John Skilletter of Taran Eco Designs at Corris Craft Centre explains how Snowdonia’s environment inspires everything he makes.
All the wood we work with comes from within just a few miles of the shop. We’re really lucky to be so rich in woodland and natural resources. I scavenge driftwood from the beach, I gather deadwood from the forests. Farmers don’t throw anything away, so they’re a really good resource for me. Old fenceposts are made from split oak and we get those from the farmers when the fences fall down. They’ve been outside for up to 100 years already which gives them a unique weathered look. The local farmers are really supportive. Because they don’t like things to go to waste, they’ll see the kind of stuff we’re making and they’ll just turn up with a trailer and drop wood off. They just want it to be used properly.
We don’t decide that we need to build a chair. I’ll often find a piece of wood, decide it will be a perfect armrest for a chair and build around that. It’s the piece that informs what we make. Sometimes at the shop we can have loads of chairs and no tables and sometimes it’s the other way around. People sometimes ask if we can replicate something we’ve already made, but I have to wait until the right pieces turn up and even then, it won’t be exactly the same.
Sometimes people buy stuff because they see it and fall in love with it, but other times people want things in set dimension to fit into a particular space in their home. While that is more difficult, it has led to me making things I wouldn’t have made otherwise which can be a good thing. It’s always good to push boundaries and make things you wouldn’t otherwise have tried.
Initially, it takes a bit of time to get your head around working with less regular pieces of wood. Most people get trained in classic carpentry, working with spirit levels and tape measures. Doing this kind of work, you have to throw those tools away and start using your eyes. Where does this bit look good? Does this fit here? Once you’ve got over the normal way of doing things it’s much more liberating.
We try and make stuff tate replicates nature. All of your products look like where they’ve come from. A sheet of plywood doesn’t look much like a tree. Our stuff looks organic and natural and you get a real sense of what it was before. It gives you a lot of freedom. You can make a table out of driftwood, old fence posts or some deadwood and all three would look completely different, even though they are built to the same specifications. I never actually know what the piece is going to look like until it’s finished. At any point in the process you can change how it’s going to look. It’s always a surprise to me and I really enjoy that.