul Lippard

Find our more about the Sylva Wood School

Summer School 2019 group with Tutor Joseph Bray

Summer School 2019 group with Tutor Joseph Bray


Comments (0)

Opening of the Sylva Teaching Barn

posted on January 22, 2019

Last Wednesday evening we opened the doors of our brand new Teaching Barn to promote the vision for the Sylva Wood School.

We enjoyed showing our trustees, funders, collaborators and friends from industry around our well-equipped teaching venue and explaining future planned developments for the Wood Centre.  Some of the creative businesses we host also opened up their workshops, highlighting the incredible community that has rapidly developed over the past three years – it was clear to see the potential for any students coming onto the site to learn from such a diverse range of experts.

Teaching Barn at the Sylva Wood Centre

Teaching Barn at the Sylva Wood Centre

The feedback from the evening was overwhelmingly positive.  It was wonderful to see the furniture industry well-represented by Dids Macdonald and Tony Smart of the Furniture Makers Company, designer-makers Richard Williams and Philip Koomen, as well as representatives of heavyweights such as William Hands and Ercol.  We look forward to further strengthening our relationship with the sector to teach and guide people into the industry.

Joseph Bray, Head of Wood School, shared his thoughts on the future of education in the wood sector focussing on the opportunities to deliver excellence in education and business enterprise.

“Schools have changed from woodwork to much broader D&T and over the past 10 years the decline in entries to GCSE has reduced by well over 50%  The emphasis of these courses has significantly moved away from making! Colleges offering vocational furniture training can almost be counted on one hand and University level craft programmes have declined significantly some closing workshops and some closing all together.  Often graduates are pushed out into the world with varying levels of support and guidance.

“An exception to the rule is our close neighbour Rycotewood in Oxford.  We hope to enhance our close relationship continuing to work closely with staff, students and graduates.

“The future can feel bleak, however we exist outside the formal education system and as a creative and flexible organisation we are able to offer a range of programmes that will plug some of the gaps.  We plan to build a schools programme for those unable to access making on the school curriculum. We will provide workshops and skills training to students who cannot access this at college or University and we will continue the excellent work already started in providing support for graduates within the community of creative enterprises that make up our site.”

Joseph is midway through an inspiring Churchill Fellowship, travelling to world-renowned institutions delivering furniture craft education in USA and Europe.  He is investigating how they continue to support students to learn craft skills in light of the challenges within the education sector and how students are supported on graduation.  This experience is especially helpful at this stage of the development of our Wood School. He is off to Europe in March and we look forward to hearing what he has learnt on his return.

We are currently delivering a programme of weekend courses using some excellent external tutors as we build up to the launch of a range courses in the summer and beyond – watch this space for some exciting opportunities.  Read more

Sylva Foundation is very grateful to the following funders for their support in constructing and furnishing the Teaching Barn: Aspen Trust, D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust, Oxfordshire LEADER, People’s Postcode Lottery, Shanly Foundation.


Comments (2)

Courses at the Sylva Wood Centre Spring 2019

posted on November 7, 2018

We’re pleased to release our course programme for Spring 2019.

All courses will be supported by our new dedicated Teaching Barn, and overseen by our newly appointed Head of Wood School, Joe Bray.

Guitar maintenance & repair – with local luthier Steve Kendall

Learn how to perform guitar ‘set-ups’ so that your guitar sounds and plays at its best.

Saturday 26th January 2019, 9:30am – 4:00pm. Cost £100.

book-now

Steve Kendall guitar course

Steve Kendall guitar course

Make a canoe paddle – with award-winning boat builder Colin Henwood

During this two-day course you will learn how to shape a single canoe paddle from Ash using hand tools.

Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd February, 2019, 9.00am to 5.00pm. Cost £225.

book-now

Colin Henwood with students making a canoe paddle at the Sylva Wood Centre

Colin Henwood with students making a canoe paddle at the Sylva Wood Centre

Make a green wood stool – with green woodworker Peter Wood

Working with green wood using simple hand tools, by the end of this two-day course you will make a three-legged stool.

Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th February, 2019, 9:30am – 4:00pm. Cost £225.

book-now

Green stool making course at Sylva Wood Centre

Green stool making course at Sylva Wood Centre

Pole lathe course – with green woodworker Peter Wood

A two-day course to learn how to work with green wood using simple hand tools, and a pole lathe, to create a stool with turned legs.

Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th March, 2019, 9:30am – 4:00pm. Cost £225.

book-now

Greenwood workshop

Pole lathe course

Saxon Building Woodwork, or ‘Treewrighting’ – with Damian Goodburn

Learn about Anglo-Saxon building woodwork, based mainly on the study of surviving wooden remains, including a review of relatively new evidence, with live demonstrations of tools and techniques, and opportunities to watch treewrighting in action. Led by leading archaeological woodwork specialist Damian Goodburn BA PhD.

Saturday 23rd March 2019, 10.00am-4.00pm Cost £75.

book-now

Saxon broad axe work

Saxon broad axe work

Treewighting and timber-framing – with the Carpenters Fellowship – £100

During this unique one day treewrighting course you will learn and develop skills and knowledge in the making of a timber-frame using traditional tools and techniques. Five one-day courses available which can also be booked as a block.

Available on 20th,21st,22nd 23rd & 24th March 2019, 9.00am-5.00pm. Cost £100 per day.

book-now

Carpenters' Fellowship at the Sylva Wood Centre

Carpenters’ Fellowship training at the Sylva Wood Centre

Hurdle making – with coppice worker and craftsman Simon Farndon

Students will be taught hazel splitting and how to make hurdles on the Saturday and then will practise making hurdles on the Sunday.

Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th March 2019, 10.00am-4.00pm. Cost £200.

book-now

Hurdle-making with Simon Farndon

Hurdle-making with Simon Farndon

Make a canoe paddle – with award-winning boat builder Colin Henwood

During this two-day course you will learn how to shape a single canoe paddle from ash using hand tools.

Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th April, 2019, 9.00am to 5.00pm. Cost £225.

book-now

Colin Henwood with students making a canoe paddle at the Sylva Wood Centre

Colin Henwood with students making a canoe paddle at the Sylva Wood Centre

Full terms and conditions available at www.sylva.org.uk/courses


Comments (0)

Course: hurdle-making 23-24 March 2019

posted on November 2, 2018

Learn and practise how to split hazel and make hurdles with coppice worker and craftsman Simon Farndon during this two-day course at the Sylva Wood Centre.

Students will be taught hazel splitting and how to make hurdles on the Saturday and then will practise making hurdles on the Sunday.

Hazel hurdles are a very popular and attractive alternative to garden panels or garden screens and wind breaks. Split (cleft) and round hazel rods are woven around hazel uprights (zales). There are slight variations on design between different regions, but students will learn to make the most robust hurdles using good quality graded split hazel, which is twisted around end posts to produce a very strong and robust hurdle.

The hurdles that students make will be used in the Anglo-Saxon reconstruction of the House of Wessex, to be built over the summer of 2019. If they wish, students on this course will be welcome to volunteer to help with this by making more hurdles later in the year, or by helping fix hurdels to the wall annd roof structure of the building.

By taking part, students will not only help in this exciting volunteer project, but leave with the requisite skills to make their own hurdles at home.

Cost £200. Lunch provided. Maximum of 8 places.

 


Comments (0)

Courses: Treewrighting and timber-framing March 2019

posted on

One-day courses, 20th-24th March 2019

We are pleased to offer five one-day courses in treewrighting and timber-framing, from 20th to 24th March.

