The Table – David White (The Whittlings)

How did you start out on this path? Did you always know this was what you wanted to be doing?

I have made things from wood and been very practically minded since I was young but growing up there was no perceived value in hand-made – it was all about cheap flatpack furniture and the throw away culture. Recently there is a very healthy backlash to this and people are thinking a lot more about where things are made and how long that will last. This movement has allowed me to start to make high-quality work with hand tools. If I am honest, I think I have always loved working with natural materials and always been a frustrated Product Designer. Designing fictional objects from wood is like a dream come true!

How has your work evolved since you first started making?

I believe very firmly that anyone can be creative if they simply practice very regularly in their chosen medium. This practice forms a feedback loop which helps move one’s work forward and an artist find their own voice. I started making with a project to design and make a wooden spoon each week for a year and publish the results online. As well as giving me a strong foundation in edge-tool use, this year long project helped me find my voice as a maker. My current passion is to go deep inside the slate mines of north Wales to bring out 100 year old oak which is full of rich colour and make from this. The objects I made from the oak can’t help but be influenced by the experience in the mines and quarries the wood is recovered from.

 

How do you approach your time in the workshop to get yourself into the right frame of mind for creating/making? Do you work better at certain times of the day?

I believe in finding a state of ‘flow’ in working with green wood. This is where you are not consciously working the wood but letting your hands feel the shapes emerging and the tools feel the grain of the wood to make the outcome a sum of what I initially intended to make, plus, what the wood dictates. Achieving this state requires being fresh, relaxed and open to the environment around me. I am a daytime maker really as my lovely ten year old son is demanding of my time in the evenings!

 

How do you challenge yourself within your work? Do you always see yourself working in this medium?

The challenge for me is two-fold. There is the technical skill in green woodworking and understanding different woods, which is really a lifetime of learning. The second challenge is design and coming up with original and satisfying ideas.

 

What would/has been your ideal commission?

 

I love commissions from talented chefs. Chefs often have a specific dish or ingredient in mind and would like me to come up with a creative solution to serving the dish, using wood. This might be as simple as spoon or fork, or as complicated a bowl from a huge hunk of wood.

 

We know that social media channels such as Instagram play a pivotal role now in giving a platform to artists. To what extent has it benefitted you?

Social media gives me the opportunity to reach a global market, which is huge, but mainly I enjoy the story telling side of producing photography and comment around my work and the natural world around me. I treat social media as an art project in its own right, not a marketing chore. That changes everything.

 

Do you think it’s possible for it to ever truly replace a traditional bricks and mortar gallery?

No, I am inspired constantly by things I see online, but I only really have an emotional connection / memory of work I have actually seen in the flesh in the controlled environment of a gallery.

 

Is there a recent exhibition that you have loved so much and encouraged everyone to go see?

I haven’t seen the Cardiff David Nash exhibition yet, although I love his work. The exhibition of his 50 years of making has moved to Eastbourne on the south coast now, about as far from north Wales as it gets! I am working on getting there however.

 

What does the future hold for you and your work? Do you have any exciting plans for 2020?

On a very practical level, I need to work on the business side of making in 2020. I would love to be able to make a comfortable living from what I make, but that takes a really solid business plan with multiple income sources to be sustainable as a maker. That’s the real goal for me now – to be able to do work hard at what I love for the long term.

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