Social media is the modern conduit for networking, but how is it getting face to face? With only a day to spend in Los Angeles, I arranged to meet up with a Gavin Harrington, a maker whose work I had become acquainted with via Instagram. And so it was I found myself ‘ubering’ it over to Manhattan Beach, the strategic location @hwoodworks and I came up with to meet halfway.
As it turns out Gavin Harrington is not an LA native but arrived some six years ago. My questions started with the obvious…
Q: So what’s an Irish trained furniture maker doing in LA?
A: I love to travel and I love to skateboard and this is the Mecca of skateboarding, all the skate parks are here.
Q: Where did you learn your skills?
A: I did a City and Guilds trade course. I was apprencticed to a shopfitter. We did all kinds of display cases for museums. Then I had my own business for eight years in Dublin.
Q: What’s it like doing an apprenticeship in Ireland? Do you get flogged?
A: Oh yeah! For the first year all you do is sanding – “and there’ll be no fingerprints left!”
Q: What did your City and Guilds training cover?
A: They teach everything from cutting the tree down to how to store it, dry it out and mill it, right up to marquetry and inlay. It’s pretty in-depth.
Q: How hard was it to get work in the US initially?
A: It was hard at first because they don’t really recognise City and Guilds here. A few places gave me a chance and then this guy took me on. He’d been shipbuilding for 50 years doing yachts so I learnt that side of it which was new to me. I do my own stuff now and work with him sometimes.
Q: How do you get work? Do you advertise?
A: Most work now comes from word of mouth. I’ve got six months ahead of orders.
Q: What’s the best part of making for you? The designing or the detailing? What do you enjoy most?
A: To be honest I enjoy it all. Mostly it’s just seeing the client’s face when they finally see it. When they see the drawings it’s like, yeah, but when you give them the final product they’re just speechless.
Q: Do you like it when clients give you free reign?
A: Oh of course, I’d rather that, but sometimes I don’t get much freedom – but I’ve never had an unhappy customer!
Q: What’s your favourite piece?
A: The Unity Table that I recently made. And the customer gave me free reign.
Q: I understand you’re a custom maker but what is your style if left to your own inclinations?
A: I’m inspired by nature. The base of the Unity Table is shaped like the base of a tree with the branches coming up. I like combining organic forms with traditional joinery.
Q: What’s your favourite timber species?
A: I love cherry. It’s easy to work, and when you put a finish on it I love the colour and the grain. But I do miss working with bog oak. It’s like 1000 years old and I’ve enjoyed using it for sculpture.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A: Not having to always work with the client, perhaps just doing my own designs and selling them on my website, internationally even.
Gavin Harrington was recently awarded first prize in Oneida Air System's American Craft Showcase by Oneida and by Fine Woodworking magazine. Learn more about him at www.harringtonwoodworks.com or follow him on Instagram at @hwoodworks
Words: Linda Nathan, Wood Review editor
Photos: Autumn Harrington