Bona grow up in Bordeaux, and after spending much of his childhood in Paris he quickly developed a passion for contemporary design. After leaving school he joined his Uncle as an apprentice cabinet maker, before joining us on a 40 week course. Based in the beautiful Stowell Park Estate in the Cotswolds he was able to source exceptional native timber which he uses in his own work.
Multifunction, texture, colour, material choice and exceptional craft/making skills are the key elements of his work. He has a real appetite for fresh design, which definitely shows in his work. He is constantly researching new products, innovative techniques and materials, across a raft of disciplines. This in turn inspires him to create.
Having made a whole range of pieces including; An Ash dining table and Retro TV cabinet, Bona is now coming to the end of his time with us, and is currently looking at his career options.
After graduating from university with a marketing degree and having spent six years in the industry Peter decided it was time for a change in career, and started on his journey to be a furniture designer and maker by enrolling on a course with us.
While on his 40 week course, Peter made a wide variety of pieces, including a dovetail box, a cherry occassional table and an English Walnut & white concrete coffee table.
His more recent pieces, 'Raw' a Sycamore chest of drawers, and 'Arc' a plywood media unit were both exhibited at New Designers 2012.
Peter's furniture celebrates the raw, natural beauty of regionally grown timbers, while working in harmony with the clean lined designs of today’s modern home. He enjoys combining contrasting natural and manmade materials in his own unique way.
Peter is currently renting bench space with us here at W&C, making bespoke free-standing furniture to commission.
Before joining us, Alastair undertook a degree in Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin, then worked for a few of years in London, primarily as a designer and editorial assistant for a small publishing company.
Whilst on his 40 week course, Alastair successfully completed a number of set pieces to a very high standard before moving onto his own designs. The real 'show stopper' was his stripy sideboard in figured Walnut and Poplar. This piece required a great degree of accuracy to ensure that all the contrasting stripes and grain lined up, which he achieved to great effect!
After a successful year at the Williams & Cleal Furniture School, Alastair has now set up on his own, combining employment as a maker with renting bench space in a successful furniture workshop in Gloucestershire.
His ambition is to build a strong business based on a reputation for quality of construction, attention to detail and creativity of design.
After several years as a research scientist, Chris decided to change direction and follow his passion for furniture design and making. Whilst on his 40 week course with us, Chris made a wide variety of pieces, including a dovetailed box, a cherry occassional table and a wenge & cherry cabinet.
Chris's recent work employs visually simple pieces inspired by accessible design. Both his dividable coffee table and 'Tesla' shelving allow the client to arrange pieces according to their requirements.
His furniture has a contemporary style that emphasises the tactile nature of wood. As someone with an analytical nature who pays careful attention to detail, he ensures each piece is to the highest quality and craftsmanship.
Chris has now set up on his own as a designer-maker in Nottinghamshire area. His ambition is to create individual items of furniture that will bring enjoyment to their owners.
Before joining us Tim worked as a non executive chairperson for a number of high technology companies. While on his 40 week course Tim made a wide variety of pieces, including a dovetailed box, a walnut occasional table, an ‘Arts and Crafts’ inspired elm chair, a stunning burr oak coffee table, a tool cabinet, and a number of smaller pieces. Tim left us with an even greater passion for woodwork and furniture, and is now in the process of setting up a workshop at home.
“Tim feels he learnt a great deal while on the course, including; hand skills, accuracy, machining techniques, jig making, AutoCAD, and an ability to appreciate good design.”
“I’m not sure the experience could have been improved.”
Mark studied Economics and had a successful career in marketing before moving into furniture design and making. Mark was with us for 40 weeks, in this time he successfully completed a number of set pieces to very high standard, before moving onto his own designs.
During his time with us Mark was awarded a Bespoke Guild Mark #441, for his ‘Oakridge Sofa Table’. This stunning burr and scorched oak table was designed and made by Mark as his major piece on his 40 week course. This coveted award from the ‘The Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers’ is only given for exceptional design & craftsmanship.
Mark has a strong passion for the arts, design and architecture. He draws on the wealth of design heritage, bringing a fresh approach and boundless enthusiasm to his all his projects. Mark has a very meticulous nature and prides himself on producing the highest level of craftsmanship.
Chris formerly worked as a retail, and IT manager, before joining us for our full time course, to follow his passion to become a designer-maker. Chris made a variety of pieces whilst on the course, including a maple occasional table, a dovetailed box, a walnut coffee table, and a striking rippled sycamore drinks cabinet. He also started a Bridget Riley inspired walnut sideboard which he planned to finish as his first project once he set up on his own.
“The school is blessed with many designer-makers as tutors, each with their own particular area of expertise to tap into: Jim for construction advice and machine and hand skills; Jane for enthusiastic and helpful design discussions; Andrew for invaluable CAD tips; and Justin for boundless knowledge about timber.
At first it was such a jump into the unknown that I felt a bit lost but the patience and encouragement from everyone on the smallest of issues motivated me to push myself. It’s quite amazing to see how much my skills developed in such a small amount of time.
There was an interesting mix of students from all walks of life and it was great fun sitting outside at lunchtimes getting to know people. I miss the buzz of the workshop and the camaraderie created by working so closely together.”
