Meet The Maker - Alex of Ed Brooks Furniture
Here we meet Alex, of Ed Brooks Furniture. Founded in 1999, father David, brothers Ed and Alex and carpenter Mark, produce some stunning work, which grace gardens all over the country. With strong links in London (designer Ed) and West Dorset (forester David, makers Alex and Mark), Ed Brooks Furniture has long been a valued customer of Axminster.
What do you specialise in making?
We specialise in designing and making bespoke outdoor and indoor furniture, focusing on capturing the organic nature of the materials used. We also specialise in the design and making of public realm installations.
What are you working on at the moment?
We are working on various projects, some for private clients, one being a cute garden gate, based on a gate made for Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir Oxfordshire. Then two kissing gates for a large estate near Royal Tunbridge Wells. Some solid chestnut benches (9 in total) for a client near Bath and a commemorative bench for the Queen's birthday in Kilmington, amongst others.
We are also working on a project for the City of London, solid oak benches and tables for a park in the Aldgate area of London. All the projects are using locally sourced timber processed by us, meaning we are part of the entire process, from tree to furniture.
Do you prefer using machines or hand tools? Which ones are your favourite?
I enjoy both, if you could produce silent, non-dust producing machines then I would prefer all of these! The large bandsaw is wonderful, especially when slicing through raw timber. The moment you see inside the tree for the first time, the grain and detail of the wood reveal themselves is fascinating. Obviously, the use of power tools have significantly speeded up many a laborious task. We have recently added an 18V Makita angle grinder to our range, meaning we can now work around the work. The sanding of the indoor pieces is what I enjoy most, seeing the beauty of the grain.
What part of the making process do you most enjoy and why?
I enjoy two parts, the first is the problem solving of how to achieve the final piece, from the type of wood to how we are going to cut it. The second is the construction from the raw state of the wood, seeing the design become a reality.
What do you look for in a piece of wood? Do you see the finished project?
It takes vision to see what can be achieved from the raw piece of wood. You'd think working with a simple material would be easy, but it isn't. Understanding the grain and features in the tree is an ongoing process, you have to try and make educated guesses of what can be achieved. Ed and I often joke that when we look at a tree, we don't see a tree, we see five benches and three gates!
What was the first thing you made?
The first full piece I made for Ed Brooks Furniture was a bench which is one of our most popular designs. It took me a long time to make, and probably a few injuries, but Ed’s vision paid off and we produced a fine piece. My father's first piece, inadvertently launched the company. Ed had redesigned a garden and gates were needed, my father suggested using some chestnut in its split form, Ed designed them and Dad built them. A wonderfully simple elegant looking gate, it created a lot of attention and Ed Brooks Furniture was born.
You work closely with your brother and father, what do you all bring to the table?
Ed is the chief designer, he has vast amounts of experience in design, being a fully qualified practising landscape architect in London. He has scaled back on work for Ed Brooks Furniture, with me taking on more of that role.
Alongside me, Dad is responsible for organising and supplying the timber, either from our woodland or locally sourced timber. He has vast amounts of experience in forestry and the logistics of getting the timber to the workshop. I then chiefly make the pieces, based on Ed's designs. We have a very close relationship, speaking most days about each project.
Who and what inspires you?
Working with timber in its natural form is pretty inspiring. Often this natural organism has been around for hundreds of years, taking in many of the influences around it over that time. For example; the slope it has grown on, the weather, a wasp feeding on it etc it all gives such varied and intricate features to the timber. We then get to turn it into something else that will hopefully be beautiful and last again for a long time.
My mother and father being passionate about nature has had a huge influence on the way I work with the wood. I look at the way my father approaches everything by thinking creatively, coupled with my brother’s designs, these are both a huge source of inspiration for me.
What is the best advice you have ever been given and by whom?
Measure twice, cut once! Doesn't mean I do it all the time, but certainly good advice. My advice to someone starting out; think it through before you do anything, draw it out and plan it out. That's not to say it won't change as you progress but many errors are avoided, and it allows a greater understanding of the process. It is important to consider what success is for you, it is then far easier to achieve. One thing I have learned is that money doesn’t necessarily equal success!