Grain and Knot
An hour's drive from East End, where most of London's young creatives live, I meet 27 year old Sophie, who recently moved back home to her parents in order to start her wood carving company Grain & Knot.
After graduating from Manchester School of Art in 2009 with a degree in interior design, she went into trend forecasting. But after being made redundant at her firm, she decided it was time to figure out what she really wanted to be.
She took a wood carving course, thinking that it could become her new hobby, but loved it so much that she used the severance money from her job to set up a carving workshop. With help from the Princess Trust, in addition to family and friends, she now has a fully working workshop in her parents garage.
“My mum is a nurse, so whenever I cut my fingers, which is probably every week, she knows how to stitch it up“
“My mum keeps telling me how she has to dry-clean all her cushions every other week as I throw sawdust everywhere”, Sophie says. But apart from that, there are many good sides to staying with her parents: “My mum is a nurse, so whenever I cut my fingers, which is probably every week, she knows how to stitch it up“. Claiming to be so clumsy that she probably shouldn't be allowed near most of the equipment she works with, Sophie buys left-hand tools but use them in her right, simply because she finds it easier.
She does most of her carving at a desk in her bedroom, then polishes it in the garage the following morning. “I can watch documentary after documentary while carving away. Sometimes my mum doesn’t understand that I'm actually working up here, and she'll ask if I want to go shopping. I have to explain that 'sure, I would like to go shopping' or 'I'd love to go out and eat, but right now im working and I've got another 6 spoons to make'.“
When Sophie goes shopping, she doesn't come home with shoes or dresses, like most people, but new knives or axes. With 12 knives in her kit, using public transport can be challenging, as it can be difficult to explain just why she is so heavily armed. In her free time, she trawls through eBay looking for materials. And there is a lot of good wood to be found online, with her favourite being spalted birch wood, which is quite hard to find. Knowing quite a few carpenters and tree sergeants also comes in handy.
Almost every weekend, Sophie hangs out with other creatives in East London, networking and getting new ideas for projects. Those who are interested in learning the craft can attend the wood carving courses she occasionally holds at the Hatch in Homerton.