“I now have the confidence to launch my new furniture business with the gusto it requires and I am very optimistic for the future."
We are pleased to say Chris has now set up on his own as a designer-maker. His company Heliconia, is based near Tower Bridge in London. Chris’s attention to detail, creativity, and self motivation, combined with his IT and retail background puts him in a perfect position to have a successful business. We wish him well.
Before joining us James worked for a number accountancy firms. James quickly worked his way through all the set projects, successfully making them to a high standard. James’ exceptional dedication, focus and speed, meant that he produced a massive array of projects over his 40 weeks with us.
Projects included a dovetail box, a Walnut occasional table, an Ash bookcase, a Walnut sculpted carver chair and a selection of smaller items. James’ major piece was a piece he entitled ‘The Funk Soul Cabinet’. This piece combined contrasting stunning Rosewood veneer with a stark white high gloss finish.
James always kept himself busy, constantly having a few projects on the go, with smaller projects running in parallel to his bigger projects. Another of James’ particularly successful projects was his ‘Moose’ coat hook, designed for his £50 project.
Before joining us Helen had a varied career but had always enjoyed DIY. She eventually found herself working in New Zealand for an inspirational carpenter and joiner and loved the furniture/bench joinery projects she was involved in. To progress and hone these skills she then joined us on our full time course.
“I love working with wood, it can be so organic and at the same time very exacting. I feel so lucky to have spent the last year in an environment with so much enthusiasm, experience and expertise. Andrew, Jim, Justin and Jane are encyclopaedic in their knowledge and are so patient. I wish I could stay!
I feel inspired. I can now make furniture! I never thought I would be able to design and I now have good design ideas"
Alexander joined us from Pretoria in South Africa for a six week course to learn veneering and parquetry techniques. During this period Alexander says he gained a wealth of knowledge, learning an array of practical skills and techniques, to take back to his own furniture business in South Africa. He felt one real bonus of doing a course at Williams & Cleal’s furniture school was being able to work in a commercially run workshop where “real life” commissions are being worked on.
"Under the highly professional guidance of James Ralph a lot of my techniques were corrected or improved upon. James’ wide experience and excellent skill level was clearly evident from his capability to patiently answer any constructional questions his students confront him with.
With Jane Cleal we had interesting discussions and lectures about various topics such as designing, guidelines for exhibiting your furniture, construction of complex designs, marketing your business, to name but a few. The real bonus of doing a course at Williams & Cleal’s furniture school is being able to work in a commercially run workshop where “real life” commissions are being worked on.
Williams and Cleal feel like my foster parents now and are a very valuable future contact in taking my business to the next level of expertise".
Ben was a teacher in Bath, where he was head of Design and Technology, having studied Product Design and Manufacture at Loughborough University. Ben is now in the process of realising his dream of setting up a woodwork project that would provide vocational training for Tanzanians, and he is hoping his course will develop his woodworking skills and knowledge of the furniture industry. Ben originally attended our one week introduction and enjoyed it so much he subsequently returned to do a 3 month bespoke course.
"I would recommend a course with Williams and Cleal to anyone who knows they enjoy learning by making. The support I received was excellent at every stage of the course and the fun conversations and therapeutic focus of the projects has been well worth it".
Derrick formerly worked as an economist, before joining us on a 40 week course, allowing him to follow his passion to design and make beautiful furniture. Derrick made a whole variety of pieces whilst on the course, including an Oak dovetail box, a tool chest, a Yew and Wedge low coffee table, an Elm arm chair and a ‘Greene & Greene’ inspired Walnut end table.
Derrick’s passion and enthusiasm for woodwork and tools was very contagious, he always had endless ideas for new projects. Derrick’s focus and speed allowed him to cover a wide range of skills and techniques, and create a large portfolio of pieces.
Derrick stayed on with us for a number of months after his course had ended, renting bench space, allowing him to investigate new ideas, and make commissions for prospective clients.
Derrick's Facebook page
Previously an Architectural Technologist working for the internationally renowned architectural practice, Broadway Malyan, Andrew studied an HND in 'Furniture Studies' at Bucks College. Andrew then joined us for 3 months on a bespoke course to further hone his skills, develop his commercial awareness and build upon his portfolio before finding himself a potential employer.
This I can safely say he achieved, as he now works for Williams and Cleal as an extremely talented craftman, making commissioned 'one-off ' pieces of furniture. As part of the team he is also on hand to help current students as required.
"My 3 month bespoke course allowed me to continue directly from where I left off at college, taking my work to the next level, in a commercial workshop environment. I learnt lots from watching Justin and Jim working on commissions, which gave me something to aspire too!”"
Asmau Musa Wada
Asmau joined us from Nigeria for three weeks . She is setting up a company designing and making beds and required a bespoke course to meet her needs. She wanted an overview on the making processes and machines needed to set up a medium scale production workshop.
"We visited a range of large workshops and a factory which used CNC machines. Now I know about different types of wood and how the beds will be made. I've been designing a range of beds and I have a list of the machines I need. It's been a very worthwhile three weeks.”"