Gavin Coyle - man of the woods

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Gavin Coyle - man of the woods

What is it like spending everyday in a workshop? How does it feel working on your feet, crafting beautiful objects with your very own hands? What are the realities of running your own design practice? 

To find out, SODA & Bobby Jewell took a visit to the workshop of Gavin Coyle Studio in residential Walthamstow. Making bespoke furniture, exhibition installations and interior commissions as well as his own line of homeware products, Gavin shared his experiences, passions and approach from his fifteen year career as a woodworker. 

What drew you initially to the work you do now? Was there a particular design that caught your eye when you were young or was it more about the process of the craft?

My Dad was a keen woodworker and would spend his weekends pottering around the shed, making furniture for the house. Some of my earliest memories were watching him work with different materials using a variety of tools. When I was a little older, I was allowed to use the shed myself, spending time making all sorts of rudimentary objects and gradually honing my skills. I remember the simple pleasure I felt from having an idea and turning it into a tangible thing. These formative years set me on the path to a life at the workbench.

Creating bespoke pieces must rely a lot on conversations between clients. How important is the right relationship and dialogue for the finished product? 

Communication is very important to fully understand the expectations and desires of the client. Sometimes there's a blank canvas in which you’re free to come up with your own designs but predominantly it’s an exchange of ideas until both parties are satisfied. It can often be a long, drawn out affair but you’re creating a relationship based on trust, understanding and hopefully friendship. 

How and why do green, sustainable & eco-friendly practises play a role in your work? 

My overriding belief is that if you take great care in the things you design and make, people will want to hold onto them. Producing high quality work which has a timeless appeal and is made with materials that age well is hugely important in building a sustainable industry. 

Studies have shown that craft can have a significantly positive effect on mental health. How do you feel your work impacts on your own wellbeing?  

After a day well spent in the workshop I go to bed with a comfortable ache, knowing that my muscles have been used productively. I get very restless if I'm sat down for too long and feel compelled to do some manual work everyday. I also believe that making things has a profound effect on your wellbeing. Through the years, I've had my ups and downs but have always managed to find solace in my work. The workshop sometimes feels like a sanctuary where worries and woes are left at the door, leaving me to focus on the job at hand. 

How has the internet and social media helped you as a platform for your creative business?

A good looking website is the most important thing for me. Clients can browse the work and it’s normally the first point of contact. I also have a web shop so people can purchase my products directly. Instagram is also a great way to keep a journal of your working life and showcase current projects.

What design trends have you seen in your time as a professional and how has the perception of a furniture maker changed? Do you find yourself working more for a particular kind of a client or sector? 

I think there has been a big shift towards a more thoughtful, sustainable approach to design. Companies and consumers are more aware of the impact that the things we manufacture and buy can have on the environment. People want to understand more about the providence of an item, how it’s made and the materials used. I believe that as a small, independent, furniture maker, I have an important role to play in helping shape this.  

What advice would you give to any budding craftsperson, amateur or otherwise, looking to start out in a similar industry to yours?

If you really care about what you're making and endeavour to produce beautiful objects, work will always find you. Stay passionate, curious and optimistic. Remember that someone has chosen you because they trust your skills. It's a very privileged position hold.

soda-s
  • Gavin was interviewed by Bobby Jewell
  • Photography by Trevor Di Maggio
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