Kettleshulme furniture designer inspired by the countryside
PUBLISHED: 00:16 14 March 2011 | UPDATED: 19:00 20 February 2013
The countryside around Gareth Christopher Jones's home inspires him to create unusual carvings. Emma Mayoh reports PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS
See more of Gareths work online at www.madebyhandsofbritain.com , a website launched by Cheshire businesswoman Gillian Montegrande which showcases the traditional skills of more than 130 people.
The techniques used by Gareth Christopher Jones are based on traditions and skills that are hundreds of years old but there is nothing traditional about his work. The wobbly lines, intricate detailing and quirky shapes that the furniture-maker-cum-artist creates out of wood, stone and marble look like something Alice might have found in Wonderland. But his handcrafted kitchens and sculptures are in homes across the country.
For more than 20 years the talented craftsman, who first set up in Marple town centre before moving his business to his home in rural Kettleshulme, has dedicated his time to carving distinctive functional art and one-off pieces. He uses unusual woods like Fiddleback Sycamore, Swiss Pear, Pippy Oak, English Walnut and Cedar of Lebanon. His only tools are a hand pick and chainsaw which he uses to chisel away at huge boulders of wood - or stone and marble if he is creating a sculpture. Each piece can take months to complete.
He said: I love working with my hands. To me there is a real integrity to it. Theres something quite special about creating these unique pieces.
I am lucky to work with these unusual materials too. Cedar of Lebanon has the most amazing smell.
Gareth, who has been fascinated with craft since he was a boy, creates his own pieces as well as being commissioned by customers. He admits the quirky and crazy pieces he makes may not be completely practical but, for his customers, this is the appeal.
He said: I was commissioned to make a wine rack which would only fit about 20 bottles in it. When I had finished it, the client decided he didnt want to put any in it. He just wanted it as a piece of sculpture.
My customers dont want something everyone else has got. The functionality is secondary for them. People seem to really enjoy the experience of being involved with my work. They feel like they are getting pieces with a real wow factor.
Another part of this experience is the bumpy journey down the farm track to Gareths home. The views surrounding it are spectacular and sightings of kingfisher and the lesser spotted woodpecker are not uncommon. But it is the first glimpse inside the house that takes most peoples breath away. Hidden behind the hand made front door of his 400-year-old farmhouse are the dozens of furniture pieces he spent several years making.
I havent had one person come here who hasnt just stood back and taken it all in for a minute. Its very exciting for me. I always like bringing people back to the farm.
The beauty of the countryside inspires Gareth - his pieces include detailed carvings of animals spotted from his kitchen window or while walking in woodland on his land or around the rugged terrain of Whinlatter Rocks, outside his back door.
He said: I love the tranquillity of living here. If ever I need inspiration I just go for a walk down to the wood where there is a stream. It is like Wind in the Willows down there. You cant beat it. I love everything to do with nature and I think its important that art has that connection with it.
Although some of Gareths simple work sells for around 300 - this will buy you something like a CD rack - the sculpted, detailed pieces carry much larger price tags. Around 10,000 would buy a wardrobe, a bed costs around 9,000. One creation, an intricate piece called Eye of the Storm sold for 25,000. But the 46-year-old makes no apologies for the prices.
He said: I dont think people realise the gut-busting work I have to put into these pieces. My designs are costly and I am using incredible materials. But what I am creating will last a lifetime; they will not have to replace them in a few years.
These are the types of things that are passed down from family to family. People move my kitchens with them when they move house.
Gareth, whose sculpture work has been exhibited at shows in Italy and America, is now hoping to develop his marble and stone work, particularly with the Carrara Marble he has begun to carve in recent years.
He said: Im very lucky to do what I do. I want to be able to go out to Italy and choose the marble myself and bring it back. Its an important part of the process.
With my work I feel like I am creating something that has never been done before. I love that pressure. I couldnt live with myself if I made something boring. It has to be and adventure for me. I hope the adventure continues.