In the latest edition of our Meet The Maker series, we meet Alice Blogg.
Alice is a furniture maker and designer who champions locally sourced materials and the use of the highest quality tools. We meet her at the LSI (Literary and Scientific Institute) in Bridport, where she has just installed a commissioned seating area in the building.
What was the project for the LSI building?
The LSI is local to my workshop and I was lucky to be asked to design and make a bench and some coffee tables. Although, the tables are dual purpose and can be used as stools also. It was quite a free brief in many ways. I wanted to add colour to the space, to make it warm, but also to keep its primary function intact. It can be positioned anywhere in the space and can be sat on either side by however many people.
I like to use locally sourced or native timbers as much as possible. The Ash for the stools comes from the woodland a minute’s walk from my workshop. The guy who planted the tree thirty five years ago was the same guy who cut the tree down. It went from a felled tree to turned stools in two weeks.
The pieces I used for the bench are from English Oak. I played with the tannin content of the oak to create a gradient of colours. I used a mixture of chemicals to manipulate the tannins to create each of the eight colours. I’m really pleased with how it’s all come together.
What made you become a woodworker?
I never really wanted to be a woodworker, it just wasn’t part of my plan. I finished a degree in 3D Design and for a short period, I worked in design in London. But, I soon realised, it wasn’t what I necessarily wanted to do or where I wanted to be. The woodworking was born out of the need to do something with my hands. I moved back to Dorset and started working for a joiner, and in the evenings I would make furniture. I knew I definitely wanted to work within design still, and I soon realised furniture making could satisfy my need to design and make things with my hands. So, I ended up setting up my own furniture design business, that was over eight years ago now.
Do you prefer being the designer or the maker?
There are lots of different stages of my work. I love the development with the customer. From talking through the ideas to the design and, ultimately, the making.
I like playing with the materials in order to produce something. At the beginning of the client relationship, you’ve got to play, whether that’s playing in the workshop with materials and colours, or on my sketchpad or computer. That exploratory part is really nice. But, I love the making part too, taking the piece all the way to fruition.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve always got about 30 projects going on in my head. However, I’m just finishing a series of bird boxes. I was selected to make them for an arts development company in North Dorset. Again, they’re made from British woods, sourced locally from my workshop. They’re quite decorative and playful which is something I’m really enjoying. I’d like to incorporate that playfulness into my work in the future.
Do you prefer using hand tools or machines?
It’s a bit like saying, do I prefer to design on my computer or in my sketchbook? I think, for me, it’s an amalgamation of everything together. Sometimes I can create something better by hand and it becomes something quite beautiful. Other times, I think I might as well use a machine because it’s just so much quicker. Using a combination of them both works best for me.
What inspires you?
My inspiration comes from many places. I think because I never set out to become a furniture maker, I’m not really inspired by other furniture makers. Being in the countryside allows my brain to be free to realise my designs. But, I’d also say my visits to different cities inspire me culturally and get me to think about more than what’s on my doorstep.
There are many artists and people who inspire me. When I was living in London I did some work with Elena, from Decor Arts. She said that all she wanted was her own business and by the time she was 28, she’d achieved that. When I was 28 I started my own business, So, I wrote her a little card thanking her for her inspiration. Recently, I went up to see her for some guiding work and she said; ‘hello, you’re the girl who wrote me the card, so nice to see you.’ I spoke to her about her business and she just said it’s all about hard work isn’t it, and I think yes, it’s true.
I still remember what she told me when I first worked for her; “get up every morning, work every day, be enthused by what you are doing and work hard at it.” I think that was a very wise piece of information.
Do you have any advice for someone just starting out in woodwork?
Get up, get on with it, stop talking about it, like we all do these days, and literally, just work. You’ll get somewhere.