Today we start with James Ryan, Designer – Manager. James designs all the furniture made in the Barnsley Workshop. He is in charge of day-to-day running and he liaises with clients when they commission a piece of furniture. We asked James six questions:
What did you do before started as an apprentice at the Barnsley Workshop?
I studied City and Guilds Furnituremaking at a Technical College and prior to that A levels at Sixth Form college. I was offered a couple of jobs at the end of my City & Guilds course and a place on the furniture degree course at Buckinghamshire University but I decided that the Barnsley apprenticeship was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
What attracted you to the Barnsley Workshop apprenticeship?
The quality of the craftsmanship was beyond anything I had seen before and I wanted to learn how to achieve it myself.
How did you feel when you first started your training?
I did not know what to expect and I was blissfully unaware of how little I knew. The very first weeks were revelatory in opening my eyes to achieving a level of precision, control and craftsmanship that I had been previously been unaware of.
Looking back what was for you the most significant lesson?
Making the very first project, an octagonal breadboard very quickly reinforced how little I knew or understood about wood. Reading the grain direction, wood movement and sharpening tools were all hard lessons that needed to be mastered quickly to proceed.
I also spent 5 months of my apprenticeship studying at the Carl Malmsten School in Stockholm. I believe learning about the quite different Malmsten methods of design and making alongside my Barnsley training informed the open minded approach I take today to design, materials and making.
What have been the highlights of your time at the workshop?
Training and working with talented, passionate, dedicated people and being a part of helping them fulfil their undoubted potential. The privilege of being the workshop designer and being in a position to realise my ideas and have them made to such a high standard. Interacting with people who are motivated to help the workshop whether as Trustees, volunteers, clients or donors is very heartening.
What has been your most challenging project?
The next one!