Graduate furniture designers Jack-Victor Westerdale and Ivon Haywood are launching their first ever furniture range at the Weavers Factory from Saturday 6th September.
The two young designers met on the ‘Furniture Design and Make’ course at Oxford and became best friends. After college they decided to start their own woodwork business and moved north to Ivon’s hometown of Littleborough in Rochdale to set up a workshop.
Two years on they’re launching their first ever furniture range and instead of doing it in London they’re launching it in Saddleworth!
Jack and Ivon’s exhibition “Measure Twice, Cut Once” at the Weavers Factory will offer a unique opportunity to purchase prototypes from their furniture range before they go on sale to the general public.
The Saddleworth Independent met Jack and Ivon and asked them what it’s like being artisan makers in a world full of throwaway furniture…
In this cheap consumer society I decided it would be a real challenge to study an age-old trade like carpentry. So I choose furniture design because I also love working with timber; it’s such a lovely material and each piece has its own history.
At college I realised that studying an artisan vocation doesn’t mean you can take as much time as you want. My favourite degree piece wasn’t seen by anyone because I didn’t finish it in time – if you’re going to be a reputable furniture designer you need to meet your deadlines.
Later on, on my last day of college, Ivon inviting me to start a woodwork business with him. It was an out-of-the-blue moment and he just said ‘I’ve got a workshop up north if you’re interested?’ so I bought a train ticket from London and here I am.
As a Londoner I found living in the north quite an adjustment. The pace is very different and there’s a lot more amiability. People seem to work slower but at least they always ring you back.
Although Ivon and I work independently on different projects, it’s vital to have someone there to bounce ideas off. Ivon brings me up when I’m doubting myself and puts me down when I become to over-ambitious – he’s a great leveller. Plus he’s stronger than me so he can lift up all the big pieces of wood!
I really hope people like my furniture designs at the Weavers Factory, I want people to understand that there are still craftspeople out there making things in a traditional and old-fashioned way that won’t break the bank.
I come from a long line of makers; I vividly remember my Grandfather tinkering away in his shed – that unique smell of timber was the one sensation that stayed with me and fuelled my desire to work with wood.
When I was 16 I left Rochdale and moved south to study furniture design. There I was, the northern country-bumpkin, commuting from Rochdale to Oxford every week and renting a room with a 64-year-old woman called Eileen. The south was like nothing I’d ever seen, there were posh people everywhere and people from all over the world too – I’d never seen anything like it.
I wasn’t like other students at Oxford, I worked in a bar to support myself and partied a lot, but I kept my head down and worked really hard. I met Jack early on but we didn’t discuss the idea of working together until the last few days of college.
Neither of us wanted to work for big companies so I just thought ‘Let’s just do it ourselves’. So we moved up to Littleborough where my parents owned an old factory, and started our own business. I was too nervous to do it on my own, so having Jack made a real difference.
Sharing a studio with him is really easy. If you’re spending every day with someone it’s bound to be challenging, but we rarely disagree and often we heavily influence each other’s work. Jack helps me out when I’m trying to design something and I help him with practical elements.
People might think that woodworking is a down-to-earth trade, but for me it’s very emotional. To make and design something that someone will own and love is a real responsibility, so on the few days where we just drink coffee and laugh, it’s quite a relief!
I’m hoping people will see my work as challenging, it’s not your average furniture. I don’t want to design anything that you’ve seen before, I want to invent new shapes, new techniques, new forms. I put a lot of effort into the sensitive side and subtle details of design and if people notice that I’ll be very chuffed.
“Measure Twice, Cut Once” opens at the Weavers Factory in Uppermill on Saturday September 7th and runs until Sunday 29th September. 10am to 4pm, Tuesday to Sunday.