Robin Wood

The MADE NORTH Gallery presents new and experimental work by established and emerging northern designer/makers. We aim to promote a range of northern designer/makers and provide opportunities to find out a little bit more about how they work and their sources of inspiration.

Robin in his workshop at  his 18th century stable in Edale

Thirty years ago Robin decided never to do a day’s work he did not enjoy; he wanted to use his mind, body and soul in his work and be close to nature. Whilst working for the National Trust in conservation forestry he was introduced to various traditional woodland crafts as they used the trees they felled to make styles, fences and bridges. In the evenings he worked with the wood and, soon, making wooden bowls and spoons became a passion bordering on an obsession.

Robin Wood film by Artisan Media

The act of taking a tree, cutting it open, feeling the wood and making it into something that will be useful and bring pleasure for years is immensely fulfilling for Robin. As Robin journeys through the world of traditional woodcraft he has won various awards such as the artisan of the year in 2009 and now acts as judge on several craft awards. In the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2014 Robin was awarded an MBE for services to Heritage Crafts and Skills. Robin has worked on iconic woodworking projects from building a traditional tea house with a team of carpenters in Japan to building a replica of the incredible Oseberg viking ship. Robin is passionate about all traditional crafts but simple wooden bowls are still where his heart is.

Few people know the pleasure of eating from wood. It is quiet, soft, warm and somehow compatible with good natural food in a way that hard ceramic never can be. Robin’s aim now is simply to make the very best wooden bowls and plates that bring a little quiet beauty into everyday life. He hopes customers enjoy using them as much as he enjoys making them.

Featured Maker Interview

Irish bowls made from sycamore or beech

Who or what inspired you to become a designer/maker?
George Lailey

How would you describe your work?
I rarely describe my own work, the nicest description I ever read of my bowls was “as heartwarming as slices of crusty bread”

Flame blackened sycamore nest of bowls

Ash quaich with hallmarked silver  3.5″ rim

Where are you based? Please describe your studio.
An 18th century stable in Edale, it has open doors so I am effectively outside but under cover. I love it.

What piece of work are you most pleased or proud of, and why?
I love the axes I am having made. I teach carving and for 10 years I did not have a good reasonably priced axe to use. It has been a joy working with Sheffield craftspeople to bring these tools to market. Click here to check out a range of Robin’s courses here 

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Range of tools

Hand carved wooden spoons

What is the most satisfying part of the work you do?
Getting letters and emails from people who have used what I made. An email saying that someone has eaten breakfast from one of my bowls for 15 years and it brings them pleasure or someone who uses my tools to make beautiful things, such things are priceless and it is what takes me back  to the workshop.

What would be your dream project?
I have done most of my dream projects, building a Viking longship, a timber frame barn, a birch bark canoe, a replica of the Dover bronze age  boat. I am currently working on another dream project which is a body of work to show at Haddon Hall later this year as a celebration of 20 years as a craftsman, I just love that place.

Alder nested dairy bowls

When you’re not working what do you like to do?
Dance all night to house music, incongruous I know but I love it and the rhythm is the same as the rhythm of the axe, the lathe and most of the rest of my work.

What does the north of England mean to you?
Home; a feeling of belonging, honesty, humility.

Four lugged quaich in ash 5″ rim

A sycamore bowl with home made linseed oil based paint with blue pigment
An 8″ diameter beech bowl with a soft home made natural egg and linseed oil paint

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