November 25, 2015

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What a tremendous idea, publishing a journal to bring together the elements of the Scottish Hardwood Industry

What a tremendous idea, publishing a journal to bring together the elements of the Scottish Hardwood Industry; FCS, ASHS, SFMA and SWW. From small acorns, great oak trees grow. Mind you acorns require simply the right weather, soil and protection from wild beasts to ensure they turn into fully fledged trees. Huge credit goes to Steve McLean and his team in publishing this first journal.

The Scottish Hardwood industry feels like it is a niche market, which needs gentle tending, great faith that there is something worth striving to develop and a commitment to making it happen when the going gets tough. All members of the Scottish Furniture Makers Association depend on their ability to find buyers for what they make at the price they ask using the materials of their choice. This endeavour depends entirely on their partnerships; suppliers, the quality of their work and the things they make. So a journal which makes them feel part of a community, which enables experiences to be shared and perhaps gives some pointers along the way, can only be a good thing.

In the following pages you can read about Ross Samson, Gavin Robertson, Duke Christie and Angus Ross. All established in their business and doing very different work. Enjoy the articles and don’t be shy about contacting them, they will be very happy to share their experience in more depth; I’m sure a social pint wouldn’t go amiss if you happen to be in their area.

Working together is an underlying theme for SFMA this year. New members, new ideas and the concept of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. We have some collaborative projects starting which we have a chance of realising with your input.


SFMA had its AGM at the end of January, in a room hosted by the Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden. Thank you to Ian Edwards for letting us use this top quality space. We covered a lot of ground that afternoon and now welcome onto the committee five new people: Andrew Harvey, Tom Percival, Colin Semple, Max McCance and Euan MacKinnon and one returnee Ross Samson who takes up his role as treasurer. We have retained Dave Powell as secretary, Ali Easton, Chris Scotland, Alan Dalgety and myself as chair, with another year to serve.

Our outline plan for the next three years includes this journal, and a website refresh, plus a continuing presence at exhibitions and our own show. The journal is a starting point for ASHS and SFMA to do something together and we are optimistic as to what it could become. The ASHS trip to Italy has sparked some ideas about the Scottish furniture industry and what it would take to start a fully Scottish branded furniture product, marketed under the Scottish Working Woods label and attractive to consumers.

The annual exhibition last year at the John Hope Gateway gallery initiated a new project, which is starting to take shape. The timber felled in the Botanics by the great hurricane of January 3rd 2012 has been stacked safely for use in something more ambitious than firewood. These were trees planted during the last move to the Inverleith site in the late 19th century. The list includes much oak, some elm, birch, hickory, cedar and much pine. FCS is supporting the milling financially, which takes place in early March. I’m writing this before this happens and I expect some photos to be posted on facebook by the time this is published.

When we did this last time with the Edinburgh elms, the pictures at the milling yard showed a very happy group of makers in what looks like their natural playground. Opening logs to see just what is inside is always exciting. ‘After the Storm’ is the project’s name and we are working with the Botanics to get it underway. Watch this space.

Our members’ survey pointed very clearly to a desire for support in business growth and to share knowledge. The discussion pointed out some easy wins which Michaela followed up with a New Battle Abbey workshops visit on Friday 27th February. Photos are on our Facebook showing what happened and what you could see. Colin Semple now has the brief for members and is developing some ideas to improve our member involvement. Ali has started a google groups chat network which will enable us to connect far better than we have. If you have been a members of a yahoo group, it is similar but better.

There is also business support available from members - nothing formal. In my experience of speaking to our members, it is clear there are many ways for a maker to earn a living, doing what you want in the place of your choice. So, one way to find out is to look though our website and find a member who seems to be doing something successfully and call them up; ask some questions. What is the worst that could happen? Men and maps I here a few of you say.

SFMA have two stands at the Glasgow Arts Fair from 24th to 26th April. This is an inaugural venture in the old Fruitmarket in the merchant city. GM Events ltd are running it and if it is anything like their Aberdeen Arts fair it will be a huge success. Gerry is very exhibitor focussed and wants it to be a success for you. Seeing 3D furniture amongst a room full of 2D pictures works very well. FCS are supporting us here and we are publicising the event through H&I Scotland and Artmag. Keep an eye on our Facebook site and these publications on the news stand.

Six members have signed up for Aberdeen Arts Fair again this year, 4th - 6th September in the Music Hall on Union Street. We also hope our annual exhibition is in Glasgow this year. No venue secured yet but Ross Samson and Alan Dalgety are working on it.

I am sure there will be more. I hope it is a good year for all of our members.



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