Fine Crafted Wood Exhibitions
Since 2006 the New Forest Trust has organised an Exhibition of furniture made by Designer/Craftsmen at the New Forest Show. We do this because we believe Conservation of the New Forest is more certain and sustainable if timber from the Forest continues to be used to make useful things because this ensures resources return to the Forest to pay for it.
Beautiful wood made into beautiful things. We want to show the world what is being achieved by Professionals, non-Professionals and those learning to make things from wood. Professionals are invited to exhibit pieces that demonstrate their styles, design and craftsmanship.
2017 Results from judging on 24th July 2017 at the New Forest Show
Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers – Best Design
First: Mark Skelton
Second: Joshua Milton
Third: Avian Evans-White
Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers – Best Craftsmanship
First: Joshua Milton
Second: Mark Skelton
Third: Avian Evans-White
People’s Choice Winners
First: Mark Ripley
Second: Edd Lewis
Third: Nicola Henshaw
James Otter, Otter Surfboards
Best Trainee and People’s Choice 2009
Choice awards was a young designer-maker named James Otter. James was a student at the University of Plymouth on the verge of graduating, and his steam bent brown oak furniture greatly impressed both the judges and the public. James had been exploring making furniture using the techniques and materials used to make hollow wooden surfboards (which in themselves are inspired by traditional canoe-making), and since winning the award and graduating he has focused on wooden surfboards, going on to build a successful business and establish himself as one of the top wooden surfboard makers in the world.
Otter’s interest in wooden surfboards grew from a dissatisfaction with the toxic and unsustainable material choices available within the surfboard industry; it was at that time very difficult to get a custom surfboard that was anything other than polyurethane foam, polyester resin and fiberglass. Whilst there are now more options available, more environmentally considerate surfboards still make up just a small percentage of the market. Otter had a desire to explore the use of local, less toxic and longer lasting materials, and had the design and making skills to allow him to do so.
Following graduating from Plymouth, James moved to St Agnes on the Cornish coast. He worked for Andrew Trotman of Timberwright Ltd on various timber-frame building projects around the country whilst developing and perfecting his construction methods for hollow, skin and frame wooden surfboards in his spare time. Wooden surfboards were, at this time, a passion and a hobby for James; they are a niche product and an expensive one in comparison to standard foam and fiberglass surfboards, much like a classic car or bespoke suit. But people started to notice his unique surfboards, and interest started to grow. Soon enough, surfers were starting to order James’ surfboards, and Otter Surfboards became a business. One of these orders came with a slightly unusual request; a local surfer asked James if he could make the surfboard with him, coming to the workshop once a week after work to help James and watch his new surfboard slowly come to life. Initially, James was wary of sharing the knowledge and techniques that he’d spent so long acquiring, however he agreed and soon realised that there was far more to be gained from sharing the experience than keeping it to himself. With a move to a large workshop that had enough space to have three surfboards in production at any one time, Otter Surfboards began offering five-day “Make-Your-Own” courses as well as wooden surfboards made by James, sharing the experience and reconnecting people with the act of making something with their own two hands. The offcuts from Otter Surfboard’s workshop are used to produce other wave-riding craft – traditional wooden bellyboards and small handplanes that are used when bodysurfing (swimming into waves without a surfboard) – and shavings are collected for packaging protection. Their workshop is heated by a wood-burning stove which sees to the rest of the waste wood, whilst power comes from an on-site wind turbine and array of solar panels, meaning that the Otter Surfboards operation is about as low impact as they can make it; western red cedar and poplar are sourced from woodlands in the south west and south of the UK, hardwood strips come from the offcuts bin of a local kitchen worktop manufacturer, and the surfboards are laminated using fiberglass and an epoxy bio-resin to ensure that they last as long as possible – just how long, they have yet to find out.
Winning the New Forest Trust’s Best Trainee and People’s Choice awards provided James with Axminster Tools vouchers to the value of £1800, allowing him to purchase essential machinery to set up a workshop. That machinery is still in use today, and will be for many more years, cutting and planing the timber to be used in beautiful surfboards that will bring their owners a great deal of pleasure, both in and out of the water.
Our New Forest Pavilion again gave us a great place to display our furniture and around 18,000 visitors came into the Exhibition including the Countess of Wessex. There were exhibits from sixteen entries to the Trainee Furniture competitions and it was pleasing to have six of the Professional exhibitors who had in previous years come as Trainees. The Christchurch Wood Turners were very busy around their display and a local woodworker Darren Wheeler successfully demonstrated his remarkable pieces..
The Competition winners were:
Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers – Best Design 2016
First: Avian Evans-White
Second: Timothy Burns
Third: Oscar Winter