See the Amazing Work of this Bespoke Furniture Business in the North East
We meet the maker behind Wood & Bear
What’s your background?
From a very young age I would spend most Saturdays with my grandad in his shed, watching, learning and developing a passion for woodworking. This is where it all began, however I didn’t do anything with this passion for many years. Since moving to the North East I have worked in several industries including banking, recruitment and more recently digital marketing.
So how did you get back into woodwork?
It was whilst in my role as an Account Director at a digital marketing agency that I started to find my love for woodworking again. Initially this consisted of a few projects for my own home made mostly from reclaimed wood which I built in my garage. I then started to make smaller items to list on various marketplaces and turned the then hobby into a side hustle, just before lockdown! Working full time, running a new business and home schooling wasn’t without its challenges but I was able to grow it to the point that I was able to leave my full time job and set up Wood & Bear.
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Where do you find inspiration?
My inspiration comes from so many different places. My phone is full of screenshots of design ideas and features which I’ve found whilst doing research for commissions or seeing things whilst I’m out and about. I also follow lots of amazing joiners on Instagram. As well as the hints and tips and design ideas this gives me, it also pushes me to do more. I always want to make sure I’m not the smartest in the room so this really helps.
Where do you source materials?
This depends on the project, where possible it’s sourced locally, especially when it’s reclaimed. This is always a great part of any build, selecting the timber and choosing where each piece will go based on grain patterns, tones, features, etc. Although most materials are sourced locally, sometimes I have to go further afield if the brief requires.
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Tell us about your typical day.
One of the great things about my job is that no two days are the same. I could be prepping timber for a project, building a piece of furniture in the workshop, sourcing materials for upcoming projects, developing design ideas, site visits, meeting with new suppliers, installing a fitted piece of furniture… the list goes on.
What’s your favourite thing about what you do?
Creating and learning. I’ve loved building, drawing, making and creating things for as long as I can remember. This started with Duplo, Lego and Meccano when I was a child and hasn’t left me, so to be able to do what I’m doing now – I feel very lucky. I also love learning and expanding my knowledge. There are so many aspects to what I do that there is no end of opportunities for me to learn new skills or enhance existing ones. This year I’m wanting to improve on my 3D design skills.
What’s the most challenging part?
Currently it’s work/life balance. As well as the time in the workshop, I also have to be working on designs, sorting quotes, marketing, finance and all the other hats I need to wear! There’s way more that can be done and knowing when to stop isn’t easy.
Favourite piece of your own work?
I haven’t got a favourite piece – a big part of what drives me is progress. I’m always looking to push myself, learn more and improve so my favourite piece will always be the next hurdle I overcome. A few pieces definitely have a little more meaning though. I made an oak and resin bed all constructed from dovetail joints, which was the pinnacle of joinery to my grandad, I’d love for him to have seen that one. I also really enjoyed delivering a wheelchair accessible picnic bench as part of a giveaway last summer. Knowing that the family would get to spend time, all sat together around the table made the drive to London to deliver it worthwhile.
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Where can we find your work?
With the majority of my work being bespoke it’s all made to order. I have been to a number of local markets including Living North’s Christmas Fair, which I’ll be looking to do more of this year. The markets are great for smaller furniture pieces and homeware. For larger furniture, fitted furniture and commissions you can get in touch via the website or on socials. Every brief I get from customers is as unique as the furniture itself. Sometimes it’s full designs with dimensions, a Pinterest board, a simple sketch, or sometimes just a problem that needs solving. From there I can work with the customer to develop their ideas into a design and help bring it to life.
How do you relax?
I’m still working on this as I find it hard to switch off, but being at the beach always helps and there’s plenty to choose from in the North East!
Any plans for the future?
I want to create opportunities to help others to leverage their natural talents and abilities. Having previously worked in a role supporting people with disabilities into employment, I know the impact this can have on everyone involved. Aspects of the work I do lend themselves perfectly to making simple adjustments to accommodate a wide range of disabilities. I’m also keen to do more work with schools to help students use their ideas and creativity in new ways, especially those who don’t always benefit from the traditional education system, and I have plans for a new project this year.