Based in Swansea, South Wales, Daniel Harrison is a designer-maker of bespoke furniture creating free-standing and fitted pieces. He has been commissioned to create other work including large sculptural carvings, staircases, fine boxes and other products made using locally sourced sustainable woods.
How would you describe your craft?
I create one-off pieces make small batches of bespoke furniture and other items from native and sustainable woods. I work closely with clients to realise their vision and ideas, as well as creating speculative pieces in my own design style.
What is your favourite part about what you do?
When the designs have been finalised and drawings completed I enjoy being in the workshop, lifting an idea and transforming the concept from the intangible to tangible.
How did you begin your career?
On leaving school I studied sustainable product design at University. I went on to complete an apprenticeship in staircase manufacture and worked for a joinery company in South Wales. I decided to combine my design skills with my love of making and went on to study Furniture Making and Design at Rycotewood Furniture College, Oxford. I then worked for a bespoke furniture maker in Oxfordshire before setting up my own business.
How long have you been doing it?
I began my joinery apprenticeship in 2008.
Did anything in particular inspire you to start your craft?
Our local vicar gave me the book ‘A Spirit of Adventure in Craft & Design’ written by John Makepeace. I was working as a joiner at the time and this book opened my eyes for the first time the world of bespoke fine furniture.
What is the hardest part about what you do?
Sometimes I feel working by myself can be limiting – maybe I could solve problems more quickly if I had peers close-by to ask. Also, when there is a particularly complex task, an extra pair of hands to glue a piece of furniture together would make the job a lot easier; instead I have to be creative and think of ways around a particular problem which can be challenging!
What makes your craftsmanship most rewarding?
Putting the finishing coat on a piece of furniture after many making hours – seeing the grain come to life, revealing its ultimate beauty and knowing I have honoured the tree from which it came.
Where did you learn the skills required for your role?
I was taught sustainable product design in Falmouth University and then began workshop training in a local joinery shop in South Wales. I went on to study Furniture Making and Design at Rycotewood Furniture College, before working for a furniture maker in Oxfordshire.
How have you stayed passionate and inspired by your craft?
I am fortunate to live and work in a beautiful part of the country and close to nature. The quietness in and around my studio and workshop provides space for creative thinking. Annual exhibitions create a focus where I can exhibit new work, receive peer reviews and learn from others.
What made you choose this career and to work in this industry?
Whilst studying sustainable design I found that I enjoyed making things out of wood. And when working as a joiner I realised that I had the ability to both design and make. From that moment I decided to become a furniture designer – maker.
What are the accomplishments within your work in craftsmanship that you are most proud of?
Achieving a QEST scholarship in 2016 has opened up many opportunities, including a commission to make a 3-meter high-carved statue of a rooster for Howden’s Joinery and exhibiting work in the V&A museum. Another accomplishment is winning the Alan Peter’s Award for excellence and exhibiting at the Celebration of Craftsmanship & Design exhibition in Cheltenham. Last year my latest work, the ‘Grace’ dining table, won Best Use of British Timber Award at this event.
How does working with QEST support you/your craft?
QEST is much more than having an opportunity to learn from master craftsmen. A QEST scholar becomes part of a family who continue to offer mentorship and nurture at this critical stage in my career.
Do you have a favourite John Smedley piece, if so what?
I very much like the men’s Copper Jacket – the extra pockets look useful and the versatile smart casual style would work equally well when visiting a client or drafting at the drawing board.