ALASTAIR BOELL (Australia)
Alastair Boell was awarded a Bachelor of Education (Arts and Crafts) at Melbourne University, majoring in ‘Furniture Making’ in 1990. A month after graduating, he moved to Japan, where he taught English and made furniture for his own pleasure for eight years. While living there, he became heavily influenced by the Japanese design aesthetic.
In 2003, Alastair travelled to Boston, in the USA , where he studied furniture making at the world-renowned North Bennet Street School . This school specializes in 18th and 19th Century hand skills. He is the first Australian to have graduated from this school. During his two years in the USA he also helped to restore an old diner and took part in a traditional barn raising.
Alastair returned to Australia in 2005. This same year, Alastair won ‘The Carba-Tec Award for Craftsmanship’ at the ‘Touchwood Exhibition in 2005’. He has also appeared on the front cover of the 49th issue of ‘The Australian Wood Review’ magazine. In 2006, Alastair was chosen to exhibit his work in the ‘Masters Exhibition at the Timber Working with Wood Show’. Alastair also won ‘The Box Making Award’ for his toolbox at the ‘Timber Working with Wood Show in 2007.’
In 2008, Alastair completed his dream of establishing a workshop and school – ‘The Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking’.
At the age of sixteen years old, Lionel began his Cabinet Making apprenticeship in Nancy, France. The first few years of this 10 year course was dedicated to unique handwork skills.
After three years as an apprentice and as a part of the course structure, Lionel then travelled to various towns and workshops, and over a period of eight years, he learned the diverse techniques and specialities in cabinetry. During this time Lionel had the opportunity to work in England for one year in a fine bespoke furniture workshop near Oxford.
In 2008 Lionel was awarded his ‘Masters in Cabinet Making’ in Reims, France. He then undertook a teaching role at his school for 2 years where he taught 16 apprentices in order to achieve their first Cabinet Making Diploma.
Mainly passionate by transferring his knowledge of traditional French woodworking and marquetry techniques, Lionel also believes that in this fast world of production it is sometimes important to stop and take the time to use, share and enjoy these old-style techniques when working with such a pure and fine material such as timber.
JOHN WATERS (Australia)
John commenced training as a cabinet-maker and soon after moved into timber furniture making. By completing a full-time course in fine furniture making at Coles School of Woodcraft, John continued to build upon his design and construction skills by gaining experience across the industry. Over a 15-year period, he has worked with traditional and contemporary furniture-makers, including Ramons Fine Furniture, Thomas Gannon, Mark Tuckey and Charles Sandford. Through his participation with the Victorian Woodworkers Association, John developed in-depth knowledge and wide network of colleagues and resources.
In 2000, John ventured into his own business, Roseadora. Specialising in custom design/making of contemporary furniture, the repertoire included: boardroom tables for law offices (Robinson Gill Lawyers, Klaus Mueller); architectural collaborations for residential/commercial fit-outs (Co-Lab Architects); stand-alone commissions for institutions (City of Melbourne, Royal Children’s Hospital, University of Melbourne); and numerous private residential projects of varying scales (exterior and interior building features). John’s commitment to detail in design conception and follow through with handcrafted skills was acknowledged in awarding the 2008 Victorian Premier’s Design Award for the ‘Trinity Buffet’, and ABAF Springboard Program.
In 2009, John travelled with Alastair to the USA, attending the American Furniture Makers Conference, and visiting the workshops of George Nakashima and Wharton Esherick. Whilst there, he undertook a one-on-one course for a week with Peter Galbert to make the Windsor chair. Continuously expanding his interests, skills and knowledge, John has competed a workshop with Silas Kopf (USA) in marquetry/parquetry veneer(2012); Certificate IV Building (2013); and employment in a joinery company (2015). Currently, John is building a traditional Scottish yacht, ‘Arctic Turn‘ designed by Iian Oughtred.
Once Shinobu completed high school in Japan, he came to Australia to study design in a native English environment. He studied graphic & industrial design for five years at a technical college in Western Australia. After he completed his course is WA, he moved to Melbourne where he worked in the furniture and timber industry for 6 years.
After this period, he joined the MGFW as a student with Alastair Boell as his instructor. During this time, he became increasingly interested in traditional woodworking & hand skills.
After couple of years, he applied for the Capellagården, Sweden. It is a well known traditional craft school in Sweden, Denmark & Japan. The founder of the school, Carl Malmsten (who is known as a ‘Godfather’ of Swedish furniture) is also known as James Krenov’s woodworking teacher.
