001 Returns Home

An old friend has come back into my life causing me mixed emotions and a fair amount of nostalgia. We go back to 1996, even before I set up Simon Thomas Pirie Furniture, when I was working as a tutor at Bournemouth University. At the time I was teaching furniture design as well as making the odd project in the University workshop and getting stuff sub-contracted out.

Table with OryxThis old friend is in fact a dining set, my first; and my first real ‘commission’ from a member of the public, although, as is often the case he was a friend of a friend. Still it was big deal at the time and the trigger for me to have the confidence to leave the safe environment of Bournemouth Uni and set up proper.

I do still teach the occasional day at a number of further and higher education places and the story of this dining set is one I tell the students, so I may as well share it here!

Needless to say at this stage of my career my ability to cost accurately was a bit ‘back of an envelope’, despite the final number to the client seeming like a great deal of money – I didn’t even cost in my time and the workshop was essentially free, when it boiled down to it there was not much left at the end.

Despite this, I knew I had to have it properly photographed which whipped out any remaining money and considerably more as well. The photographer was Mike Murless who I continued to use until he retired recently. So was it worth it? Well that photo shoot and the 3 or 4 key images (including the one above) that came from it got used in early ads and promotional material, it probably got me got me £100,000 worth of work in those early years. So I tell students to always stick their necks out and get stuff properly photographed, it is worth it, in the end.

I’ve digressed. So this venerable piece has come back for a refinish, you’ve seen what it looked like new, it doesn’t look quite like that 15 years later; the oak top is scratched and patchy and the contrasting walnut seems to have faded. Still we can do wonders with oiled tables, once we have finished I think they actually look better than new – fresh finish but somehow retaining a mellowed grace. We don’t try to get every scratch or stain out, somehow that is part of their history, usually with a family story to match.

It’s a table I’m really proud of, it is a bit over engineered and some of the solutions on the extending mechanism are quirky, but it’s not that different to tables we have produced recently. This is ‘001′ returned home, a looking glass into my past.

So some before and after images of the re finish…