If you were to read Bespoke, a book published in 2008 about British Furniture Designer Makers, you would find that one in every ten designer makers featured has been trained in their woodworking skills by David Savage.
David has been teaching creative individuals furniture design since 1984. This is not accounting for the hundreds of other less high profile makers that he trained who are currently thriving in small and large woodworking workshops all over the world – becoming shop fitters, kitchen fitters, french polishers, antique restorers, and joiners.
Rowden Atelier furniture making school encompasses the culmination of David’s lifelong career in fine furniture making. Today, students from around the world visit to transform their skills on a 12-month furniture design course.
Though David is now largely retired, he still comes to the workshops to mentor students. His teaching methods and ethos developed from the Arts and Craft Movement all remain vibrant at Rowden, and set us apart from other schools. Most of the staff at Rowden were directly trained by David and actively seek to maintain his ideas and methods.
Right now, there is a revolution in woodworking courses created by the closure of many state-run colleges. Our workshop has led the way and been the model for many of the private furniture making courses available to you today. Rowden Atelier is recognised as a Centre of Woodworking Excellence that produces exceptional furniture and trains exceptional woodworkers. You could be one of them.
We are proud of the creative work we do here at Rowden and believe that we can all become more creative and enjoy that process. Beginning to learn to draw, building a personal visual database of images that will feed your personal style – all of this we are experienced in teaching. But if you are not confident you can do that, worry not. In the second six months, we can assess the situation and provide designs for you to make. These will be cabinets, tables or chairs that we have made for clients that you can adapt and modify. The design work will have been done so you don’t have to worry about it.
LOTS OF PEOPLE CAN TEACH YOU TO MAKE, WHAT THEY CANNOT DO IS HELP WITH THE NEXT STEP
Making something worthwhile and turning a penny doing it. We have been doing this in this workshop for OVER THIRTY FIVE YEARS. That experience, of making things on the edge, often things that didn’t work, that broke and twisted in the wind. That experience is here in this workshop and is available to you, every day.
MY EXPECTATIONS DID NOT EVEN COME CLOSE TO THE ACTUAL EXPERIENCE
I am thrilled with your course, only 5 weeks in and I am already doing things I never imagined I would be able to do! Especially with only HAND TOOLS! You have an amazing staff to say the least!
I am blown away with their ability to teach, a rare characteristic in my opinion, even more so is their passion to do so. I feel that they are able to accurately depict the philosophies and ideas mentioned in your website. My expectations did not even come close to the actual experience I have been given, and that is only in a short short time! I can only dream of what the next 11 months will bring! I am convinced my decision to study at Rowden Farm is the best one I have made to date! Thank you! Much appreciation and gratitude!
Are you the kind of personality that can take this on and make a go of it? Will you get on with the other people in the workshop and help when someone else needs a hand with a glue up? Do you have the kind of personality that is not easily defeated or deflated? Our long-term furniture design course is not about qualifications or prior experience, but it IS about attitude and personal qualities. Do you accept responsibility for your own mistakes or do you blame someone else? Can you deal with the uncertainty of designing something from within your own head? Are you OK with some risks? OK with that idea that may look great but may go wrong?
Learn from Jonathan Walter what figures you have to measure. CONTROL the risk. Work with him in confidence, one on one, to develop your Biz Plan. Learn how to reach your customers, understand that they need to know YOUR IDEALS and YOUR VALUES. They buy into WHY you do it, not just WHAT you do. More details here
Learn in a small tutor group with Jonathan on how to take your own journey a step forward.
Run by Ed Wild on a Wednesday evening. This is important and for everyone, looking hard seeing more, is what drawing gives us. It also gives us access to a creative process to a different WAY of thinking.
Now we have dedicated drawing studio we can practice life drawing. This is for everyone, its one of the more energising things we can do to fill our visual memory with images of the human form. David uses this, not as a class, but to develop his own work.
Essential skills, the language of what you do, become fluent in the language of wood. Your skills are a passion for excellence that your customer will admire and desire as something very special in a world of robot-driven perfection.
Gather confidence by doing it right, through the deep practice of key hand skills.
Learn the dodges and secret efficient methods of the real pro, and learn how YOU can function as an “improver” inside a professional workshop. Daren Millman is a skilled and experienced maker, doing it right in front of you making high-quality inspirational pieces.
