Interview: Tammy CR
Tammy CR is a designer and maker who handcrafts functional, geometric bespoke projects using reclaimed timber for community spaces, independent organisations and individuals.
Hello! Thank you so much for letting me interview you. How are you?
I’m great thank you.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I was brought up in the countryside at the foot of the South Downs in West Sussex. My main hobbies as a child included Sylvanians, sport, playing outside and making things. This lead me to study Art, Design & the Environments; Spatial Design at Central Saint Martins in London. For a few years after graduating I gained experience in various different community garden and wildlife projects, this then brought me to Bristol where I then began to get involved in working with wood. I have now been here for 4 years.
I adore your business. What made you decide to set up Tammy CR?
I set up Tammy CR about two years ago as a way to explore and develop my own design ideas which had been running through my mind for years. After working with various organisations since graduating university, I realised that the only way to fulfil my own ethos and ideas was to go it alone. I was in the position to share a workshop space with a furniture maker so the access to tools made it an easier transition into the woodworking world.
How has your creative process changed since the start?
At the start I was designing & making less refined outdoor planters and seating schemes using reclaimed timber. I would use what I could find and predominantly just sand and cut before the making started. However as I developed my woodworking skill set learning from the makers around me, freelance work and joinery workshops, I began to experiment more.
I originally would have an idea and then begin making, however now there are many processors from initial ideas, prototyping and jig making, carefully analysing and machining the timber, cutting, joining and assembling, planning, chiselling and sanding, oiling and product strength testing before final sanity checks. When making batches of items, jigs and stages are really helpful in improving productivity and consistency.
How did you manage to learn and hone your craft?
Every day I learn something new from the skilled designers and makers around me, from joinery books and more often from just experimenting and trying. Basic joinery was developed at the Makershed in St Paul’s Learning Centre where we had to make a small cabinet. I have always just learnt through ‘doing’ and repeating it over and over again. Woodworking is incredibly physical and understanding the way in which different woods need to be handled is essential.
Quality hand tools and woodworking machinery is essential in learning how to do something properly. Through prototyping and jig making 2D designs are realised to practical and highly refined 3D products with unique details that represent handmade and carefully crafted items.
Have you always been into design, woodwork and craft?
Since a young age I always enjoyed making things and being practical. I would invent designs, was fascinated by nature, particularly woodlands and was always making things with bits and pieces. As a teenager I became particularly interested in architecture, landscape and interior design. This led me to go and study Spatial Design.
I was drawn to working on community, public and outdoor spaces. I would transform 2D drawings into 3D objects through play. I became obsessed with natural Scandinavian design and organic materials such as wood. After graduating I got involved with Community Garden projects and Architecture for Humanity. This is when I really began working with wood and started to make things using reclaimed timber. I had to be creative and resourceful with the materials and tools I could get hold of. I moved to Bristol 4 years ago and this is when my passion and path to become a Designer/Maker using wood was really began.
Why has social media been an important platform for you to use?
Instagram has been a great way for me to discover other makers, techniques and crafts, but most importantly a platform for marketing. For me I spend all the time I can in my workshop, so little time for computer based action. I use Instagram to show what I am up to, my process, the workshop and final products, along with my day to day lifestyle.
I feel there is a shift in the appreciation of craft and handmade bespoke items rather than the disposable society that is causing so much damage. People love to see how actual hands make things and makers working spaces.
Who inspires your work?
There are many inspiring makers, I am always drawn to Temper Studio’s work, however I have always been more inspired by an actual technique, triangles and style. I am consistently fascinated by timber frame buildings, particularly A-Frame Cabins in woodlands. When I graduated I was obsessed with the idea of working and living in Scandinavia. The environment, landscape, lifestyle and design there all inspire me. Growing up in the countryside with green fingered parents I started gardening at a young age and used to love looking through Antique Botany books of my fathers and images of Victorian Greenhouses.
Do you have any favourite pieces that you have made?
My Current range, The Trio Collection > the three pieces have evolved from my fascination of geometry, the natural world and displaying magnificent indoor plants to their full potential. I have had the triangular planter ideas since my final project at University, so to realise ideas that people say are stunning and totally unique is incredibly satisfying and rewarding.
What do we hope to see in this up and coming year for your Instagram page?
I am in the process of sorting out a professional shoot for The Trio collection, so images from this. I also love being tagged in images of items people have brought from me. I will be scaling up my making skills and am in the process of designing & making furniture for our new house. So there will surely be process shots, installation and final shots of these.
What’s your typical working day?
Always porridge first, then workshop by 9am. In the winter I get the stove going as my workshop is freezing. I try to sneak in an Instagram post and make a to do list, this is ever changing and every day is very different. If timber needs to be machined I will start with this. Wood is carefully selected and the process of planning, ripping on the table saw and thicknessing it all too desired dimensions. I find this stage incredibly rewarding as the grain of each piece of wood is revealed. I will then continue the making stages. I will often make a batch run of items to ensure efficient and consistency in product quality. At the end of the day, normally around 6:30pm, I will have a good sweep up of all the wood chippings and dust created throughout the day. Then head home to cook a hearty vegan meal, catch up on any essential admin and have an essential hot bath.
What’s been the biggest struggle in getting your business off the ground?
Spending so much time designing & making in my workshop means keeping on top of admin and laptop based duties get put on the back burner. This is a big focus for the start of 2019.
Using reclaimed and off-cut timber often takes longer to get to a decent bit of usable wood. It takes a lot longer to machine up as every bit is a different size and I normally work with several different types of wood.
There are always those days when things do not go to plan and you have to reassure yourself that it is all part of the process. Like other makers, I struggle with the pricing of each piece, knowing the time and commitment spent on it verses a factory made item.
What advice would you give to people looking to define their own style?
We are fortunate to be surrounded by inspiring work and how to make things however this can start to reflect in our own style. I try not to get too fixed on a particular maker and find that my own style and techniques of making have evolved through experimentation, imagination and belief of making things creative, bespoke but overall functional.
Do you have any advice for anyone starting their own business?
If it is something you believe in then even on the down days it should be something you get inspired and motivated to do every day. Weekends and evenings become part of your working week. You are never alone in thinking you work all the time but are surrounded by what you are and do and when you do get time to get away cherish every moment of it.
What’s next for Tammy CR?
Since the Autumn I have taken on the workshop lease and invested in some serious wood working machinery. This is huge steps for me and driving me further to branch out into larger scaled projects. I feel very passionate about the Trio Collection so will continue to get this out into the plant and interiors world. I am in the process of doing up a house, so my partner who builds custom steel bicycles and I plan to design and make some bespoke furniture, the kitchen and other features.
It will be a collaboration of wood, steel and brass.
Alongside my own work, I plan to be involved with other makers, learn new skills, run some hanging triangle platform workshops, tackle my admin and make the website top notch.
What's the best piece of creative advice you've ever been given?
This quote has stuck with me for many years and rings true to my beliefs, “True belonging is born of relationships not only to one another but to a place of shared responsibilities and benefits. We love not so much what we have acquired as what we have made and whom we have made it with.” – Robert Finch