House of Wessex timber frame

House of Wessex timber frame

During this one-day course you will learn and develop skills in the making of a timber-frame using traditional tools and techniques. Teaching will be provided by highly experienced craftspeople in the Carpenters’ Fellowship. Learning will include a selection of the following, catering for a wide range of skill and experience :

  • Axe jointing “treewrighting”
  • Cleaving and dressing logs
  • Converting timbers
  • Shaping timbers
  • Carving wooden tree nails
  • Hewing logs by axe

Full training will be provided (no prior experience necessary). Although you will be working undercover, the course will be ‘outdoors’, so you will need to wear appropriate clothing.

Drinks and hot food will be provided, including breakfast, lunch and dinner. Overnight camping (bring your own tent) may be available on the site, or locally. More details will follow your booking.

A programme of evening events will also be on offer, including a range of talks on relevant craft and history, and social events.

You may book for more than one day. Please note that the activities will be physically demanding, so please take this into account before you sign up to all five days!

Carpenters Fellowship

 

Date

 

Book here

 

Wednesday, 20th March 2019 book-now
Thursday, 21st March 2019 book-now
Friday, 22nd March 2019 book-now
Saturday, 23rd March 2019 book-now
Sunday, 24th March 2019 book-now

 

 


Comments (0)

Course: Make a Canoe Paddle April 2019

posted on October 31, 2018

Make a canoe paddle

Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th April 2019

9.00am to 5.00pm

During this two-day course with award-winning boat builder Colin Henwood, you will learn how to shape a single canoe paddle from Ash using hand tools.

“I can’t think of anything that could have improved a perfect couple of days – I will signing up for another one soon.”
Student on Paddle making course, January 2018.

Colin was fantastic; his attention to detail and support ensured we all left with a paddle I think even he was happy with!
Student on Paddle making course, January 2018.

Make your own canoe paddle at the Wood Centre

Make your own canoe paddle at the Wood Centre

  • Working with ash – our superior native hardwood.
  • Using traditional skills and tools you will produce a complex shape with hand and eye.
  • Learn how to finish your smooth and elegant design.
  • Take home a unique and usable canoe paddle ready for a varnish or an oil finish.
  • Tools and materials included (if you wish to bring your own tools please discuss this with the tutor).

Cost: £225 per person (materials included)

Venue: Our new purpose-built Education Barn at the Sylva Wood Centre, Oxfordshire, OX14 4QT

Tutor: Colin Henwood

book-now

Book your place

 


About the tutor

Colin Henwood founded his boatyard, Henwood and Dean Boatbuilders, in 1982 specialising in restoring and building wooden Thames launches. The boatyard received many awards in the UK and abroad, and in 2014 Colin was awarded Maker of the Year by the Heritage Crafts Association. In October 2016 Colin handed the boatyard over to two of his team who are successfully continuing the tradition he began 35 years ago. Not one to retire, Colin has established a workshop at the Sylva Wood Centre where he is currently re-building a 1920 Thames motor canoe.

Colin Henwood with students making a canoe paddle at the Sylva Wood Centre

Colin Henwood with students making a canoe paddle at the Sylva Wood Centre

Paddle course_Jun2018

Paddle course at the Sylva Wood Centre, Jun2018


Comments (0)

Course: Make a Canoe Paddle February 2019

posted on

Make a canoe paddle

Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd February 2019

9.00am to 5.00pm

During this two-day course with award-winning boat builder Colin Henwood, you will learn how to shape a single canoe paddle from Ash using hand tools.

“I can’t think of anything that could have improved a perfect couple of days – I will signing up for another one soon.”
Student on Paddle making course, January 2018.

Colin was fantastic; his attention to detail and support ensured we all left with a paddle I think even he was happy with!
Student on Paddle making course, January 2018.

Make your own canoe paddle at the Wood Centre

Make your own canoe paddle at the Wood Centre

  • Working with ash – our superior native hardwood.
  • Using traditional skills and tools you will produce a complex shape with hand and eye.
  • Learn how to finish your smooth and elegant design.
  • Take home a unique and usable canoe paddle ready for a varnish or an oil finish.
  • Tools and materials included (if you wish to bring your own tools please discuss this with the tutor).

