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Journal 27 September 2019

The Snowdon Summer School

This year’s Snowdon Summer School saw a select group of students inspired by expert tuition in marquetry and cabinet making

This July saw Dumfries House open its doors to a fresh intake of students attending the Snowdon Summer School. Now into its fourth year, this week-long programme provides an opportunity for eight talented students to learn traditional cabinet making and marquetry techniques from master craftsman, ranging from creative drawing to gloss burnishing and the assembly of table components. Over the course of seven days, students are tasked with recreating a piece of furniture using the collection of Chippendale furniture at Dumfries House as inspiration.

“The Snowdon Summer School is a wonderful opportunity for the students to spend a week with master craftsmen, studying in the workshops on Dumfries House estate, honing their design, furniture making and marquetry skills,” says Christian Harvey, education coordinator at the Prince’s Foundation. “It also gives them a chance to meet other like-minded students.”

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One such student was Emma Chesterton, a 42-year-old furniture designer-maker who graduated last year. “It was a delight to spend a week with the other budding designer makers. I continue to find that the people who get involved in this craft are exceptionally lovely,” she says. “The Summer School demands that you work to a very high standard, as would be expected in a commercial set up. Maintaining this high quality throughout all my work will be my benchmark going forward.”

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Joining her at the Summer School was Matt Holmes, a 3D design student at the University of Plymouth, who says that aside from the physical making experience, spending time with practising craftsmen was a highlight. “Like a number of the other students, I had never really worked with veneer or marquetry before so it was exciting to learn this new skill guided by the talented and experienced tutors,” he says. “Learning the design choices implicated by manufacturing at even a small scale was definitely a skill I will try to take away with me.”

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Among the Summer School’s three tutors was Jonathan Rose, who has been a cabinet maker for 25 years and employs 10 people creating bespoke furniture for a client list that includes Lord Snowdon. “There will always be a market for finely made objects, using the beauty of natural materials. If this can be combined with design to a client’s taste, commissions will follow,” he says when asked about the relevance of marquetry today. “Creating an object yourself is a hugely rewarding thing to do, and it’s something most people miss out on in today’s avenues of employment. We need to be able to supply the bespoke market for years to come – after all, it would be tragic for Antiques Roadshow to have to end!”

The Prince’s Foundation’s Snowdon Summer School is supported by Penhaligon’s.

Words: Ben Olsen

Images: Iain Brown

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