The Chippendale International School of Furniture is delighted to announce the creation of the Fine Furniture Guild.
The Guild is a not-for-profit business, and Professor Richard Demarco OBE has agreed to be its first honorary chairman.
The Guild’s purpose is to further support the businesses of alumni who have successfully graduated from the school.
The school has an international reputation and each year welcomes up to 25 students from around the world to its immersive 30-week courses.
This year, students came from the USA, UK, Germany, Poland, Austria, South Korea, India, Singapore and Australia.
The Guild creates an online platform for customers looking to buy fine furniture – putting them directly in contact with a designer near to them.
It also offers those customers the guarantee that the furniture designer and woodworker is a qualified craftsman or women, who has successfully completed the exacting Chippendale course.
“This is a unique venture in the woodworking schools sector, and represents a very real commitment by the school to former students here and internationally,” said Anselm Fraser, principal of the Chippendale school.
The Chippendale International School of Furniture is over 30 years old and has achieved an international reputation for the quality of its teaching, endorsed earlier this year by an Education Scotland report.
Professor Richard Demarco OBE
Professor Demarco is one of the UK’s leading arts commentators, who is himself an artist and one of the most influential advocates for contemporary art.
He is also a staunch supporter of the Chippendale International School of Furniture and each year awards a prize in his name to an outstanding student.
“The purpose of the not-for-profit Chippendale school is to teach all aspects of woodworking. However, we have long recognised that, in a competitive market, even the most gifted of alumni can find it hard to secure commission sales,” said Anselm Fraser.
In recent years, the School has introduced additional commercial modules into the curriculum – including business planning and marketing, website design and public relations.
The school has also created incubation space for alumni to set up in business in East Lothian, while still having access to the school’s specialist equipment and teaching staff. Currently, some ten alumni work from the school campus.
“We recognise that some students are better than others in marketing their businesses and connecting with a buying audience. The purpose of the Guild is to provide alumni with an additional resource to engage with customers local to them,” said Anselm Fraser.
A unique project
Nothing quite like the Guild has been created before, either specifically in furniture schools or, more generally, in other craftsmanship institutions – for example, jewellery making or ceramics.
This largely reflects the more focused ethos of other schools – teaching only furniture making skills, without transitional or longer-term business support. The Chippendale school’s ethos has always had a longer-term focus on student welfare and success, and this project reflects that.
The school wants its students to be successful, and to play a role in securing Scotland’s and the UK’s place as a centre of furniture design excellence. The Guild is intended to help underline both of those objectives.
“We believe the Guild has lessons for other niche educational institutions. It will showcase Scottish craftsmanship to international audiences and help support graduating furniture designers as they transition into employment or self-employment,” said Anselm Fraser.
“We are also immensely grateful to East Lothian Council for grant funding to help us develop the business plan and help take us to where we are now,” he said.