In the next of our Meet the Maker features, looking at contemporary Shetland craft makers showcased in our current ShetlandMade exhibition, we talk to Cecil Tait of Paparwark, about his work.
Where do you do your work?
I have a workshop and showroom in Ireland, Bigton.
What is your background?
I grew up in Bigton and decided that I want to be a furniture maker.
I studied in Glasgow for a HND in Furniture construction and design and in High Wycombe for a BA Hons in Furniture making and craftsmanship. I then worked for several years doing maintenance work at Scatsta Airport before starting my business full time in 2003. I was based in Scalloway for 12 years before an opportunity to purchase West Lynne came up and I how work and live in the same location.
Who or what do you draw inspiration from? What motivates you to do what you do?
I really like Scandinavian Design. The degree I did was based on the arts and crafts movement. With bespoke commissions it is all about the client and making a piece that meets their needs. I was once told my work was too Nordic and parochial as an insult but I took it as a compliment!
How do you work, what is your process? What's your favourite part of the process?
I have different processes for different parts of the business. The bespoke work is all about the clients needs, about listening and creating a design brief that will meet those needs and then being creative within the parameter of those demands.
The products that we make are from shapes, ideas and styles that inspire me. I really like geometry and geometric shapes
Do you have a favourite piece to make?
The faerdie maet boxes are a lot of fun. I like the fact that some parts of the boxes have to be really accurate or it doesn’t work, which is a challenge every time.
What are your most popular pieces?
Since becoming part of wool week about 10 years ago teaching whittling we were asked to make knitting tools and accessories. During COVID this became very popular and kept the business from going bankrupt. The deluxe jumperboard is now the most popular item that we make and is impossible to keep in stock.
Art aside, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I have several crofts that I run with my brother which takes up a lot of my time. I have a new sheepdog that is shaping up to be a really good sheepdog so sheepdog trailing might be on the horizon! I also enjoy gardening and playing the guitar.
If you could own another artist’s work, who would you choose? Why?
John Makepeace’s Millennium chair. It’s one of the few pieces that I look at and can see how ridiculously hard it is to make. I met him once and asked him a question, his answer made me realise he was on a different level of clever!
Who are your biggest influences?
Hans Wegner, Frank Lloyd Wright, John Makepeace
I think Japanese joinery is amazing,
What constitutes a successful piece for you?
When in the design process you get that eureka moment and you know it will be awesome and then the making of it just works as well. It sooo satisfying!
How has your practice changed over time?
At the start I only made bespoke furniture. From being involved in the Christmas craft fair and other events, I then realised that I also needed to make small items that were more affordable for folks.
What is next for you?
I really enjoy teaching people. I have started doing whittling classes in the workshop which I would like to develop more next year.