Kim has enjoyed spending a few weeks gathering work experience in Matthew’s workshop; the rest of the team have been together for several years
In Matthew’s words: “Six skills are needed for the business – design, making, administration, selling, and after-selling [servicing pieces]. My wife Celia is vital to the last three; she staffs the showroom. The thing about these six areas is that they all need to be done with the same commitment. I don’t see why the world should beat a path to your door just because you make things. Our goal is to contribute to design history, while successfully filling the relevant brief.
“The senior maker, Mark, is invaluable. He and I make decisions on who makes what, and then the makers work individually or as a team depending on the piece. The piece itself begins with a meeting: we all sit in the workshop, in a circle like hippies, and explore our aspirations and goals. Then they’ll try and solve all the problems I’ve caused them with my impossible, impractical designs! But they have to be alive to possibilities, as well as self-motivated. We don’t want monkeys, we want bright people capable of thinking for themselves.”
As for the signature pieces, every one gets the Matthew Burt branding, although the client is told which particular maker worked on their piece. The makers themselves are all “local boys”, and apart from Kim, who’s here on work experience, they’ve all been around for a while now. Stroll into the workshop on a typical day, and you’ll find it in a frenzy of action as the team toils to keep up with Matthew — all set against the incongruous backdrop of chilled music. Eighteen-year old Daniel was lucky enough to be taken on from scratch, but the rest are proven makers with a range of different talents. One thing they all share, though, is a passion for problem-solving – which comes in pretty handy when tackling Matthew’s ideas! “Really,” Mark laughs, “we’d be better off without him!”
Apart from the in-house team, there are what Matthew calls, the satellite workshops. These are makers who have left, but still cater for the frequent overspill from the mother workshop in Sherrington. “It’s wonderful, because you don’t get all the grief and pain from witnessing the birth. But makers leaving? It’s dreadful when they go. This is the same as any family-run business, it’s very personal. It’s not just me I have to worry about if it all goes under.”
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