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Meet the maker: Hatchet & Bear

12 Feb

In our shop, we’re really proud to sell products that are made all over the world. The Decorator’s Notebook shop is a gentle, but deliberate, kick against high street shops that search only for the nearest, the easiest and the cheapest. Instead, we choose the most authentic, ethical and lovingly-made pieces to be part of our handpicked collection, a journey that takes us as far as Bangladesh and as close as our home county of Somerset, where our talented producer Hatchet & Bear also lives and works. We caught up with woodswoman EJ Osborne to find out a bit more about Hatchet & Bear and learn how our wooden eating bowls and spoons are made.

Scroll down for a very special 20% discount on Hatchet & Bear at Decorator’s Notebook too!

Decorator's Notebook meets EJ Osborne of Hatchet and Bear

Decorator's Notebook meets maker Hatchet & Bear

Can you remember the moment you discovered woodworking?

My earliest memory of carving wood is being nine years old and using a penknife to shave bark from a stick in the garden. It took another 20 odd years and a lot of strange shapes, before I started turning wood.

How did you learn your craft?

I have always been a maker of things… I spent many years being a Jack of all crafts and makery. I studied Arboriculture with the Royal Forestry Society, then I studied Product & Furniture Design at university. I still had no idea where I was going. The turning point was when I caught flu and was bed ridden. I was delirious, got out of bed, ran to the garden, snapped off a tree branch and took to it with a Stanley knife, exclaiming that I needed to carve a spoon. That day ended with a cut finger, but it was also the start of something good for me. I took it as a calling, put everything together and here we are.

What’s the meaning behind the name Hatchet & Bear?

A Hatchet is a small axe, something I use every day, and Bear is my middle name.

Carving a wooden eating spoon step by step Hatchet and Bear

Hatchet and Bear eating spoons for Decorator's Notebook shop

Hatchet and Bear spoons Decorator's Notebook shop

Talk us through your design process when you begin work on something new…

An idea will come to me and I’ll write it down on the ideas list. The ideas list is actually called ‘Woodstuff’. It’s called Woodstuff, to remind me not to go too far with other materials. Wood must be the primary material at all times. Woodstuff is a very long list. Ideas for products get moved up and down the list for many different reasons. An idea at the top of the list will be sketched and prototyped until I’m happy with it – then I’ll test it. Testing it means I’ll use it in my world to determine if it works, how pleasurable it is to use, how lovely it is to look at. The test will end with me trying to break it.

Is it important to you to follow tradition in your tools and methods?

Tradition is very important to me. I use it to learn about tools, techniques, materials and design. Tradition is the foundation of your learning. Once you understand it you can use it as a springboard, bounce off it into the air and then come crashing down on all of it and break it up – create new things, in new ways.

Hatchet and Bear woodcarving Decorator's Notebook

Describe your workspace…

It’s tidy: everything has its place. I spent a considerable amount of time stripping the walls back to Victorian red brick. I don’t understand plaster on brick. It just seems very unnecessary. There is an open fireplace and in the cold months I burn all the shavings and scraps to keep warm. I have an enormous, canvas map of the world on one wall, a large desk, various machines and tools – all concerned with working wood in some form or another. There’s almost always wood shavings on the floor. It can get quite deep. My dog lounges about, napping amongst them.

How do you get to work?

My workshop is located downstairs in my house, so it’s an easy journey to make.

Hatchet and Bear workshop

Hatchet and Bear wooden bowls Decorator's Notebook

paw

Fireplace in Hatchet and Bear workshop Decorator's Notebook

How would you describe the Hatchet & Bear look?

Honest and Useful. It’s about simplicity by design and allowing the wood to do the work. Really, I just take parts of a tree and shape them into useful things. It’s all about the wood.

Hatchet and Bear carving a spoon Decorator's Notebook

Spoon carving by Hatchet and Bear Decorator's Notebook

What’s the most satisfying part of your work?

A new product being ready to go into the online shop feels good. Sending a product off and knowing it’s going out into the real world to be used by someone is great. But nothing beats the feeling of carving fresh green wood, with a razorsharp knife.

What makes a piece of wood good for you to use?

The wood I use comes from a managed, ancient forest in Frome, Somerset. I use the wood from hardwood trees that are native to the British Isles – ensuring incredibly strong and very characterful utensils and bowls. I only really know what a particular piece of wood is good for after I start cutting it up. I work with the wood – using and exploiting natural curves, bends and grain direction, to get the very best design out of it.

What’s your favourite type of wood?

I love them all. Beech, Birch, Lime, Ash, Sycamore, Wild Cherry and Walnut are all ones that are readily available to me. All make amazing bowls and utensils.

Hatchet and Bear wooden bowls and spoons outdoor

Hatchet and Bear eating spoon Decorator's Notebook

If someone hasn’t eaten with a wooden bowl and spoon before, what would you tell them?

