Solar power on a stick.

If you walk the Wolds Way from Wintringham towards Staxton you will encounter a steep climb through mature woodland at the top of which the path passes through a red wooden gate where the view changes from enclosed woods to the open panorama of the Vale of Pickering stretching to the forested slopes of the North Yorkshire Moors beyond. Immediately in front of you however is one of the sculptures that have been created along the route and alongside it a welcome bench to rest on while admiring what you can see.

The sculpture has been created mainly from riven timber which has been painted a bright red, this creates an enclosure and serves to accent a dew pond,  a feature which would have once been common across the Wolds. Set alongside this are a group of figures carved from wood and painted white, they are larger scale copies of figures found nearby but carved originally in the soft chalk that constitutes the body of this landscape. The figures reflect people who have lived in this area and will have trodden these same paths for many thousands of years during its change from predominantly woodland scenery to the open arable aspect we are familiar with.

The same sun we know today has shone down each day as generations of humans and trees have come and gone, each tree possessing  the almost alchemic ability to take sunlight and convert it into a material that is so useful and symbiotically entwined with our human development it is impossible imagining our species surviving without it. Trees saturate our folklore and early religions, provide food, supply the material for shelter and the means to heat that shelter. Wood can be shaped and fashioned into all manner of tools, utensils, furniture and musical instruments and gave mankind the ability to cross the oceans and expand his horizons.

The timber we use at Yorkshire Handmade comes from many different places, we try where possible to source european supplies but the products we make often requires timber that grows in North America. The growing process is always the same, the sun shines and the trees grow, each day a bit more wood is added, each year a ring tells how much sun that season was allocated. Solar power in it’s most beautiful form allowing us to carry on the tradition of using timber to make pleasing and functional objects, provide shelter and by utilising fire we can release that sunshine back when we most need it in the winter.

When we work with wood we are using something that was most probably planted by someone who has long passed on, we are using something created by summers that have also passed and with imagination we can look back down the millenia to the first humans who picked up a stick, used it as a tool and in so doing started a relationship with wood that remains today. Trees all share the ability to absorb sunlight and breath out oxygen as they create wood and in doing so providing our species with an indispensable means to survival.

Solar power on a stick, plant a tree and watch the magic.

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Age, aches, access and aesthetics.

I had a long day yesterday, it was one of those occasions when lots of small jobs have to be co-odinated and brought together to make a van load, it ended up fourteen hours on my feet and this morning I can feel it. I have reached my early fifties so I am not old by modern standards but the occasional long physical day gives me an insight into how I will possibly feel in years to come, my knee and elbow joints are stiff and uncomfortable, my fingers are likewise stiff and my grip is noticeably reduced this morning. The most restricting factor is my back and how uncomfortable it was to bend down and get items from low cupboards at breakfast.

As a furniture designer and maker I need to be aware of the needs of the clients I work for, not only in the present but also taking into consideration future needs, young people will hopefully be years away from the stiff jointed mornings I experience but they may have a young family in mind which we need to consider when designing interior spaces and furniture, they may also have elderly relatives visiting on a regular basis, possible to baby sit so we may have to factor this into the equation.

Let’s look at basic storage and how it affects how we access what we want to store, the main constraint on design is usually cost and the most cost effective storage is the humble cupboard with a door and shelves. It has been used successfully for centuries and in most cases is the optimum solution, the downside is the difficulty in finding things and retrieving those items from the back of the cupboard. A solution to this is to fit internal pull out shelving or convert the storage to drawers, the use of drawers instead of shelves greatly increases ease of access but will always increase the budget, careful consideration will also be required to ensure drawers of the correct width and depth are designed for efficient storage of the clients items. Internal pull-outs are a middle ground but not as effective if a door has to be opened before the shelf or storage basket can be pulled out.

If your budget allows, drawers designed to contain the diverse variety of kitchen items will always give the best solution for people with limited movement but we need to give consideration to handles. It is probably obvious that a handle will be easier for the hands of both young and old members of our family,  doors such as fridges, dishwashers and pull-out pantries require a reasonable amount of force to get them moving, a large handle that can be gripped by one old and possible two young hands might not be the aesthetically pleasing option but will allow ease of access for all.

Moving on to our work surfaces we need to consider that younger and older users of a kitchen sometimes find it easier to sit while they are preparing food, this may require a lower table height area which is safer than using a high stool, it is also good policy to ensure that when hot items are removed from ovens and microwaves that a suitable landing place is designed so that hot liquids especially do not have to be carried, this will have a bearing on the choice of worktop around the cooking zone. Corners on worktops are always safer if radiused, they are at eye level for a lot of youngsters and a square corner is not as nice to walk into or fall against.

