The Wish List teams gear up for 'making week' by David Venables
This time I found my way to Benchmark Furniture without getting lost! As I parked the car and stepped out I had a strong sense of excitement and anticipation. It is an amazing company, positioned in a unique location and run by Sean Sutcliffe, one of the most interesting, knowledgeable and charismatic furniture makers I have ever come across in my 30 years in the wood business. Benchmark Furniture is the perfect partner for one of the most intriguing and ambitious projects we have ever taken on. I entered the showroom and office, an engaging space created from a barn conversion, to be told that the designers taking part in The Wish List LDF project were already on a tour of the workshop. By the time I caught up with them they were huddled in group with Sean at the centre talking timber and giving them an insight as to what will be involved when they all come back on the 30th June for “making week”. As I approached the group Sean was asking, “Who has workshop and wood making experience?” One hand shot up confidently, two more were tentatively raised and the rest remained firmly by their sides. Sean grinned, “Good, then it looks as if we will all be on a learning curve.” ‘The Wish List – What I have always wanted is…’ has not only engaged the interest of 10 design legends, who have commissioned something personal. It is also giving an extraordinary opportunity to a group of emerging talented designers, who will not only develop the designs but actually come and make their pieces under the watchful eye and guidance of Benchmark’s master craftsmen, some of whom have a mere 40 years’ experience to draw on!
The rest of the day was given over to individual discussions with each designer, led by Sean Sutcliffe and Peter Lowe from Benchmark. Tables were covered with drawings and models, there was lots of pointing, hunched shoulders, chewing pencils and focused minds. These discussions are a critical point any project when the designers get to test their ideas to ensure they will work and that they can be practically made. At one point Sean gathered everyone around for an impromptu lesson on how timber behaves when exposed to moisture and how it will interact with other materials, an important consideration for a number of the pieces. After hours of frowning and furrowed brows, the smiles began to appear and the designers left after a long day, most with a spring in their step and an air of confidence that when they return to Benchmark in early July they will each be ready to create their own masterpiece for a very important client.