Gain the experience needed to earn a job inside a top workshop as an “improver”. NO PROMISES, but we have a good reputation among the top workshops, around the world. In lots of cases, we know their “trade tests” and can prepare you for an interview.
“People from Rowden are trained to behave well in a professional workshop, they may be slow to start off but they get faster pretty soon.”
We have a growing number of alumni running successful workshops that have started as a discussion over a business plan with Jonathan Walter. We have a purpose built studio set up just for Rowden postgraduates. Here we help mentor the next crucial step “Taking it to Market.” Your business could be next.
We can introduce you to shared workshops where there are skilled makers that will rent out bench space. You need to be well trained to safely use these shared facilities so coming from Rowden is a great recommendation.
Stay on a work with us for a second year. Post graduate students provide valuable role models and experience within the workshop. Their focus is in developing new products that can be test marketed under our guidance and supervision.
Making is fine, we and many others could teach you that, what is harder is the next bit, making something worth making. We have been 35 years at the forefront of developmental furniture design. That knowledge is what makes us special, just ask the question… when you need it.
We go to a local timber supplier, during our last visit there was a tree felling display and students were invited to watch the process of stacking and drying timber. We go to exhibition each year, and have visiting designer makers. Recently we’ve had Barnaby from Waywood and Doug Williams from David Linley Furniture. In the planning is a visit from Christian O Reilly.
Hand skills and professional methods taught that will enable you get faster with experience. Bench time is premium time. We do all group teaching in tea breaks and lunch breaks or in the evening. YOUR Time is valuable, we enable you to get up to 60 hours a week consistent bench time. Many of our students do more.
Hard work is essential but you need the inspiration to carry you through. At Rowden you can see world class furniture being made around you in the same studio. See how we do it, up close and personal. Learn from our former students who are now setting up small businesses such as Young & Norgate , Bark Furniture, and James Duncan
“Like an Old Oxford College Tutorial, but for practical people. When the tutors examine your work – that is rigorous examination.” Phil Hodgeson (alumni 2011)
Bench rooms are open to students SEVEN DAYS A WEEK, early morning till late at night. There are restrictions, you have access out of hours as a privilege not a right; there are Health and Safety restrictions, but the aim is to enable you to access your bench when you want to work. We don’t break the course into terms with long expensive gaps between. Take a break when you need it. Bench time is golden time you must practice, practice, practice, to become good.
Our joy and challenge is dealing with demanding people wanting to squeeze the last drop of information out of their time here. Wanting to get six months information from a one month course. As sources of information we like to be squeezed, but we suggest that quality should be the aim whilst you are here. Take the time to get it right, rather than rushing to complete and moving to the next. Those that rush and blunder from project to project aiming to have all done faster never get the best out of Rowden, or themselves.
Between fourteen and eighteen full time students are here at any one time. Our full time staff are Daren Millman and Jon Greenwood, both skilled makers and very patient teachers. Ed Wild a national award winning furniture maker is here every other day whilst running his own furniture making business.
Jonathan Walters, from Bark Furniture, is here once a week teaching business skills, and comes in for another week every month . Rachel is in the office every other day and deals with toilet rolls and paying bills. David Savage is retired from work but still runs a design tutorial on Mondays for those developing their first designs.
We cannot always guarantee this, as people come and go, but we aim to give tuition comparable with the best. You share the studios with two or three more experienced former students renting space here to build their businesses, and there are usually one or two people on short courses. This ensures that when you need attention, you can get it. You may have to wait a few minutes, or even a little longer, but Daren or Ed or Jon or Jonathan will get round to you to offer advice and assistance on your personal project.
I regularly see Daren being pestered with questions during his lunch break and answering them calmly between mouthfuls of sandwich. It may be misleading to call these people “students.” Typically they are in their late twenties to early forties and come here as a change of career.
We also find many younger people are coming here rather than university, as some university courses are now so expensive and of unreliable quality. This is witnessed by several recent students coming here after a University degree course in Product Design, to learn skills they expected to learn at University.
Sooooo….. we are starting to get the hang of it. Between us we have over ONE HUNDRED YEARS EXPERIENCE in this business .
Quality is what we do, YOU will do it too, from day one. We will teach you all stages from choosing hand tools, to picking out wood, to developing your drawings, and building a portfolio of work. There are lots of workshop schools, courses, and magazines that are great for showing you an amateur way of getting a good result. An amateur has no excuse for poor work other than lack of understanding, the amateur has all day to get it right, the professional has not. They must do it right, first time, every day.
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