In conclusion I would advise anyone designing a kitchen space to think about those at the extremes of the age range, mobility is often more restricted as is the ability to grip and carry. Consider a mobile work station that can be moved to allow a variation on the room layout depending on the task, this can have the added ability of moving ingredients to where there are needed, for instance as a storage unit for spices, cooking utensils etc. Look at the option of storing some sets of ingredients in baskets so they can be lifted onto the work surface during cooking operations to reduce the frequency of bending down to lower cupboards. Next time you have overdone things in the garden or at the gym and you are feeling a bit tender, try moving around your kitchen and consider how you would need to change the layout if you felt this way every morning. By this afternoon I should have loosened off and be back to my usual self but mornings like today are there to remind me that with luck I will see old age and may have to deal with some of the problems it can bring.

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It’s a dog’s life.

Bob enjoys his cappuccino.

I have always had a dog at the workshop and I could not imagine our workshop running without one. There have been enough studies about the benefits of having a dog both at home and in the workplace and from a totally non scientific viewpoint I can only agree. It would be difficult to imagine how much more stressful the past three years of recession would have been without Bob and Alfie making me smile during difficult days.

This pair brings to four the number of dogs I have had from the RSPCA kennels which by coincidence is only half a mile away down the lane, they all have had a good life with plenty of attention from staff and delivery drivers during their working day. A small amount of training teaches them that the tea room is off limits at all times and jumping up at people who are wearing suits is frowned upon, both of ours are well behaved and wander around as they wish, laying out in the sun on warm days and sleeping under the desks when they want a bit of quiet.

In my experience having a dog as part of the team is a benefit to the business, they do not make anything but add to the well being of staff in a way that would be difficult to measure and I would suggest anyone with suitable work premises try it for themselves.

On our facebook page there are a few pictures of the boys but if you ever visit our workshop or buy one of our Yorkshire Country Collection kitchens you might get to meet Bob and Alfie and ask them what a dog’s life is really like.

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The bottom line?.

Working it all out.

We have one apprentice working for us and if the economy plays ball we will soon have two, they are part of the business plan to grow our company during whatever years I have left before retirement. Training young people is not cheap, most of it has to be done here in the workshop as colleges have cut back and no longer offer any relevant courses in our area and financial assistance is pretty much non-existent.

We are however a family business, nobody is related but the atmosphere is like an extended family, the young lads are treated as if they were younger brothers or step sons and as they develop their skills and become useful members of the team something grows in value that does not show on the balance sheet but is however a big part of the companies worth.

When I eventually call it a day and look at what has been achieved, a healthy profit will be required but the true bottom line will be how these young people have grown and are able to carry this company forwards to enable them to offer the same opportunities the generation that follows them.

Designing and making furniture is a good way to earn a living, helping people to develop into independent skilled craftsmen at the same time is a bonus.

 

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Think it, draw it, make it.

Kellys sketch book showing two of the pages where the ideas for the Yokshire Country Collection were born.

One part of me that has been constant throughout my life is the need to design and draw, I have filled countless notebooks and sketch books with ideas, doodles and developments.  That I do this has never been questioned and is a part of a design process which would be recognised by anyone involved in creating something from scratch, the fact that “the hand that draws is an extention of the brain that thinks” was recognised by Leonardo da Vinci and is possibly why many of us find difficulty in explaining anything without using hand gestures.

The seed of an idea that originates in the brain will never sprout unless given chance to develop, the pen and page is usually the place where this occurs as it has the flexibility to express the abstract ideas that form when a design or idea presents itself in the designer’s head. It is a fact that very few of our ideas will ever see themselves developed into a finished, tangiable item. Most will sit and wait, they will be revisited over the years and occasionally will be allowed to develop or will trigger another idea that send the thought processes off on yet another tangent. The main function of these notes and sketches is that it conditions the way thoughts are generated and information is recorded which is essential when working on more specific design briefs.

In the notebook there are no budget constraints, no boundaries on style and no restricted material choice, what you think becomes reality on the page and only then can you consider the merits of the concept and if it is viable. The development of the base idea to determine whether to move forward is also usually done at this stage, the freedom of a blank page and a pen to enable the exploration of possible detailing, construction and styling is an important element in a successful design and this continuing direct link between hand and brain.