In 2013, Shinobu was accepted by the master craftsman of the school and started learning Swedish & Nordic style woodworking. Shinobu was one of the four new students who was accepted into the school that year, from hundreds of applicants from all over the world. At the end of that year, he won the ‘Design & Craftsmanship’ award in Sweden.
In 2014, he also attended the College of the Redwoods as an exchange student from Capellagården and learnt the ‘Krenov’ style of woodworking. Shinobu officially became the only Japanese craftsman who learnt their passion & philosophy of woodworking of Carl Malmsten & James Krenov,.
After his US woodworking journey, he came back to his mother country Japan, and got opportunity to become an apprentice of designated traditional master craftsperson. During this time, he had experienced the art of traditional handcraft & Japanese joinery “Sashimono” skills and techniques.
He then returned to Sweden in 2015, and took the national craftsman’s exam called “Gesäll’, which is known to be one of the most difficult examinations for skilled craftsman in Nordic countries. There were two different sections for the exam, drawing and making actual furniture. It normally it takes about a year to finish this exam. He designed and crafted a ‘coffee wagon cabinet’ for his exam where his final results were 4.98 points out of 5.00!! He officially received the Silver Medal from the Kingdom of Sweden in 2016.
During the same year, he was involved in the Danish Woodworking Association in Copenhagen, where he prepared his piece for the group exhibition for the National Gallery of Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Japan with world-top skilled woodworkers, including royal craftsman in Denmark.
He is now finally back in Australia again and ready to share his newly acquired woodworking skills. His dream is to interact with as many people as possible and to pass on the beautiful traditional techniques that he has accumulated throughout his incredible journey from around the world!
JON GRANT (Hobart, Australia)
Jon has a strong commitment to creativity, craftsmanship and the fulfilment that these processes bring to those who engage in them. Having been a teacher in trade training for over 20 years he has a strong background in teaching and learning, and has experienced firsthand what a great platform for learning craftsmanship can be.
Jon’s work reflects the simple principles of Shaker philosophy, design and integrity and he works as much as possible using only hand tools. He is an experienced woodturner and 40 years on he still turns on the lathe he built as a young man in high school.
His love of Windsor Chair Making has recently led him to spend time in the United States working with some of the masters of the craft and developing his skills in order to share this with woodworkers here in Australia.
Making Windsor Chairs aligns with all of Jon’s philosophies around craftsmanship in that each piece is unique and handcrafted, the tools you use are particular to the craft and often handmade themselves, and you gain a deep connection with the unique characteristics of the timbers you work with.
Jon values the privilege of living in Tasmania and having beautiful and unique timbers to work with and is currently working on exploring which Tasmanian timbers lend themselves to making Windsor Chairs.
MATT STONEHOUSE (Melbourne, Australia)
Matt Stonehouse is a Melbourne based musician, composer and instrument maker currently living on the Dunmoochin Artist Colony in Cottles Bridge, Victoria. He lives there as an artist-in-resident. Matt Stonehouse is Australia’s foremost percussionist of Arabic and Turkish styles of drumming and is featured on more than forty albums of both local and international artists. In addition to percussion, Matt is a highly regarded guitarist, mandolin and mandocello player and uses these instruments when composing. This can be heard on his 2016 vinyl album release, ‘Rosie’s point of view.ʼ
His recording credits as percussionist are both impressive and extensive. Internationally notable artists he has performed/ recorded with are: The Ross Daly quartet (Crete), The Tea Party (Canada), Coleman Barks (USA). In Australia his credits include the ARIA nominated album ‘Empires‘ by Latidtude 37, Bashka, Mista Savona, Alwan, Yair Dalal ,My friend the chocolate cake, Zulya and the children of the underground, Kozmik County and surf rock group, The Reefers.
Matt first discovered MGFW in 2014 whilst attending the Shaker Bentwood Box course and became a student of Alastairʼs ever since. Other than the occasional fine furniture build, Matt focuses on crafting high end frame drums for musicians around the world and is currently designing a large set of 25 tunable drums to be performed by his frame drum ensemble here in Melbourne. When heʼs not playing or making drums…heʼs making Shaker Bentwood Boxes!
CHRISTOPHER SCHWARZ (USA)
Christopher Schwarz is a long-time woodworker and writer who has spent the last 15 years encouraging woodworkers to embrace more handwork in their shops. He built his first workbench when he was 11 and was introduced to handwork when his family built its first house on an Arkansas farm without electricity.
After formal training as a journalist at Northwestern University, Chris worked as a newspaperman by day and studied woodworking at night at the University of Kentucky. In 1996, he was hired as managing editor of Popular Woodworking, where he helped resuscitate the magazine and introduced more handwork into its pages. He eventually became editor and began writing books and teaching woodworking classes.
