“It’s like performing an operation in a field. You just have to accept that you’re not in a workshop and be able to think on the spot.”
That is how ‘working on site’ was described to me two weeks ago. I had never worked on a job that required me to design and make away from the safety and security of my workbench. I had never even observed the fitting or installation of a project before. However, I found myself with the exciting prospect of coordinating and building the fitted shelving and desk space for the new home for an Oxford-based charity.
Over the course of one month, The Young Women’s Music Project actively promoted their crowdfunder campaign (https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/saveywmp/), as an attempt to reach their required target of £15K. This money would help the charity finance their very own studio at Makespace, Oxford (http://makespaceoxford.org), providing them with the security of 24 months of paid rent, as well as helping to furnish and fix it up.
On the 30th June their campaign came to a successful end, so much so that they even managed to surpass it by £1000, with the help of donations from worldwide and one extremely generous donor based right here in Oxford.
As the days counted down to my first day ‘on the job’, I began to feel nervous…
Was this too much for me to handle?
Would I be able to achieve it in the time frame?
I turned to my community of fellow craftspeople for reassurance. I reached out to Instagrammers, Heather Scott (http://www.heatherscott.org.uk) and Andrea Stokholm (https://www.instagram.com/andreastokholm/?hl=en), both of whom have worked on projects involving working on site whilst I have been following their careers through social media. Coincidently Andrea was in the midst of installing a job when I contacted her, but that didn’t prevent her from wishing me well and congratulating me on finishing my degree. Heather, as it happened, was also working on site for her latest commission.
It was at this point that it struck me how integral working on site is to this profession, and in particular to the bread and butter earnings of most makers. With this in mind, I was even more grateful for this early opportunity of a project that would allow me to learn these important skills through practice- and paid at that!
The overall project was expected to take me two weeks, so my first job involved finalising the design for all the furnishings in the space, and creating orthographic drawings of my plans using AutoCAD. I then used any spare time I had to create rendered versions of these drawings, to create an artist’s impression for the client, helping them to visualize how the space would look.
Once the spatial design was complete, I used my CAD drawings to create a cutting list and calculate the quantities of PSE (planed square edge- I learnt what this meant) softwood and Plywood that we required. This was my first real experience of contacting and ordering timber from suppliers. I was delighted by the attentive and friendly staff that I spoke to during this stage of the process- what a difference good customer service can make to your experience! Big shout out to Dave from Travis Perkins and Andy at Powell’s Sheet Material.
It was definitely a challenge coordinating all the deliveries, ensuring they came in time and were all within our limited budget. Speaking with the staff from each supplier directly meant they were able to help in the best ways possible. For example, having Powell’s cut our Plywood boards up in components prior to delivery was a huge help.
It probably isn’t the most interesting thing to comment on, but I think it is important to recognise that the sheet material was delivered by the company owner’s wife. When the order arrived, neither of us made an issue about having to unload it from the van- we just got on with it! Proving that heavy lifting is not exclusively a ‘two-man’ job.
It was inevitable that some compromises would have to be made. Our previous choice of Birch Plywood was exchanged for the cheaper, but just as durable option of Malaysian Hardwood Ply. But having the project sponsored by paint companies, such as Dulex and Annie Sloan, we were in no doubt that we could make the space look really beautiful!