I’m sure I’m not the first to say that when you meet Alice Blogg, her enthusiasm and excitement is infectious. This week she visited Oxford to speak about her experiences as a young designer-maker, and afterwards I was filled with a desire to get up and get making!
Alice started her business six years ago, after studying a 3D course in Manchester and a ‘semi-official’, two-year apprenticeship at a joiner’s workshop, in her home county of Dorset. She told us of the way she was judged for asking for a job because of the fact she was a girl, and after an initial unpaid period, in which she was able to prove herself, she was offered permanent work. With this opportunity, Alice would use the facilities of the workshop after hours to work on her own projects, using the Furniture Maker’s holy book of Joyce as her mentor. Through “perseverance, hard work and good planning”, Alice now has her own fully kitted out workshop in a beautiful location, where she is able to work with the local community and timbers.
Although her advice was largely: ‘don’t set up on your own straight away’, as she spoke of the several, immense struggles she faced, in order to get where she is today; I was still filled with motivation and self-esteem to pursue the career path I am on. An important lesson for all young people, but in particular to girls: always have the confidence to stand up and proudly say, “I am a furniture maker”. Or, more generally, “I am a maker”!
I was able to relate with her story of the joiner’s workshop, and shared some of my own insecurities about gaining making experience outside of college, and actually within industry. To this, she explained that what you will benefit from the experience would far outweigh any embarrassment you may have: not knowing where the ‘on’ switch for the machine is, for example.
Despite not being accepted onto the Edward Barnsley apprenticeship scheme, Alice Blogg has certainly managed to make a name for herself. And considering infamous makers, such as John Makepeace are also among the group of unsuccessful applicants, it just shows that staying true to yourself and setting your own targets are so important.
Alice was keen to emphasise the importance of having knowledge of costings and timings. Being able to produce efficient and beautiful commissions and commercial items allows her business to grow and develop, along with her own aspirations. Whereas small batch produced items give the business the opportunity to advertise itself; Alice explained this to be the longevity of marketing and branding, which come through your pieces.
Other memorable nuggets of advice were: “don’t sit on your sofa”, “email people”, and “do whatever you feel in that moment!” as she gave the example of going into the workshop drunk, in order to create some mock ups for a client she was determined to work for. Although she didn’t recommend that entirely! Her most poignant suggestion, however, was that ‘the point of life is to get up and play because you are not going to achieve anything if you don’t!’