Hello and Welcome to Jes Hooper’s Monthly Maker: The place to discover artistic innovators and creative entrepreneurs! Every first Monday of the month I introduce a new artist to my website blog to share their craft, inspirations, and aspirations. Why? To showcase the talented small business’ who are paving the way to success in our creative communities.
This month I am very excited to share with you the works of Joseph Burton who runs his own handcrafted business “Robertson Cheney”. Joseph first caught my eye on etsy as I was browsing through the various woodworkers there. Josephs work instantly struck a chord with me as he, in my opinion, is effectively bridging traditional woodcraft with contemporary art. His products are made using reclaimed timbers, which is also a medium close to my heart, and he creates strikingly beautiful designs using geometric shapes and clean lines. Simple, yet strangely complex, Joseph’s work is certainly not to be missed. Here is what he had to say when I spoke to him about his creative business for this months Monthly Maker:
What first inspired you to work with wood over other art forms?
I think that the thing with wood is that it does most of the work for you. Sometimes It can be so naturally beautiful, that the work that you actually need to do with it can be very little. I don’t think there are any other art forms that I can think of that are like that. A dance, a picture or a song all have to be created entirely from an idea. Wood work is a kind of collaboration with something that nature has already made.
What is it about your chosen medium of reclaimed timber that appeals to you the most?
Reclaimed wood has already got some sort of story behind it, wherever it comes from. For instance, I had this old door delivered to me that was so beaten and battered that the owners felt they needed to replace it. What was so special about this door was that it was at least a hundred years old. Think of all that history that it has witnessed. I made that door into a table and I hope it will continue to be in peoples lives for years to come in that form.
What are the main influences behind your artwork?
I want to create pieces that I haven’t seen or experienced before and so the inspiration can come from anywhere. If I see somebody has a really interesting pattern on a carpet or on a jumper, I’ve got to take a photo of it and study it when I get to the workshop. I create a lot of Navajo patterns and geometric patterns that way.
Are you self taught or did you study your craft?
Woodworking is a bit of a family trade and I learnt a lot from my dad, who is one of those people that is naturally talented when it comes to woodwork and just generally being creative. I’ve always found what he does really interesting and inspiring. In my teens and twenties I went between working in bars and labouring on building sites for a few years, but eventually found my way to a joinery workshop where I worked for a friend.
What first drew you towards the creative industries?
I consider myself incredibly lucky that I come from a background where creativity has always been encouraged and it has been valued. My family is full of creative people who do anything from music or cooking or fashion and they’ve all given me the confidence to be brave enough to do my own art. So as a result, I think there’s an element of inevitability that I would end up in a creative industry.
What is your favourite and least favourite aspects of your creative process?
I love coming up with new designs and design proposals for customers. But when I send those off to my customers, I feel sick – I worry that I’ve got it all wrong or it’s not going to be good enough. Anybody that is creative probably goes through that in some way or another. Most of the time though, it’s normally a few tweeks to get the design just right and then we move onto the next stage of the project. Once the project is moving, I love the point where I’m putting the oil finish onto the piece. The oil onto brings out all of the colours and natural patterns and it’s a bit like bringing a picture into focus and seeing it properly for the first time. I always get excited at that point and it never gets boring.
Please describe your workspace, do you work from home, do you share your studio with other artists?
I’m based in a joinery workshop that is in the outskirts of a village in Leicestershire. There’s a ground floor with most of the machines and then a mezzanine floor were I do most of my work. I get a lot of my reclaimed wood from the local area, which keeps a nice connection to the local surroundings. I also get off cuts from other joiners and carpenters that really keeps the wood store stocked with an interesting selection of timber.
When creating your studio what were most important aspects of the space to consider?
As I moved into something that was already existing it was more figuring out how I can work with another joiner without getting in each others way. We discuss our plans for the week and figure who needs to be in what area and what machines each day.
If you could name one thing, what has been the biggest highlight so far?
I didn’t know at the time of making it, but I made a large study desk for the artist/tattoo artist Emily Blackheart. It wasn’t until right at the end of the project when she came and picked it up that the penny dropped for me. She was really nice to meet and loved what I had made for her and I just feel it’s an honour to have such a talented person own something that I have created.
What would your advice be for someone who wants to turn their art into a creative business?
I think it’s important to really plan it out but to also be brave enough in the end to do it. I got funding from the princes’ trust and they really helped me with my business plan and I still meet with a business mentor from the trust every month. Without the proper planning that they helped me to do, I don’t think I would be able to do it. So plan, research and get whatever help that you can.
What is next in the pipeline for 2017?
2017 is looking really exciting – I’ve just agreed to be stocked by a number of independent outlets across the UK and I will be announcing more on that in the coming weeks. I’ve also got a whole new collection of items that are coming to my online shop next month and in conjunction with that, my instagram and facebook followers will get discount codes to use all year when this happens. So make sure you give me a follow and you’ll get access to all of this.
Well you hear the man! Head on over to his online homes to see what he’s been up to and to get your exclusive discounts codes!
You can find Joseph here:
Website: www. robertsoncheney.com
Huge thank you to Jospeh for taking part, it was an absolute pleasure learning about your craftsmanship.
Next Month I will be introducing another creative entrepreneur with beautiful eye for detail and a penchant for up and coming colour palettes. I’ll be speaking with Brighton based florist Alex Barton, founder of Webb & Farrer. Alex and I have a funny story as we recently re-connected at a wedding fair where we were both trading, after having lost touch since leaving school. I am really looking forward to introducing Alex to you, particularly as we hope to be working alongside each other during next years wedding fair season!
Check back on Monday 5th June to read all about Webb & Farrer, or sign up to my mailing list at the bottom of the page to get an email notification when I blog!