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The Rough with the Smooth

Having honed a passion for a craft discovered in childhood, Ambrose Vevers has found a way to share his knowledge with those who seek to find their own creative path. Words by Rosie Cattrell.

After a careful look through a collection of thoughtfully shaped wooden pieces, it is clear to me that Ambrose Vevers has a particular talent for recognising and revealing a unique natural beauty that seems to lie in wait, wrapped in the bark of a fallen tree. From stools, chairs and benches right down to chopping boards, spatulas and little scoops, every single piece reflects the individual potential that a single fallen tree can hold, and our conversation takes a path through the woods to the heart of his true calling.

How did your love for working with wood begin?

I grew up playing in the woods. My family owned a small woodland, so I ended up, spending all my free time there. I was allowed to explore the woods and  would play around with my dad’s tools. I used to make things from an early age, whittling things from the age of nine or ten.

I knew I loved working with wood, and when I was growing up, people said ‘you can’t make a career out of being a furniture maker’, but I just persevered. I did go to Falmouth University to study 3D Design, but I was always drawn to wood, never really having had any formal training. I kind of just felt my way and learnt from people around me when it came to certain techniques and processes.

Can you remember the first piece of furniture that you made? Or is there a significant piece from the early days?

I remember going into the woods one day, cutting down some little Hazel sticks and roughly nailing them together, and I just

remember carrying the sticks out of the

woods and feeling like I’d made this ‘thing’. I’ve always liked making things that can be used and people can enjoy. All my furniture is made to be used, and hopefully will only be cherished more as it ages. It’s made to be used in day-to-day life.

What does it mean to you to work with wood in this way?

I prefer to use traditional techniques and hand tools, which don’t make noise and dust like machinery. There is a simple pleasure in using a sharp hand tool to shape a piece of wood, you can get into this meditative state and get to feel the wood grain direction – when you cut the wood in the right direction you get a very smooth finish and a lovely shaving. This way I can get into a kind of flow state, and it never gets boring. I feel so much more involved with the piece that I’m working on, and it’s important that each one has a hand-finished feel, because that’s what makes them unique. I feel like we’re naturally drawn to things that have been physically made by other humans, like hand-thrown ceramics and works of art, and I just love that each piece of furniture marks a specific moment in time. I think there’s a real beauty in that.

Tell me about the barn that you built?

So, I built this barn on my family’s woodland when I was in my early twenties, just after I graduated university.

This was a huge moment for me actually, and it left me with a wonderful sense of confidence. Everyone thought it was a bit crazy to build a barn that big, but when it was finished I almost felt like I could do anything. It’s become a really special space; I’ve had friends get married here, we sell our Christmas trees from the barn in the winter, and now it’s a workshop from where I can share what I’ve learnt with others who want to make their own furniture.

Talk me through the relationship that your pieces have with this beautiful woodland in which you spend so much time.

All the wood I use is local and mostly from trees that have already been felled, either because they’re overhanging a road or if they’ve come down in a storm, so they can be quite big – sometimes over 100 years old. Sadly, a lot of these trees end up as firewood, but I know I can make a lot of furniture from one tree alone. I like to think this offers a little respect to the tree that’s come down. You get to know and understand each tree’s potential really well and I often come across different qualities even within the same species, which makes for really unique pieces. My favourite wood to work with is ash, it’s strong but there’s always such a beautiful grain to it, and a real variety to it. You can also scorch it well with a blowtorch, which creates striking patterns and a tactile surface which can be sealed with oil and wax.

Tell me about your workshops, and what inspired you to share your craft with other aspiring makers.

This is probably one of the most rewarding things I do, lots of people have enjoyed making furniture with me over the years. Initially it was a few of my friends who wanted to learn how to make my furniture which gave me the opportunity to try it out, and I soon realised it was a great idea. I think there’s a real demand at the moment for learning to make your own furniture. Not only do you get the experience of it, but you end up with something that you will really treasure, and that holds meaning. Hopefully this has inspired a few people to carry on. Some people will have dabbled in woodwork, while others won’t have had any experience at all, but the workshops give a really good insight into how I make things, which I think opens them up to what is actually possible with a little knowledge.

Do you have any exciting plans for the future?

My partner and I, Isla Middleton, are both makers, and while she mainly specialises in linocuts, she also weaves with willow, and at the moment we’re working on some quite big light shades together. It’s quite exciting because it’s a little different and hopefully quite unique. I’ll also be at the Bovey Tracey craft festival from 7th to 9th June and then my courses will start again coming up to September. Meanwhile I’m working on a few commissions for some really big lampshades, which will be a nice challenge, so there’s lots going on!

Places for Ambrose’s workshops can be booked online at


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