Christian Burt from Portland, Oregon was our Student of the Year.

He had previously worked on an organic farm growing a variety of soft fruits.

Before that, he studied photography, but really saw it only as a hobby.

Christian came to us with no training or experience in woodworking, although he’s always liked working with his hands.

His signature project was a Japanese tea cabinet, which first involved learning the ancient Japanese craft of kumiko.

It’s a decorative technique in which precisely-cut pieces of wood are joined together without glue or other fixings.

Instead, the thinly cut pieces of wood are grooved, punched and mortised, and then fitted individually.


It involves using a plane, saw, chisel and other tools to make fine adjustments.

Kumiko requires an accuracy of 0.1mm and each step of the process requires great skill and greater patience.

The technique was developed in Japan in the Asuka Era between 600 and700 AD.

It’s used to create intricate, wooden, functional artwork.  It can be found, for example, on traditional Japanese sliding doors.

With his tea cabinet, he demonstrated a clear understanding of the intricacies and practicalities of design.

Christian Burt with tea cabinet made at Chippendale school

Christian also showed that he had the innate talent and confidence to visualise a complex design, and then to plan and execute that design.

The kumiko design that Christian chose is called asanoha, a popular motif still used in architecture, fashion and graphic design.

The asanoha pattern, based on regular hexagons or an aggregate of triangles, is also widely used on kimono and baby clothes.

It was a complex piece that was both a huge challenge and steep learning curve.

But he created a piece of furniture with both beauty and absolute purpose – the twin aims that Christian was looking to achieve.

Christian, a worthy winner of our Student of the Year, has now returned to Portland to set up Christian Taylor Fine Woodcraft.