Ciarán Ó Braonáin - Cheshire cabinet maker and woodcraftsman
PUBLISHED: 00:00 21 May 2020
Andrew Price 07774611778
With a workshop close to Delamere Forest, cabinet maker Ciarán finds inspiration for his exquisite creations in his own backyard.
They say that from tiny acorns mighty oak trees grow. And nowhere is that more true than inside the Alvanley workshop of cabinet maker and woodcraftsman Ciarán Ó Braonáin.
Inspired by Delamere Forest and the Cheshire countryside that is on his doorstep, he takes blocks of the finest solid walnut, oak and ash and transforms them into beautiful bespoke tables, chairs and gun boxes for his clients.
His handcrafted creations don’t look out of place in castles, stately homes and the mansions of the rich and famous, while his gun boxes, which are made to measure to fit inside the boots of Land Rovers and other 4x4s and include luxury hospitality boxes for glasses, drinks and cigars, are popular with Cheshire’s sporting gun and shooting set.
Ciarán, who lives in nearby Ashton Hayes with wife, Claire, and their children Sophie, Molly and Harry, says: “I was born in Dublin, but spent a lot of summers during my childhood on farms and messing about in the woods and countryside near Celbridge, in County Kildare. I suppose that set me up early on; it gave me a love of nature and the natural world.
“My dad, who is very practical himself, realised that even as a young lad I was creative and good with my hands, so he encouraged me a lot.
“I did well in woodwork at school and it seemed natural to go on to do a degree in furniture design and manufacture. It wasn’t until I did some work experience during my course, however, that I realised it was the very skilled, handcrafted furniture that I really enjoyed making.”
After meeting Claire, who was raised in Liverpool, the couple moved to Ashton Hayes in 2012 and began looking for premises for Ciarán’s business.
They found the workshop in Alvanley, and with the magnificent Delamere Forest but a stone’s throw away, Ciarán couldn’t fail to find inspiration for his creations.
“It may sound a little obvious, but I get my inspiration from everything that’s around us,” Ciarán says. “My designs are all about shape. If I’ve got a new commission, I try not to overthink the design, instead it might be something simple like a church spire or a beautiful curve on a building that I see walking home and that I like.
“I’ve got two working cocker spaniels that can usually be found milling around the workshop with me. They also need a lot of walks and I usually try to get into the forest a few times a week with them. So many of my designs have been inspired by trees and woodland in Delamere and the Cheshire countryside that is on my doorstep. It’s about being observant and seeing the extraordinary in the everyday.”
A qualified teacher, and former tutor in carpentry at Reaseheath College, near Nantwich, Ciarán runs weekend courses for both beginners and more intermediate wood craftsmen from his workshop.
“Whether I’m teaching a 16-year-old straight out of school, or a more mature student who is trying to add to their skill base, the creativity of my pupils never ceases to amaze me,” he says. “I get a real kick out of listening to their ideas, and they undoubtedly inspire my own designs too.
“It’s incredible to see them start with a raw piece of wood and craft it into a piece of furniture that they perhaps never dreamed they would be able to create.”
One of Ciarán’s latest projects involved transforming a 13ft piece of rare Scottish walnut into a dining table for 14 guests. Felled due to natural decay, the walnut was sourced from the Ladykirk Estate in the Scottish Borders and was seasoned for two years before being kiln dried. Each knot, crack and defect in the wood had to be carefully filled with resin and polished, while the maple and walnut legs were handcrafted using wedged mortise and tendon joints to add strength and enhance the natural contrast of light and dark in the table top.
“Making bespoke furniture is a real privilege,” Ciarán adds. “I like to meet each client, go to their home, look at the space and other pieces of furniture they have in their house. I can usually get a feel for their style and then it’s about designing and creating something I know they will love.
“I am currently working on another dining table for a client who wanted a statement piece for their French holiday home. With a deep blue resin river on the table top, it has been specifically designed to complement and enhance the interior décor and dimensions of their existing dining room.
“I know lots of my clients really enjoy seeing their ideas come to fruition and they like the fact they know they are getting a one-off. All my pieces, whether they be a table, chair, clock or an abstract sculpture are individual. There will be nothing like them anywhere else in the world, which is very satisfying.
“Even if I’m creating a functional item, I like to think of each piece as a work of art.”
For more on Ciarán’s furniture and courses go to cheshirewoodworking.co.uk