The first formal stage of the design process is the translation of concept sketches into working drawings, once a clear idea has been established about the form the product will take it is the role of the working drawing to convey that information clearly to the people responsible for the making. Mostly these drawings are done using computer software which have the advantage of generating multiple views and part lists, there is still however much merit in the use of the drafting board as the way of moving the design forward and is the way I prefer as it keeps me in contact with the original design idea.

The design process is finally realised when the product is produced, if it is a prototype or mock up there will usually be changes and tweaks which are then recorded in the drawings  but eventually there will be something complete that started it’s life as an abstract thought, was noted down in a sketchbook or on an envelope, was developed through sketches, notes and working drawings and finally was created in it’s final form.

The Yorkshire Country Collection started out as an idea that spread to many pages in my sketchbook, I developed the concept through working drawings and mock up samples, produced a working prototype unit for evaluation, made a full working kitchen in the workshop and then moved to producing the kitchen units for sale. The Yorkshire Country Collection has just started it’s journey, we have the first Oak units being tested in the workshop, there are development drawings in progress for home office and bedroom furniture as well as design work on free standing furniture.

While plenty of new design ideas arrive every day and are duly jotted down, only time will tell which one’s go all the way and make it into a customer’s home.

Kelly Lund.

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Kitchen design, more than a few cupboards and a worktop.

Colour tint of kitchen design.

We are all individuals yet we are all the same, this is broadly speaking true and why designing kitchens can be so easy while at the same time be the most frustrating and difficult task as I hope to explain.

Starting with the second part of the statement which is the easier part of our job as kitchen and furniture designers, most people have broadly the same needs in their kitchen and use them in the same way (I will look at the needs of the young, the elderly and people with special requirements in another blog and today consider the needs of the majority of clients). We all need somewhere to cook, store things and wash things, quite often these considerations are dictated by the building, the key elements of sink and cooker have one available position and no mater how much you scratch your head and wish for an alternative the drains etc will not allow a change. From this point the fine tuning is influenced by how you will want to use your room, breakfast bars and bench seating may be more use than acres of worktop to some while a clear area for baking is a must for others. As a general rule the key elements and broad layout are usually set out by practical issues and because they are to a certain extent not up for negotiation compromises often have to be made and accepted if the available budget is to be respected.

How we flesh out the layout is the part that usually occupies most time and effort, we are all individuals and this is brought sharply into focus when having to decide on the kitchen we will have to live with for a large part of our lives. It is not uncommon to leave our design start point and after going around the houses to arrive at the place we set out from, sometimes this happens more than once but always the path leads to a final solution. Don’t ever feel you are unusual in this, a new kitchen is a big ticket item and not a decision to be rushed, the choices available can be bewildering and it takes time to absorb the information you will be bombarded with during the design process. Our choice of style, materials and colours will be influenced not only by practical issues but also by experiences of friends and family, pictures and articles in magazines, advertising and possibly most importantly your thoughts about how you want to live in your home in the future. Images of entertaining friends, cooking and baking for the family or just sitting with a drink on your window seat will all form a picture in your mind of how you want your new kitchen to feel.

As individuals we have to convey our thoughts regarding all the above considerations to everyone involved, as designers we use drawings, images and showroom display kitchens to help get our ideas over to our clients. It is a crucial part of the design process that everyone is allowed the time and opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings so that when the final solution is reached it is a happy conclusion for everyone involved, this is where a good kitchen designer earns their keep by listening and then guiding you along the twisting path that leads to your new kitchen.

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All up and running.

Drawings and hardware from the Yorkshire Country Collection.

After days of toil the bare bones of our two websites are now on the web. The Yorkshire Country Collection and Yorkshire Handmade Ltd. are both available giving background information about us and our products in addition to our facebook page which is the usual social and informal side to our company where you will find more photographs as well as links to other sites we have noticed.

Please contact me if you notice any howlers in any of our sites and blogs, English is my first and only language but after fifty years practice I still have my moments.

Kelly Lund

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Please have a look at our Facebook page.

facebook.com/yorkshirecountrycollection

You will find a link there back to another blog I have started.

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Bespoke Kitchens in Yorkshire.

Thank you for taking the time to find our site, my name is Kelly Lund and over the course of the next few weeks I will be getting our blogs, websites and face book pages up to speed to enable everyone access to information about ourselves and the furniture we produce.

In the meantime if you need help or information please contact us at yorkshirehandmade@talktalkbusiness.net

 

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