You haven’t lived! Ok. Maybe you have, but your life would be so much nicer if you ate a meal from a wooden bowl, with a wooden spoon. It’s quieter. It’s a lovely sound. When we put our wooden plates and bowls away after washing up, there is no awful noise. The same at breakfast time. I like the thought of my child eating from something that is directly from our earth, having undergone the most minimal process.

What’s your next creative milestone?

My spoon carving courses, starting in spring. It will be a big creative milestone – inventing different ways to teach new skills so others can go and make their own utensils.

Decorator's Notebook meets Hatchet and Bear

{all photographs Hatchet & Bear}

Thanks so much to EJ for the fantastic insight into her craft. To help you experience the joy of eating from a wooden bowl and spoon for yourself (we’re already converted) we’ve added a very special 20% Hatchet & Bear discount at the Decorator’s Notebook shop.

Choose either a Walnut Eating Spoon or Birch Eating Bowl and Spoon Set and enter code HBDN20 at the checkout until Friday 28th February. Feel free to share the code and picture below with your friends and followers.

Hatchet and Bear sale discount 20% at Decorator's Notebook Shop

Trying my hand at pottery at West Dean College

14 May

West Dean College Chichester

West Dean gardens

I love ceramics and always enjoy having a go at new crafts, so when my friend Amy suggested we try our hand at pottery, I agreed straight away. We decided to make a weekend of it and signed up for the throwing pots taster day at the beautiful West Dean College near Chichester. After a sneak peek of the house itself (former home of surrealist art collector Edward James) we headed to the pottery studio.

pottery studio at West Dean college

head sculpted from clay

pottery studio details

glaze sticks

art pencils in craft shop

There’s always something so lovely about craft studios and now I’m getting used to my camera, I couldn’t stop taking photos of all the little details around the place. To begin with we were shown ram’s head kneading, which gets rid of any air pockets in the clay and can lead to wobbly pots. Once we were ready our tutor Alison Sandeman demonstrated our first task: a simple cylinder.

Alison Sandeman pottery demonstration

how to throw a clay pot

cylinder thrown pot

Simple as that!

There were eight of us in the class and pottery was new to nearly everyone, but after seeing how effortless Alison made it look we were all confident about our chances as we started the wheels.

learning to throw pots on a potters wheel

cylinder pot on wheel

It soon became obvious that it’s most definitely not as simple as that! Thankfully, Alison was really encouraging and always on hand to share her 25 years of experience. Even though I was far from a natural, I fell in love with the challenge and it was hard to tear myself away from the wheel at lunchtime. The little bowl above right was my first attempt… unfortunately it kind of went downhill from there. Here’s a couple that didn’t make it!

failed thrown pot

failed thrown pot on wheel

By the end of the day we all had five or six pots of varying size and shape to show for our efforts. They’ll be glazed for us in the next few weeks and hopefully some will survive so I can show you the finished articles.

beginners thrown pots
beginners thrown pots{all Decorator’s Notebook}
I definitely want to go look into doing a longer course and have to admit I’ve been searching for secondhand potters’ wheels on fleabay. I’m hooked!

My new favourite blog: Coffeeklatch

18 Feb

I stumbled across this blog beauty quite by accident and it’s immediately become a firm favourite. Think Freunde von Freunden meets the Brooklyn Makers Project, then transport to Belgium, and you’re just about appreciating the creative loveliness that is Coffeeklatch.

Coffeeklatch blog coffee pot on metal tray

red room with house plants Belgium

creative artists apartment in Antwerp

green kitchen tiles

vintage typewriter

room with red painted walls{Bart Kiggen / Coffeeklatch}

I wouldn’t have necessarily had Belgium down as a creative hub (mainly out of ignorance) but a few minutes spent exploring its homes, studios and workspaces and I soon realised I’ve been missing out on a whole country’s worth of design talent. This place in Antwerp belongs to artist Kati Heck – head over to Coffeeklatch right this second for loads more tours and interviews.*

*If you’re like me and haven’t yet joined the tech buffs using Chrome, you can paste the URL into Google Translate for a translation of the whole website.

The Makers Project: meet Brooklyn’s beautiful creatives

5 Nov

I’m fascinated by photo projects and am always intrigued by the niche subjects people choose. Kinfolk magazine (my new obsession) led me to The Makers Project by Brooklyn-based photographer Jennifer Causey. Jennifer has made it her mission to capture the creative goings-on on her doorstep. From painters and florists to perfumers and distillers, she’s recorded the relaxed beauty of the people, their products and places of work.

It was a struggle to pick one maker to showcase here because each photo story has its own beauty and charm, but I loved the simplicity of this profile of woodworker Ariele Alasko. She started off studying sculpture and now works full time crafting headboards, tables and breadboards from salvaged wood gathered from buildings being pulled down in her neighbourhood.

In between stints in her workshop Ariele also manages to write the very lovely Brooklyn to West blog (check out the about page for a sneak peek of her apartment), fit out an extremely cool restaurant and sell her wares.

