Saxonby pledges support for greenwood courses following commission of handmade furniture

A Shropshire homebuilder is supporting the local Heritage Craft industry through the sponsorship of greenwood courses organised by a supplier it recently commissioned to provide bespoke items of furniture.

During the process of pruning and felling trees at its Besford Gardens development in Shrewsbury, Saxonby was approached by Mark Eccleston from Wroxeter based Pics and Sticks, who offered to make a bench for the company’s office reception area. Always keen to recycle material director James Wood also ordered a second piece which Saxonby donated to Floreat Homes, its partner in the development.

Pleased with the results, Wood decided that Saxonby could add its support to this sector of the British economy which, due to its specialist nature has at times, struggled to remain sustainable. However, despite barriers such as a lack of interest particularly among young people to enter the industry, there are positive signs. From a recent Trends Business Research Ltd (TBR) report, carried out in conjunction with the Heritage Craft Association and entitled Mapping Heritage Crafts, 210,000 people are employed in the sector throughout the UK with the highest in the West Midlands (37,200), 78 percent of whom are self-employed. Its employment footprint is expected to grow by 12 percent over the next ten years, with an annual growth rate perceived at one percent.

48-year-old Mark Eccleston’s route into becoming a self-employed crafts person is in general, fairly common. He established Pics and Sticks in November 2013, having previously worked as a railway signal box operator. With an interest in photography and greenwood issues, he used redundancy money to set up the business, which now includes a wood yard and workshop at Wroxeter and the management of a seven acre piece of ancient woodland in Halesfield, Telford. Since then he has attended a number of refresher courses, subsequently taught his skills in schools, and exhibited at craft fairs.

He said: “I suppose it really all started about six years ago when, as a keen wildlife photographer, I met and got talking to a greenwood specialist during a photo shoot. Since then I haven’t looked back. Heritage Craft skills are in demand and I’ve had people attending my courses from as far away as London. The important thing is to make sure the skills are passed on and that the public continue to value the products we make. Support from a business such as Saxonby is very much appreciated and an added incentive for people to book on a course. I can guarantee that attendees, who are prepared to invest a little time and enthusiasm, will be rewarded with a great sense of achievement and a finished product to take home.”

“The directors and I hold a firm belief in keeping traditional skills alive, so the provision of funding for the courses Mark is running will be a worthwhile contribution to maintaining not only his livelihood but also potentially lighting a spark for other people to consider taking up a craft-based career,” added James Wood.

For more information about the one day introduction to greenwood working courses supported by Saxonby, contact Mark Eccleston on 07577 963996. Maximum of six people per course, per day.

Picture: Mark Eccleston, Pics and Sticks, with Bertie the dog.

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Nevile Street likes to write positive news stories, ride his Vespa, play his cajon and laugh a lot!

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