Meet the Fine Furniture Maker Who Left Civil Engineering to Start his Own Business in York
After 27 years as a civil engineer, Richard Frost took the leap to start his own furniture business
Tell us what you do.
I design and make fine furniture using a mixture of solid wood and veneers. My furniture is predominantly made from solid wood and created using a combination of machine and hand tools. The patterns within my designs are achieved through careful choice and manipulation of contrasting woods and veneer.
What’s your background?
For the last 30 years I have lived in Yorkshire, initially in Sheffield and then York from 2000 onwards. After a successful 27-year career as a civil engineer, I took a leap of faith and changed vocation to follow my passion for all things wood. I re-trained at Waters & Acland Furniture in Staveley and can now combine the problem-solving techniques of an engineer with the creative skills of an artist to create desirable furniture. In December 2018 I set up Richard Frost Design, where I design and make bespoke and limited-edition furniture. I also produce a range of smaller gift and household items.
Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration for my works comes from many avenues: a walk in the countryside, experiencing a different culture, or visiting our industrial heritage. All of these provide me with the opportunity to see the beauty of shapes, colours and textures, which stimulate thoughts and ideas for the furniture I design and make. In the past, studying cathedrals, waves, birds in flight and sea shells have all proved rich sources of inspiration.
My portfolio includes pieces with a traditional feel and those with more of a contemporary look. My objective is to produce an exquisite piece of furniture which delights the eye, whilst having function at its core.
I have long had an interest in ancient Egypt, and much of my recent work for exhibitions has been influenced by studying ancient Egyptian artefacts. My latest exhibition was tailored to tie in with the centenary discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb (November 1922). I have especially been drawn to the form and patterns seen in ancient Egyptian architecture and this theme will follow through to my next exhibition at York Open Studios.
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Where do you source materials?
Most of my solid wood is sourced from local suppliers in Yorkshire, whilst some of the coloured veneers come from specialist suppliers further afield.
What’s your favourite thing about what you do?
It depends where I am in the process of designing and making: working with a client to draw out their requirements; designing something that is beautiful to look and exceeds their expectations, the problem-solving aspect of making a new piece. Or simply put…. producing cool furniture!
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What’s the most challenging part?
I know where my strengths lie, and where there’s still work in progress. As a natural introvert, and a relative newcomer to having my own business, sales and marketing is not my natural stomping ground. There’s still more to do, but with increased confidence in my own design and making abilities, there’s been a definite improvement from my first tentative steps.
I have found making furniture is a balance between precision with tools and an ability to constantly solve problems, both of which I enjoy immensely. I often like to challenge my capabilities within each design to continue to develop my technical knowledge and skill. I tend not to let the design process be influenced too much by what I already know about making. As my former tutor told me, everything can be made – you’ve just got to work it out.
Favourite piece of your own work?
I’m particularly proud of the Volta table I made, which was my first self-designed piece of furniture. It’s made from walnut and has a marquetry effect in the drawer fronts inspired from a study of vaulted ceilings in cathedrals. It incorporates many techniques, including laminated curves and traditional piston-fit drawers, along with marquetry.
Any plans for the future?
My work is currently split between my home workshop in York and rented space outside Yorkshire but by the middle of 2023, I plan to be fully located near York. I have my weather eye out for a suitable space to turn into a workshop.
How do you relax?
I enjoy fell walking or a stroll along the beach.
Favourite place to walk in Yorkshire?
The various walks around Thixendale in the Yorkshire Wolds with the impressive steep-sided dry valleys are very dramatic.
An item you couldn’t live without.
As someone who once immersed in his work doesn’t normally come up for air, I find a daily coffee and good company for a natter keeps me connected with the human race.
Best snack for a long journey.
No brainer: Wine Gums.