{all Jennifer Causey / The Makers}

The Makers Project website is a pretty addictive so I strongly suggest you while away an hour or two flipping through Jennifer’s photo stories. You can read more about why she started the project in Kinfolk volume five which I’ve recently discovered is available through this trusty online outlet. Kinfolk fans of the UK rejoice!

Explore an artist’s studio in Istanbul

8 Feb

I’ve posted before about my fascination with artists’ studios,  but I’ve never seen anything quite like this amazing live/work space belonging to Turkish painter and sculptor Melih Özuysal.

{Ege Okal via Freunde von Freunden}

What a fascinating space… looking at it you can imagine the smell of oil paint and turpentine mingling with orange zest, pomegranates and plaster dust. Everywhere you look there are snippets of inspiration for Melih’s paintings and sculptures – find out more in this interview with the artist.

Explore an atmospheric factory conversion

21 Sep

I seem to have developed a bit of a taste for warehouse and factory conversions recently. There’s just something about those huge windows, concrete floors and bare brick walls that speaks to my inner hipster who (very occasionally) tries to get out. This Australian coat hanger factory is particularly lovely – it’s owned by painter Adriane Strampp who has given it a warm atmosphere without it feeling pretentious or losing the building’s rough and ready character.

Two sashes just weren’t enough for this building – has anyone seen triple sash windows in the UK? I can even forgive the ubiquitous Union Jack cushion in amongst this jumble of soft crumpled linen.

The house I grew up in had a cream Aga exactly like this and I’ll always be under their spell. On chilly mornings my brother and I would sit in front of it with our feet on oven door warming our toes!

Perhaps the bare plaster and exposed lightbulb is too minimal for some, but I actually think there’s something quite cosy about this bedroom. Perhaps its those layered linens again..?

Adriane’s painting studio is a short walk from the house. I love the creative chaos of artists’ studios, especially when they also have their own work at home. This ghostly landscape would look perfect above my sofa too.

{all Sean Fennessey via The Design Files}

How do you feel about the industrial look?

Creative spaces: artists in their studios

23 Jul

A year or so ago I decided to try and re-awaken my artistic side by taking life drawing classes, and in preparation, spent some time studying Lucian Freud‘s paintings. I fell in love with his honest, evocative portraits, so was very sad to hear yesterday that he’d died this week at the grand old age of 88.

The papers have been full of photographs of the artist and his work. The picture I find most poignant is this photo from 2005 showing Freud in his London studio, working through the night as he often did.

{Via Art In America Magazine}

Whenever there’s one of those Artist Open Studio events on nearby I always try and go. Partly because I’m interested in the work, but also because I love seeing where people work. The differences between each artist’s studio fascinate me. Some are a creative chaos of paint and canvas, while others have a surprising ordered calm.

Judging by this photo, Freud was one of the former – he’d never screw the tops back onto his paint tubes and would flick and swipe the caked-up paint onto the wall. Over 40 years, this created a kind of artwork in itself and even features in this ‘painting of a painting’ intriguingly named The Artist Surprised by a Naked Admirer.

I guess for a man described as having “at least 12 children”  this kind of thing happened a lot…

{The Artist Surprised by a Naked Admirer, Lucian Freud}

All this set me on a search of pictures of other artists’ studios. On the creative chaos scale, this one – Francis Bacon‘s – makes Freud’s mess pale into insignificance. The painting on the easel is thought to be the artist’s final work.

{Via The Tate Galleries}

Jackson Pollock‘s workspace is exactly what you’d expect from the master of the splatter.

{Via Nobodyintheartworld}

By contrast, these are surprisingly neat and ordered. Both belong to female artists, obviously!

{Via Inspiring Interiors}

American painter Georgia O’Keeffe‘s studio at The Ghost Ranch in New Mexico has been recreated just as it was in the 1940s. She was best known for her paintings of bones, rocks and flowers. “I thought the ranch would be good for me because nothing can grow here and I wouldn’t be able to use up my time gardening,” she said.

{Via The Tate Galleries}

Turner Prize Winner Rachel Whiteread‘s workspace looks more like a typical magazine’s art department that a studio. I suppose if you’re casting a Victorian house or making 14,000 giant sugar cubes, you probably would need a few work experience people around to give you a hand.

Even Marmite artist Tracey Emin‘s place is a lot neater than you might expect. Although it appears she’s taken the criticism she had over her infamous unmade bed to heart and opened some kind of launderette in the back room.

{Via The Guardian}

I’ll finish with another Brit favourite – Mr Sgt. Pepper himself, Peter Blake. A man after my own heart, Blake began collecting junk at the age of 14, to the point where he’s almost  hemmed in by his collection of curios in his London studio and has shifted some of his lovely tat to The Holburne in Bath, where it’s on display until 4th September 2011.

{Via The Independent}

{The Holburne Museum}

Vintage typewriter. Check. Dusty bell jar. Check. Rusty sign. Check. Hmmm. Perhaps I do have a career ahead of me as a top artist after all!

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