GO­ING WITH THE GRAIN

Ge­orge Winks carves beau­ti­ful, con­tem­po­rary fur­ni­ture us­ing self-taught tech­niques, nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als and sculp­tural forms

Country Living (UK) - - Contents - words by ali heath pho­to­graphs by emma lewis

Meet a man who crafts con­tem­po­rary fur­ni­ture with sculp­tural forms us­ing nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als

Sim­ple, quiet, func­tional and hand­made in Eng­land’ may be Ge­orge Winks’s un­der­stated strapline, but the aes­thetic and drive of this self-taught fur­ni­ture maker is any­thing but mod­est. In the three short years since he set up his com­pany, Tem­per Stu­dio, his unique ap­proach and eye for beau­ti­ful de­sign have firmly es­tab­lished him as a mod­ern-day ‘maker’ to watch. Such in­dus­try isn’t im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent from the rus­tic 18th-cen­tury farm­stead that is both his home and work­place. Set at the end of a wind­ing Wilt­shire lane, the slate-roof build­ings shel­ter a for­ward-think­ing stu­dio that com­bines clas­sic wood­work­ing with ar­chi­tec­turally led de­signs and brings to­gether raw, nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als of all tex­tures and prop­er­ties in each cre­ation. The work­shop con­tains a grow­ing col­lec­tion of ta­bles, desks, chairs, stools, benches, boards and ac­ces­sories – all made from Bri­tish oak, sycamore, ash and beech. And with Sel­fridges among its cus­tomers, and a num­ber of ex­cit­ing be­spoke com­mis­sions in the pipe­line, Tem­per Stu­dio is clearly well into its stride.

It’s the evo­lu­tion of a long-held cre­ative dream for Ge­orge, who grew up in South Africa, the son of an English fa­ther and a half-english, half-greek mother. As a child, he was fas­ci­nated by his fa­ther’s work­shop at home. “Dad was con­stantly adapt­ing some­thing old into some­thing new,” he says. “His pas­sion was wood­work­ing but, with four chil­dren, he needed a job that would sup­port us all, so it re­mained a hobby. I’d

spend hours crawl­ing un­derneath things he had made, try­ing to fig­ure out how they were con­structed.” As such, wood is the foun­da­tion of ev­ery Tem­per piece, with con­crete, steel and glass fre­quently in­tro­duced as com­ple­men­tary tex­tures. “Cut­ting through the wood opens it up so you can learn from it,” Ge­orge says, “while the ad­di­tion of con­crete and steel adds a raw­ness that is im­por­tant for me – my work is not ro­man­ti­cised and I al­ways vi­su­alise how I want ob­jects to look and feel in a space, as a sculp­tural con­cept.”

From a young age Ge­orge knew that he wanted to cre­ate, and at 16 be­came a knife-mak­ing ap­pren­tice: “I loved work­ing with dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als to cre­ate one sin­gu­lar prod­uct and it in­stilled in me a pas­sion for com­bin­ing raw el­e­ments.” He fol­lowed this with an art course at St Oswald’s School of Paint­ing in Lon­don, three years of clas­si­cal fine-art train­ing that he cred­its as an in­tense ex­pe­ri­ence. “I left feel­ing that it was not just skill that made a good artist, but the abil­ity to think in­tel­li­gently and to make aes­thetic con­nec­tions.”

How­ever, in Fe­bru­ary 2013, hav­ing spent years work­ing as a graphic de­signer and strug­gling to make it as a fine artist, things came to a head for Ge­orge. He took a trip to the Outer He­brides, spend­ing two weeks cy­cling. “I needed time to think, with no dis­trac­tions, and de­cided that what I ac­tu­ally wanted to do was make fur­ni­ture and run my own busi­ness,” he says. “It felt like a turn­ing point. On my re­turn to Lon­don, I quit my job, bor­rowed some money and, three months later, at the age of 29, I launched Tem­per Stu­dio.” The busi­ness started in a tiny workspace in Tot­ten­ham, but he quickly be­gan to look be­yond the capital as rents were so ex­pen­sive. The op­por­tu­nity arose to rent a cot­tage in rural Wilt­shire from a sup­port­ive rel­a­tive: “Ini­tially I was un­sure, as I’d grown up liv­ing in cities, but by the end of the year I had moved in and was hooked.”

