Interview - Alex Ward image

January 31, 2021

Members Interviews

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I am Alex Ward, the man behind Shetland Fine Craft. I’m a designer/maker of bespoke, contemporary and traditional fine furniture, using predominantly hand tools from my purpose built workshop on the beautiful Shetland Isles.

My interest in woodwork began at the early age of 5, practicing cutting joints in the garden on my father’s workmate. This developed to a point where at 13 years old I bought myself a lathe and a planer/thicknesser with money earned from grass cutting and my father generously gave up part of his shed to accommodate my ever growing collection of tools and timber. I taught myself to turn and sold the results of my labour locally. This was of no great surprise to my family as in generations past there were 3 French Polishers, a wood turner, a cabinetmaker and organ maker and a wooden ladder maker-so obviously working with wood must have been in my blood.

Now, with over 35 years experience in cabinet making and a BA(hons) degree in Furniture Design and Craftsmanship from Brunel University, a commendation in cabinet making from the late Alan Peters OBE, and awards of distinctions in advanced cabinet making, chair making and traditional polishing, I produce fine furniture that has sold all over the UK and beyond.

All the timber I use is carefully selected from trusted sources sometimes travelling great distances to sawmills, large and small, across Scotland and the rest of the UK, to find the right timber. Careful attention is given to the variation in wood grain and colour to create harmony in a piece of furniture, sometimes seeking out highly figured pieces of wood to give the greatest impact. The timber is either FSC accredited or from windblown or damaged trees from country estates enabling me to identify trees origin in many cases.

As well as making furniture I have been making Windsor chairs for over 25 years, and am the most northerly professional Windsor chair maker in the UK. I still use the same traditional hand skills and techniques that the original Windsor chair makers did over 300 years ago. Each chair seat is hand shaped, using travishers and spokeshaves, out of one piece of Scottish Elm. When heavily sculpted this reveals an inviting, rich, continuous grain pattern that is not achievable is the seat was made from jointed planks.

As well as chairs and furniture, with help from the Heritage Craft Association I have recently started making 17th and 18th Century wooden moulding planes. Not only for my own use but to supply other cabinetmakers.

You can be rest assured that whether it’s a new piece of furniture or a commission, that is traditional or contemporary, rustic or minimalist I have used the same time honoured methods and high quality materials and your new piece of furniture will have receive the highest care and attention to detail.

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