The West Country is stuffed full of artisan businesses frenetically working behind the scenes and Wardour Workshops – makers of exquisite contemporary furniture – is a case in point. The company is buried at the back of an industrial estate in the heart of rural Wiltshire – if you weren’t looking for it, you simply wouldn’t know it was there. Once inside, though, the workshop is a hive of noise-filled activity, planes screeching, sawdust everywhere and some pretty crazy-looking saws slung up on hooks overhead.
Owners Dom and Arabella Parish, who met when they trained as furniture designers at Rycotewood College in Oxfordshire, knew very quickly that they wanted to set up business together. First, though, Dom trained under David Linley and at other workshops around the country. Eleven years ago they found a warehouse in Semley on the Dorset/Wiltshire border, an area they loved, which was close enough to clients in London but also home to many traditional artisan craftsmen and skilled designers. Arabella says: ‘One of the things we loved about this area was that were lots of people doing similar things. There’s a feeling of community here, we look out for each other.’ Though commissions continued to trickle in from Linley and other designers the first years of trading were uncertain. Dom says: ‘In the first few years we never knew what we were going to be working on next, it was hand to mouth and that can be quite frightening at times. When you start your own business you have to stick at it even when you don’t know what’s around the corner. And that can be tough.’ A decade on and the business is doing better than ever. Wardour Workshops is in constant demand without advertising – they have always relied on word of mouth - and despite a recession which has cut deep in the West Country. Dom says: ‘We’re a very niche market where people are prepared to pay for English quality. They are paying for a service and for endless back up and when people are spending a lot of money they don’t want to go abroad.’ When you see their workmanship – the hours and hours that go into crafting one-off pieces – you understand what people are paying for. For both Dom and Arabella the variety of the work keeps it interesting – one minute they are working on an intricate jewellery box, the next it’s a bespoke fitted kitchen. High spec kitchens are the bread and butter but they also love the more unusual commissions – quirky bookcases or filing cabinets, occasional tables, a cocktail bar. Generally Arabella designs while Dom crafts the pieces. Recently they also designed and made the prototypes for a range of manufactured contemporary furniture for a new online venture Another Country - http://www.anothercountry.com. Check out Dom and Arabella’s hand-crafted contemporary furniture at www.wardourworkshops.com http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qz3rxCuzFpQ