In 2007 he founded Lost Art Press LLC, a publishing company devoted to one thing: reviving handwork. By 2011, Lost Art Press had grown so much that Chris stepped down as editor of Popular Woodworking (he’s now a contributing editor) to focus on his company full time.
He’s the author of several woodworking books, including “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use,” “The Workbench Design Book,” “Handplane Essentials,” and “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker.” He also has produced six DVDs on handwork with Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. He lives in Fort Mitchell, Ky., with his wife and two daughters.
RAFAEL BEIBER (Australia)
Rafael Bieber has had an interest in visual arts from a young age encouraged by his family. This soon opened a broader vision and curiousity of the world, enabling him to appreciate different cultures, periods, mediums and styles of art.
Since the mid 1980’s Rafael has been an avid amateur photographer, which soon led to the learning of picture framing in Warnambool. He has continued to work in this field in Melbourne ever since, where he taught his craft to adults. He has also helped numerous customers with design and styles best suited to their needs.
TERRY GORDON (Australia)
As a child Terry Gordon always enjoyed woodwork. He found it easy to learn and felt very pleased when he made things out of wood, always believing that he was destined to be involved with working with wood. When he was married he needed furniture, so he decided to make his own. This is where he learned the basics of making furniture, using books and what he had learnt at school.
During his fifteen years in the RAAF, he managed to make all the furniture for his home and as a result, the quality slowly improved. During a 3 year posting in Malaysia, he learned how to wood carve and how to use wooden planes with a local cabinet maker. These skills took his woodwork to another level and started his career in tool making. In essence, he discovered that the planes that this particular Chinese cabinet maker was using were superior to the Western planes. Therefore, he had decided to make his own. Other people appreciated them and the rest is history.
Over the 20 years of making planes, he has also incorporated their use in the furniture he makes for his family. In particular the use of Joinery planes and Hollows and Rounds. These planes that he now makes, has added another aspect and level of quality to his furniture. During his last three years in the RAAF, he was teaching navigation and these skills have come in handy in recent years, as teaching opportunities have come his way. He feels fortunate to have acquired some unique woodworking skills and is very pleased to be able to share them through teaching at the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking.
TOM FIDGEN (Canada)
Tom Fidgen is a designer/maker author, musician, living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Tom has written for Fine Woodworking Magazine, Popular Woodworking Magazine, Canadian Woodworking Magazine, Furniture & Cabinet Making Magazine, British Woodworking Magazine, as well as the Lee Valley Tools Newsletter.
His first book, Made by Hand – Furniture Projects from the Unplugged Woodshop (2009-F&W Media) was the top selling wood working book of 2010 and is regarded as; “The definitive book of how to build woodworking projects using hand tools” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6nON0oejgg
His much anticipated follow-up, The Unplugged Woodshop – Hand Crafted Projects for the Home and Workshop, was released with The Taunton Press in September 2013, and has received critical acclaim.
Tom is the owner and head Instructor at The Unplugged Woodshop - Toronto, a School, Store, Maker Space and Studio located in downtown Toronto.
Tom teaches woodworking with hand tools both Nationally and Internationally.
HANK TYLER (USA)
Mr. Tyler is an internationally known sculptor of birds in wood. He began realistic sculpture of birds in 1960 under the guidance of Charles G. Chase. Early exhibits included: MacKenzie Gallery in Brunswick, Maine in 1961 – Best of the Show, Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine in 1971 – One Man Show. Ogunquit Art Center, Ogunquit, Maine in 1977 – Special Merit Award.
Mr. Tyler is a founding member of The Society for Wildlife Art for the Nation (UK), and has been invited to exhibit in “Birds in Art” at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin in 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1991, 1995, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2012, and 2016. In 1995, Mr. Tyler was awarded the Society of Animal Artists’ Award of Excellence for “Resting for the Day.”
Having grown up on Maine’s coast, shorebirds and oceanic birds are Tyler’s most consistently chosen subjects. The designs and proportions of Tyler’s bird sculptures are generally reflective of the actual birds and their behaviours.
Articles and photographs of Mr. Tyler’s sculpture have appeared in Fine Woodworking Biennial Design Book (1977), Natural World , UK (1986), Wildlife Art News (1995) featuring Mr. Tyler’s work, and Wildfowl Carving Competition (2000); Wildlife Art (2004) Spotlight.
Since 2000, Tyler has created artistically designed spoons, spatulas and knives out of a variety of hardwoods.
