Graduates on our professional course leave the Chippendale school with all sorts of different ambitions for their futures.
Some want to specialise in kitchen design and building, others want to concentrate on fine furniture, and others will see how their businesses develop.
But a key focus for some students is furniture restoration, both because they see it a lucrative market and because they enjoy bringing the old and neglected back to life.
It’s something we’re also passionate about because it’s where the woodworking business that grew into the Chippendale school started from.
It’s an educational beginning that we’re very proud of, and why we continue to run a thriving restoration business from the school, primarily serving the whole of Scotland and north of England.
Nowadays that side of our business is run by Clare Charleston, who has over 20 years of restoration experience.
Some of the pieces she works on may have sentimental value but little monetary worth; others can be hundreds of years old and extremely valuable.
Clare’s other role is, of course, to pass on her skills to our students and, although restoration doesn’t come onto the curriculum until January, she’s already being shadowed by several students who want to specialise in furniture restoration.
By having a restoration business in-house, we are therefore in the enviable position of being able to show students the delicate skills they need to acquire, using real pieces of furniture in a commercial environment.
Restoration is also about looking into the past, and better understanding how furniture design has changed over the decades and centuries, and therefore giving fresh perspectives on the practicalities of design.
Sometimes, for example, that also means understanding why a piece of furniture has broken, and why its design or construction could have been improved at the start.
We’re great believers in keeping the past alive, and giving old pieces of furniture a new lease of life and Clare’s expertise allows us to do just that.
Main picture: Clare with Steve Tripp from Minnesota