“Furniture as art, rather than furniture as furniture” Ed Cruikshank
I feel like I’ve just come away from confessional. Telling all my secrets of why I love this work the why’s, where’s and what if’s to a man whom I’ve only just met. A man completely smitten with the idea that beautiful things should be available to all. And he wants to do it. One piece of beautiful furniture at a time.
Ed Cruikshank is one of the nicest furniture makers I’ve ever met. And I’ve met a few. I’m lying I haven’t really met any, but I was informed of what a nice man he was and they were right.
A science-y schooling left Ed wondering where he ‘fit’ and like many he left the world of careers and went skiing. Coming home to the UK he discovered a cabinet making course in Oxford and absolutely loved it. Boom. A heart string was plucked and off he went. It’s so hard to find something you love. But the day you find it. Go with it. Pursue it. Just let go and do what comes naturally.
He still loved the ‘science’ of furniture though. The physics and architecture of it all lead him to a degree in Industrial Design in London where he stayed. He began freelancing with Viscount Linley and then became head of their design team.
I nodded then as though I knew who he was talking about. (Sorry Ed) But as soon as I got home I rushed to Wikipedia. Linley is also known as Viscount Linley. David Armstrong-Jones. You know. That one. (The Queen’s nephew if you must know) Furniture maker extraordinaire and all round talented man. He obviously knew his stuff when he employed Ed.
Working in Pimlico, surrounded by designers, people willing to spend and a growing business, Ed soon immersed himself in the London lifestyle and there he stayed a while working and having a grand ol’ time all until London’s busy arms weren’t enough to ignore the voices that this was time for him to pursue his own dreams- to the other side of the world.
Making many trips to New Zealand, Ed sat down one day enjoying a coffee in Queenstown and thought “I’m coming back here one day”. And like many of us, he did, with Tonya, who then became his wife.
Returning to the drawing board and how he could make this country work for him, he started out on some projects for friends. This grew and grew until a business (Cruikshank Furniture) in Arrowtown began. He now works from his home studio.
Returning to the now, I think about furniture and what it means for some people. Some it’s just things you have, to sit, rest, eat off. Some it’s status, large pieces, opulent, designer. But some are reflections of a person’s character. The use they have, the lines they create. Ed wants quality furniture to be affordable to more people. How do you keep the great design, workmanship and beautiful materials and still be affordable. This question weighs on Ed’s mind and he is working on answers as I write.
We also chat about pieces that have meaning for him. Work has involved braille, secret messages woven into the fabric of the wood. A clock he made with his father. How, as a society, we are returning to work using our hands, people are thirsty for the creative, the craft of making.
We continue to talk about the UK, the travel back there and the work we do here. Families, friends we have made but always returning to the topic of doing what you love. I agree with this sentiment to its core. Do what you love, look at why you started and always go back to this.
Something resonated with me that Ed remarked on;
“It should feel like when you fall into a river and just float down stream. You’re not pushing so hard to do something. You are observing it”.
Two parts to the business are bespoke pieces- one-off’s, custom made and then regular pieces where there will be more than one. A part of the business Ed wants to grow, to see more people enjoy his work.
There is a kindness and a sparkle in this man’s eyes. I can see the dreams will happen and in my dreams there’s a large leather sofa in them.