Happy New Year to you all! And to kick off the blog posts for 2017, I thought I would write about one of my personal role models; perhaps the reason I decided to pursue a career in wood.

As someone who has an interest in the whole design spectrum: graphics to textiles, interiors to architecture, programs like Grand Designs and Amazing Spaces always grab my attention when I am flicking through channels, or scrolling through iPlayer. In 2014, I caught an episode of fellow Northerner, George Clarkson’s Amazing Spaces. This particular episode featured Sophie Heron, a 22 year-old, aspiring woodworker, who was in the process of renovating her own camper van with handcrafted, wooden details. I suppose it was the first time I had ever seen a fellow young female showing an interest in making things out of wood, and having the initiative to learn by doing.

A few years down the line, and I am studying furniture design and making at Rycotewood Furniture Centre in Oxford- a lot further away from home than I would have ever thought- and beginning to carve out my own career in the craft industry. It is very much possible that having seen Sophie Heron on the TV that evening, and the opportunity to follow her business, Made by Herons (https://www.facebook.com/madebyherons/?fref=ts), through social media, has very much encouraged and influenced me in my own journey; thus demonstrating, how important it is for young women, who are wanting to enter this exciting world of wood, to have role models that they are able to relate to.

This Girl Makes approached Sophie Heron, to discuss how she came to have such affection for the craft of wood turning.

How did you get into wood turning?

I bought my first mini lathe after wanting to learn how to turn bowls. I was still working full time and the process was long and riddled with errors; my tools were blunt, my lathe had to be nailed down so it didn’t move on the worktop and I had a lot of failures- bowls flying off in every direction- but then I finished my first bowl and it was mind blowing that something so lovely could come from a scrap piece of wood, and I was hooked on the process.

What attracts you to working with wood?

Wood was quite simply the easiest material for me to obtain when I started out. It wasn’t until later that I loved it for it’s incredible graining and patterns, varieties of timbers and the possibilities of how it could be utilised. I live in the middle of the countryside so wood was everywhere, free, and often it meant I was saving it from somebody’s fire or a rubbish bin.

Can you remember the first thing you made on a lathe?

The first thing I made was a bowl in cherry. It had a hole through the middle because I didn’t know how to mount it to the lathe and all the grain was torn out, I thought it was the best thing I’d ever made!

What attracts you to this process?

The whole process of turning is so messy and nerve wracking and yet the most beautiful, serene pieces can be made on a lathe. I suppose that juxtaposition is what attracted me in the first place.

Is there anything you find difficult?

It’s one of few crafts where relatively good pieces of work can be made with little skill if you have sharp tools. I turned a bowl in a couple of days but it took me a year to learn how to sharpen my tools properly and the importance of keeping them sharp throughout the process to produce a good finish.

Do you think turning is seen as more of a male dominated craft?

I think it’s quite a self promoting craft through the pieces that it creates and will grow in its own time as more people become aware of its capabilities. I’m sure there are more men who currently turn; near me it’s mostly all the old boys who’ve been doing it for years, but these are the people who have helped, encouraged and inspired me to get started. Like a lot of things there’s a new generation of younger turners who are just staring out and I’m sure a lot of them are women.