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  • Zapotec Cabinet Detailing, 2016. Photo: Charles Dedman

Charles Dedman

We talk to maker Charles Dedman about his work, his inspirations and Hothouse

As applications are live for Hothouse 2017 we talk to Charles Dedman who has just completed the six-month programme.

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Tell us a bit about your work

I’m a furniture designer-maker, I work independently and collaboratively with the UK’s finest makers on bespoke and production pieces which champion British craftsmanship and sustainability. The resulting pieces have a contemporary feel but I work with traditional and modern tooling alike. 

Who or what are your inspirations?

I try to take inspiration from as many sources as possible, from my rural Hampshire surroundings, to the makers I browse through on my phone at lunch, to the craftsmen I share a workshop with. 

For me to really get into the mindset to create, even on a computer, I must immerse myself in the raw material. There’s nowhere better than my workshop on the South Coast which has no internet connection or phone signal. I feel responsible for the pieces I create, every decision from build-quality to timber selection and workshop emissions is scrutinised against the values of the company. 

And of course I’m inspired by my talented 12-person Hothouse cohort (see below), who were inspiring in every session. We collectively supported each other with experience and gave confidence about where we were heading

Hothouse 2016 Southwest cohort

Why did you apply to Hothouse in 2016?

I promptly applied after my brother Joshua interviewed previous Hothouse participant Tortie Hoare for his masters dissertation. Tortie couldn’t have spoken more highly about Hothouse and feels her current success is, in part, due to the programme. 

On application I’d been working independently for six months with mixed success, having finished a two year diploma in cabinet making and a degree in design. It was evident that despite my education I still wasn’t prepared for life as an independent designer-maker. 

What was the most valuable thing you took from the Hothouse programme?

The most valuable thing I got from the Hothouse programme was clear direction and the confidence to take it.

It’s much more than the business, social media and marketing tools which can all be learned online. You learn about the industry and where you can fit into it. After all once the six-month programme ends it’s you who decides what to pick up and run with.

In what ways has Hothouse helped your business?

It’s made me realise that I am the business - which is an extension of my work. It’s been great to refine my company values and then project them back into my work and online PR and press.

At the start of the programme I had just started a full-time design job and outsourced my Turner Carver chair to a British manufacturer for batch production. The truth is that I felt a bit of a fraud for the first half of the programme - my peers had designed and crafted all their pots, tables and jewellery themselves. I had a preconceived idea of what it is to be a designer-maker in the UK, which has now changed. 

Turner Range Overview. Photo: Charles Dedman

Hothouse showed me the benefits of working collaboratively on my furniture, how outsourcing could free up precious time to work on new pieces and that my company could provide jobs and exposure to local crafts people. Essentially there are no two identical companies in the craft sector. 

I also learned how to be much more effective with social media and now even the mundane bookkeeping and time-keeping is less of a burden. 

Describe Hothouse in three words?

Supportive, applicable and flexible.

Who should apply to Hothouse and what would your top tip to them be?

Anyone who has a real desire to understand and progress in the craft industry should apply for Hothouse

My top tip is to make sure that you are in a position to apply what you learn on the scheme as it goes along. You’ll leave each session buzzing and hopefully wiser but the only way to make the most of them is to apply what you’ve learned to your practice. Give yourself every opportunity to learn as much as possible while on the programme

What are you doing next?

2016 has already seen the launch of the Turner range at New Designers: One Year on, these are in production with renowned chair makers Sitting Firm and we’re in talks with retailers. 

Next I’m developing a high-end, low-production range of laser-cut marquetry cabinets. This ‘Zapotec Range’ explores what I call ‘craft-tech', where traditional techniques are updated with modern tooling. The original Zapotec Cabinet will be exhibited at London Design Festival 2016 in the mint gallery

Most exciting of all my Hothouse south cohort are putting on ‘Collective: A Maker’s Exhibition’, a self-funded, branded and curated showcase of the work that was curated during Hothouse. It’s great to extend our journey and put into practice the advice taught during the programme.

Applications are now open for Hothouse 2017.

Find out more about Charles

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