The Maker Interview. SAWDUST SMELLS OF CHILDHOOD for Rosie Brewer

In our third Maker Interview wood worker Rosie Brewer answers 10 questions...

The Out Takes
LIVES: in two places...Devon & Bristol
WORKS: in a workshop with her cat until midnight
LOVES: her vegetable garden in Bristol
FEELS: a little bit sentimental about each piece she makes
TREASURES: her passport

Oil on wood

Oil on wood

Rosie Brewer in her workshop in Devon

Rosie Brewer in her workshop in Devon

Cut out 

Cut out 

At work, Devon

At work, Devon

Jigsaw Food Boards, mini, medium & large

Jigsaw Food Boards, mini, medium & large

Heart-shaped plans

Heart-shaped plans

Mini Jigsaw Food Boards

Mini Jigsaw Food Boards

Q1: where do you live and work?
I actually live in two places; my workshop is next to the home I grew up in, in a remote part of Mid Devon. I spend around 3 days a week hiding out there making orders. The rest of the time I live in Bristol where I do the finishing and packing and internet/email/research side of my business. It sounds like a funny arrangement but it suits me so well. It means when I’m in Devon I can focus solely on making and take myself away from any other distractions. When I’m in Bristol, I can be a lot more relaxed and fit my work around doing other things.

Q2: what did you study and where?
I studied 3D Design at Camberwell College of Arts in London. The course was practical and structured around a large amount of workshop-based experimenting time which suited me well as a maker.  Also the class size was small - this meant not only did we get excellent one-to-one help from tutors but we got to know each other as a class really well and frequently worked on projects together. Living in London was exciting, having come from the countryside it was a bit of a culture shock but I loved it.

Q3: how did you decide that ‘wood’ was your thing?  
My parents bought a sawmill in Devon when I was 6.  I used to make many boxes from the offcuts, some of them turned into bird boxes. I became very used to drills and hammering nails and saws and the smell of sawdust, it was just a normal part of my home-life. I went through school with no specific interest in becoming a woodworker. I applied to do a foundation diploma in art and design in Bournemouth and I discovered an enjoyment of experimenting with different materials. I never thought of myself as an artist as such, and my painting and drawing skills were not very impressive but I discovered working in 3D was something that really excited me. I found my way back to woodwork while studying at Camberwell. I think it was the smell of sawdust in the workshop that reminded me of my childhood in Devon.

Q4: what made you decide to start your own business rather than get a job?
I didn’t start my own business straight away and I did various jobs in London but I found it hard to enjoy working for someone else all of the time. I always kept up my workshop in Devon and began to go there more and more, it got to the stage where my jobs in London were holding me back as I simply didn’t have enough time to make things. I had always thought about being self employed and so I moved back home and booked myself into my first trade show. Since then I have been pretty consistently busy with orders. I am still fairly new and learning all of the time. At the moment I am happy just to earn a living from doing what I love.

Q5: what motivates you?
It is scary and exciting to be completely self-employed but I love how varied my work is and I have never enjoyed work more. I enjoy every part, from sourcing the wood and coming up with designs, to the sawing and sanding and oiling. I love the final stages of fastening labels and packing up an order to send out to. During this whole making process I form an attachment to all of the pieces I make and it is sometimes hard to let them go. However the constant pressure of this being my income means I quickly have to get over that sentimentality although I do sometimes think about every board I have made and where they are now.

Q6: what excites & inspires you?
I am inspired by many things, the wood itself, how each tree is different, even within species, the grain varies so much. This adds that unique part to each piece I make. I also find it inspiring to see what others are doing and this really motivates me to create interesting work. I fairly recently joined instagram and my feed is full of other makers, woodworkers and carvers.  I've long been an admirer of David Nash and his amazing wood sculptures. I have followed Brooklyn-based woodworker Ariele Alasko for a number of years. She is inspiring, not only because she is also a woman in a largely male-dominated trade, but her work is stunning and I love the variety of her work. When you turn your hobby into your job it is so important to keep things varied. I am always on the lookout for inspiration of new products to make.

Q7:  what does your average day look like?
I would love to say I am a morning person and get up at the crack of dawn every day to work but this would just not be true. I don’t set an alarm but wake up between 8am and 9am. I have a leisurely breakfast and use this time to think about what I need to do in the day. If I’m in Devon, I will have a printed list of orders I need to make. If I am in Bristol, I will check my emails and catch up on other admin. I often work until nearly midnight. I just fell into this habit and have given up trying to stick to ‘normal’ working hours. I get so much more done in a couple of hours in the evening than I do all morning

Q8:  how do you unwind and let your hair down?
When I am working I frequently spend all day with just my cat for company. I do love my own company, I grew up an only child and am perfectly happy to be by myself, but I am a social person and really enjoy spending time with others. I am really into cooking and learning new recipes and love hosting dinner parties. Currently my favourite thing to do is look after my vegetable garden in Bristol. It is such a rewarding hobby and growing your own food is the most satisfying thing. At the moment I am enjoying spending time in the sunshine with friends and possibly drinking the odd G&T!

Q9: what is on your ‘to do’ list of dreams?
I always had this idea that one day I would like to have my own bricks-and-mortar store somewhere, my workshop would be around the back and in the shop I would practice my woodcarving skills and sell handmade objects made by myself and other makers.

Q10: what is your most treasure possession?
I have many objects and possessions which mean a lot to me for various reasons but I think if I had to choose a favourite it would probably be my passport because of the freedom it allows me to travel anywhere in the world.