Cost: £225 per person (materials included)

Venue: Our new purpose-built Education Barn at the Sylva Wood Centre, Oxfordshire, OX14 4QT

Tutor: Colin Henwood

book-now

Book your place

 


About the tutor

Colin Henwood founded his boatyard, Henwood and Dean Boatbuilders, in 1982 specialising in restoring and building wooden Thames launches. The boatyard received many awards in the UK and abroad, and in 2014 Colin was awarded Maker of the Year by the Heritage Crafts Association. In October 2016 Colin handed the boatyard over to two of his team who are successfully continuing the tradition he began 35 years ago. Not one to retire, Colin has established a workshop at the Sylva Wood Centre where he is currently re-building a 1920 Thames motor canoe.

Colin Henwood with students making a canoe paddle at the Sylva Wood Centre

Colin Henwood with students making a canoe paddle at the Sylva Wood Centre

Paddle course_Jun2018

Paddle course at the Sylva Wood Centre, Jun2018


Comments (0)

Head of Wood School appointed

posted on September 12, 2018

Our recently-appointed Head of Wood School, Joseph Bray, introduces himself and his new role with Sylva Foundation.

Joe Bray 2018

Joe Bray, Head of Wood School

I began my career in the furniture industry in 2000, as a designer and craftsman with Richard Williams.  My role progressed from junior craftsman to production coordinator giving me an introduction to the diversity of the industry whilst working on bespoke projects for private clients. Prior to this I studied furniture design and craftsmanship at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University and I went back to complete a masters in furniture design, graduating with distinction in 2010.  

At an early stage I knew I wanted to teach and, benefiting from a very supportive employer, I undertook some teacher training and worked at Rycotewood providing one-to-one woodwork for autistic young adults.  This valuable experience ultimately led me to make the transition between industry and education, taking up a full-time role as a teacher across the full range of programmes at Rycotewood.

Joseph Bray teaching a student

Joseph Bray teaching a student

In 2010, I took responsibility for course leadership of the Foundation degree and BA Hons programmes. I successfully led the validation of the degrees with two university partners; Bucks New University in 2010 and Oxford Brookes University in 2015.  Students and graduates have been incredibly successful, winning national awards, bursaries, and residencies.

My particular interest is in developing industrial partnerships leading to live projects, study trips, work experience, internships, and sponsorship for students.  Recent collaborations include live projects with AHEC (American Hardwood Export Council) exploring the characteristics of red oak, designing public seating for the RAF museum – London, as part of the 100-year anniversary, and live briefs with furniture manufacturers Ercol and William Hands.

My current research interest is to understand better how to upskill furniture graduates making them more employable – considering how to bridge the gap between education and professional life.  I have been successful in an application for funding and was announced as a Churchill Fellow in 2018. I will travel initially to USA in autumn visiting the Centre for Furniture Craftsmanship, North Bennett Street School, Rhode Island School of Design and Rochester Institute of Technology.  Further travel to prestigious European institutions will follow in spring 2019. A report will be published in 2019 sharing the knowledge gained and recommendations for improving the education system here in the UK.   

I am a member of the Society of Designer Craftsmen and have served on the council since 2008 – I am currently responsible for the production of their quarterly newsletter.  I am a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

I am passionate about making, and very excited to get stuck into my new role, with Sylva Foundation, which for the first year I will be taking up while also continuing part-time with Rycotewood. My main responsibility is the development of the new Sylva Wood School, and in time I will play a lead role in supporting the delivery of training and courses. I’ll also play a key part ensuring the development of the Sylva Wood Centre as a beacon for best practice.

www.sylva.org.uk/wood


Comments (2)

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


Comments (0)
Older Posts »