Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Holborn Magazine article
Lee Sinclair Furniture was started by Rosalind’s father back in 1974 after he moved up to Lincolnshire from the east end of London. Having been born in Islington and raised in West Ham, he studied 3D design at Horsey College of Art. Then upon exiting the capital he moved up the country, where he designed and made bespoke/small batch furniture just outside of Lincoln until 1981 when he moved to their current workshop on the edge of Sherwood forest in Nottinghamshire.
He and his wife Jill raised their family, Rosalind being the youngest of three, where the business still resides. The company and Lee has been decorated by copious awards over the decades including being named ‘the number one bespoke furniture maker in the country’ by the Independent newspaper in 2005.
Rosalind herself studied fine art in Lincoln, and then lived and worked in London for three years before returning to the family business to train alongside her father. The business grew when her husband Daniel Griffin joined the company alongside Rosalind and they have bothworked alongside Lee for 5 years.
Rosalind, now a Director of the business, makes furniture and deals with clients, her
husband Daniel makes furniture and designs too, they then have Nick in the workshop, as a cabinet maker of 25 years and in October last year they took on an apprentice Seb, with a vision to train him up and hold on to him for the next 25 years.
Lee Sinclair furniture specialise in bespoke handmade furniture for customers across the UK and occasionally further afield. They work on projects ranging from fully fitted bedrooms, to extending dining tables, to throne-like lounge chairs and multi-functional furniture. Everything they do is done by hand using traditional and trusted techniques. No computer aided machines darken the workshop at all; and Rosalind points out to me that ‘in fact all the machines are much older than I am but they are completely reliable, incredibly robust and well made, and we can usually fix/maintain them with a hammer and a spanner!’ I ask Rosalind what it has been like to step into such a tradition set down by her father, ‘Given that my father has been doing it for 40 years I can’t express how much of an advantage/step up that has given us. Not having to source new machinery or workshop space, and having a stack of design ideas that would fill a library is a huge benefit for us. I am lucky to have access to my fathers past work and be able to almost design on behalf of him. I think that the biggest challenge I face is being able to eventually become known as a furniture designer under my name.’
Our upcoming Issue 6 of The Holborn will take a focus on inspiring female artisans from all walks of life, especially those pioneering individuals who are both transforming their industries in their own right and challenging certain antiquated gender stereotypes - I ask Rosalind if being a woman has ever had a impact her work - ‘I don’t feel that it hinders me; I certainly get a huge amount of support and confidence from working with my Dad. I love telling people that I am a furniture maker and waiting to see the expression on their face! When we are at craft shows or exhibitions we get talking to a lot of ‘hobby woodworkers’ who tend to be older gents with a set of chisels and a lathe in their shed. They are surprised to learn exactly what I do in the business as it is often assumed I’ll be doing the upholstery and paperwork. The design side of the business is very client led and I have no doubt that I can get every bit the same quality of information and sales from a potential client as any male colleague. It is a very ‘manly’ world once I’m in the workshop - I think power tools and machinery are partially run on adrenalin and testosterone! But I don’t feel out of place guiding a plank of walnut over the table saw or cutting a mortice and tenon joint in a dining chair leg.’
So to the furniture and in particular the companies bespoke work, Rosalind explains to me that the ‘beauty of bespoke means we can accommodate any size and space and design to fit it.’ She explains the variety is great with some clients seeking them out for their skills and creating something very unique or others desiring that typical ‘Lee Sinclair’ style. And the process and production techniques? Rosalind succinctly puts it so - ‘Throw away furniture has a place in the world but it isn’t here! I’d rather take a plank of wood and turn it into something that will be loved and looked after for years to come and thereby given much more sustainability.’
There will be a full article in the next Holborn magazine so keep an eye out for a copy!