Ge­orge has since con­verted the ad­join­ing farm build­ings into in­ter­con­nect­ing stu­dios and work­shops. A door from the scullery in his cot­tage leads into the main work­shop, where the scent of fresh wood fills the air. This space com­prises two rooms – one full of tim­ber and ma­chines, where all the dusty, noisy work is car­ried out; the other where hand tools are kept and in which the fine de­tail and fin­ish­ing work takes place. Uten­sils line the walls, a mix of old and new – many lov­ingly col­lected and re­stored. Else­where, a sep­a­rate area is re­served for de­sign­ing, while the ‘shed lab­o­ra­tory’ is used for messy con­crete mix­ing. “Liv­ing next door does mean that I end up work­ing most of the time, but I am so ab­sorbed in my work that the hours are ir­rel­e­vant,” he says.

With no for­mal train­ing in fur­ni­ture mak­ing, Ge­orge has learned all his prac­ti­cal skills from an old man­ual of his fa­ther’s and Youtube tu­to­ri­als: “Lots of for­mally trained crafts­men know how to make fur­ni­ture but lack the aes­thetic clar­ity to know what to cre­ate. I was the other way around – I am a firm be­liever that you can learn to do any­thing if you have a prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tion for it.” This ex­per­i­men­tal ap­proach can be seen in Ge­orge’s cur­rent pro­ject – a se­ries of chop­ping boards com­mis­sioned by on­line con­tem­po­rary craft

shop Mid­g­ley Green. “They asked us to cre­ate some­thing func­tional and sculp­tural. At the time a friend of mine was sail­ing around the world,” Ge­orge says. “Her emails started me think­ing of the ocean – I wanted to some­how cap­ture the dark sea at night.” To cre­ate the de­sired fin­ish, he uses a bis­cuit join­ter – a tool nor­mally used for join­ing planks to­gether – hav­ing dis­cov­ered that its pro­trud­ing blade worked bet­ter than an an­gle grinder. “We start by cut­ting the ba­sic shape out of a plank of Bri­tish hard­wood, prefer­ably lo­cally grown, be­fore carv­ing and sculpt­ing its sur­face with the spin­ning blade,” Ge­orge ex­plains. “Then we rub the carved sur­face down with steel wool to re­move any ‘fluffy’ grain and stain the wood with a black dye. Af­ter it’s dry, we rub it back again with dif­fer­ent grades of sand­pa­per and steel wool to achieve the tonal variation and evoca­tive look of choppy waves.”

To fin­ish the boards, he uses a hand plane to shape their edges and add his sig­na­ture facets be­fore rub­bing them with nat­u­ral oils and wax. The re­sult is strik­ing and tac­tile, with dis­tinc­tive shapes in each piece en­sur­ing no two are the same. Cut into the wood, as he says, and you do in­deed learn from it. For Ge­orge, though, it’s the con­tin­ual learn­ing curve he ex­pe­ri­ences that keeps things in­ter­est­ing: “Work­ing for my­self can be tough but the coun­try­side gives me the quiet I need to be cre­ative. I no longer fil­ter de­ci­sions through oth­ers, as I have the headspace to trust my own in­stincts.

“I love push­ing the boundaries – when you have no idea what to do, that’s when the real cre­ativ­ity hap­pens. Then you have no choice but to chal­lenge, learn and trust your brain and your hands.”

CL read­ers can re­ceive 10 per cent off when order­ing at tem­per­stu­dio.com un­til 31 March 2017 by quot­ing CLTEMPER10.

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