Mr. Tyler was educated as a zoologist and oceanographer, and devoted his professional life to conservation issues in the State of Maine. He is well known for protection efforts for rare plants, old-growth forests and ecologically significant habitats. He has been active in many non-profit conservation organizations including national president of the Natural Areas Association.
Tyler is co-founder of Art for Nature – Nepal that held its first wildlife art symposium in December 2015.
DES KING (Brisbane, Australia)
A former Australian Army officer, Des first came into contact with the Japanese culture when he was selected to
attend a 12-month intensive Japanese language course at the then RAAF School of Languages at Point Cook in
1974. In 1978 he was sent to Japan by the Army for advanced Japanese language studies, consisting of one year
at the United States Department of State Foreign Service Institute in Yokohama, and one year in the Office of the
Military Attaché at the Australian Embassy.
Des left the Army at the end of 1986, eventually moving to Tokyo to live, and work as a free-lance Japanese-
English translator. He continued translating business after his return to Australia.
Woodworking had been growing into an increasingly serious hobby for quite some time, and in April 2008, Des
began a 12-month post-graduate course in tategu (production and fitting of doors and windows, and especially
shoji) at the International College of Craft and Art (Shokugei Gakuin) in Toyama, Japan. The course was entirely
in Japanese, and comprised mostly practical work, with only a limited amount of theoretical studies. After
building the foundation in making shoji, Des turned his focus to the intricate patterns that can be made by
kumiko within shoji. This became the central theme of his work.
After completing the course in March 2009, Des returned to Australia and set up a workshop in the Gold Coast.
Des has published three books on making shoji and kumiko patterns, and is currently writing and making
patterns for his fourth book.
STEVE LATTA (USA)
Steve Latta makes both contemporary and traditional furniture while teaching woodworking at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology and Millersville University in Lancaster County, PA.
For the past several years, Steve has been a contributing editor to Fine Woodworking magazine and has released several videos on inlay and furniture construction. He has lectured at Colonial Williamsburg, The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, and Winterthur Museum as well as numerous other schools and guilds.
Working in conjunction with Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, he helped develop and market a set of contemporary inlay tools. When not in the shop, Steve can be found on his motorcycle, hiking in the woods with his lab, Neesa, or cuddled up with a good book. He lives with his wife, Elizabeth, in rural Pennsylvania with their children, Fletcher, Sarah and Grace nearby.
HUGH ANDERSON (AUSTRALIA)
Hugh is a retired anaesthetist with a life-time interest in woodworking. His professional career, spanning
some 40 years, was spent mostly in a major teaching hospital, involved in the anaesthesia and management of trauma, and the teaching of anaesthesia trainees, medical students and nurses. Working with wood has proven to be a rewarding pastime, providing a welcome break from the long hours and intensity of anaesthesia practice. A few courses over the years improved his skills in furniture making, box making and wood turning, as did a subscription to Fine Woodworking. In planning for retirement, he participated in a number of courses at MGFW to extend his woodworking skills and knowledge. In retirement, he has continued his participation in MGFW classes, especially Windsor chair making. The October 2012 edition of Popular Woodworking had an article on the Roorkee chair written by Christopher Schwarz. This was the inspiration to make his first Roorkee chair in 2012, and he has continued to make the chairs since (about 30 at last count), either for personal use, for family and friends, and on commission when requested. He also instructs friends how to make their own Roorkee chairs in his workshop.
ROBERT HOWARD (AUSTRALIA)
Growing up on a farm, I had ample opportunity to learn to use my hands to make things. Becoming an engineer (B Eng (Mech) UNSW 1971) seemed a logical way to extend this into a satisfying career.
However, the reality proved to be quite different, and it wasn’t until I accidentally discovered fine woodworking that found my true path. Here, I was free to dream, to design, and to make, using, as we like to say, my head, my heart and my hands. I must have been blessed, because I found this even though I did not know that it was what I was looking for.
More good fortune followed, when I was given the perfect opportunity to learn to make an extensive range of solid wood furniture, using traditional techniques, while being paid to do so.
Because the furniture I was learning to make reproduced antiques, I also had the opportunity to begin to learn decorative woodcarving.
By 1978 I was ready to strike out on my own. In those pre-internet days, finding customers was very difficult, and the method most craftspeople adopted to advertise their existence was to participate in exhibitions. Having made the decision to exhibit, I then had to decide what I wanted to exhibit, and, for reasons I cannot remember, I decided to carve some bowls.
This led to an invitation from Karen O’Clery, of Narek Galleries in Canberra, to show some bowls at SOFA (Sculpture, Objects and Functional Art Show) in Chicago. My bowls sold very well there, and have ended up in Collections at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Cincinnati Museum of Fine Arts, and the Figge Museum, as well as a number of private collections in the USA.
Most recently, here in Australia, one of my carved works won the $10,000 Wootha Prize for the best exhibit at the annual Maleny Wood Expo.
I have been a regular contributor to the Australian Wood Review since June, 1996, and have been a Contributing Editor for many years.
The final string to my woodworking bow, and the one that has been my main source of income since about 1990, has been teaching private classes in fine woodworking and carving. This income has allowed me the room to explore my bowl carving, and to work without making compromises that I would not be comfortable with.
The recent popularity of spoon carving around the world is probably due to how well, as a creative activity, it fits the formats of the internet - in particular, You Tube and Instagram. It promises to expose a large number of people to the joys of using their hands creatively, and is an excellent introduction for woodworkers to working with three dimensional curves.
For me, spoon carving completes a circle, because the very first things I ever carved, way back in 1980, were a spoon and a bowl.
As a woodworker who has managed to survive for 30 years, I have watched fine woodworking evolve from the fringe hobby of a dedicated few, into a substantial industry spread around the world. It has been a most enjoyable way to spend my working life.
VERONICA SEXTON (Ireland)
Veronica Sexton was born in County Cork, Ireland, in 1970. She moved to England in 1988, and there, assisted by a grant from the Leche Trust, obtained her Higher Diploma and Graduateship in Woodcarving and Gilding at the City and Guilds of London Art School in 1994. She won the coveted William Wheeler Prize for Outstanding Work and was part of a selected group of artisans chosen to work on the five year restoration of Windsor Castle which had been severely damaged by fire. Since then she has worked on a number of commissions in Malaysia, Ireland, England, USA and Australia.
Since arriving in Australia six years ago Ronnie has allowed her strict classical training in Gothic, Baroque and Rococo woodcarving to evolve into a more relaxed, freer-flowing style. Ronnie predominantly works from salvaged timber from trees in the Dandenong Ranges that have blown down or have died a natural death.
With a family background in upholstery and restoration, Eddy’s lifelong association with antiques has strongly influenced his belief that quality furniture can and should be given a second chance, brought back to life, and put to practical and aesthetic use. In contrast to today’s throwaway society, Eddy takes a conservation approach to restoring furniture in a way that maintains the integrity, history and character of each piece that he works with.
Eddy is a qualified furniture restorer with 16 years’ experience. While he specialises in French polishing furniture of all styles and periods, he has a particular interest in English, French, Italian and Australian furniture of the early and late Victorian period. At 32 years old, Eddy is one of the younger generation of French polishers who is reviving this traditional method by applying it to contemporary and bespoke furniture.
In addition to his professional interest in furniture restoration, Eddy is honing his woodworking skills by handcrafting chairs in the modern style, as well as restoring jukeboxes and motorbikes in his spare time.
ADRIAN OLASAU (Australia)
Adrian studied at Sturt School for Wood in Mittagong, NSW 2014. Upon graduation he was awarded the “Top New Talent” by Studio Woodworkers Australia and selected to exhibit at the Craft ACT “Emerging Contemporaries” exhibition. Following his graduation Adrian spent three years honing his craft and professional making skills with Dunstone Design, Fine Chair and Furniture Makers. In 2017 Adrian won VIVID Object Design Award for his GH Bike Rack, an innovative solution for bike storage. He was also a finalist for the VIVID Lighting Design Award 2018 for his TP Pendant Lamp. Adrian has a passion for combining tradition craftsmanship with a minimalist design aesthetic, focusing on subtle and tactile details. He’s inspiration comes from a wide range of sources such as sculptor Constantin Brancusi, Scandinavian mid-century icons such as Hans Wegner, Arne Jacobson and past and present architects such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and John Wardle.
LEE GRATTON (Australia)
Lee grew up in Queensland in a house his parents built themselves, with his father’s steel and timber workshop in the front yard. This spurred a lifelong passion for learning and perfecting new skills.
After finishing school Lee travelled to the UK and worked in a traditional furniture workshop. This experience helped shape his appreciation of traditional furniture making techniques and practice.
In 2003, Lee studied an Advanced Diploma in Furniture Design and Manufacture at RMIT. He went on to manage a renowned custom furniture workshop for a few years, gaining valuable experience before establishing his own furniture and joinery business crafting bespoke pieces for residential, hospitality and commercial clients.
Aside from custom furniture, Lee also hand makes timber guitars and steel bike frames. He is influenced by Scandinavian design principles and favours simple clean lines and functional design.