You have to love what you do in life. I saw this in my own family, growing up in Northern Ireland. My dad made aeroplanes and my mum was a seamstress, and their skills and passions surrounded us, from detailed drawings of planes to colourful fabrics and patterns.
My Uncle John learned his cabinetmaking skills at Hanna & Browne in Belfast, and I grew up hearing his tales of travelling across the globe, working with interesting and exotic woods in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. He passed away a couple of years ago but I keep the furniture book he gave me in my workshop office – it still inspires me.
After studying furniture construction at college in Glasgow, I worked for an antiques company, restoring pianos. I then worked for a local cabinetmaker and some of Scotland’s well-known furniture-makers, before setting up my own firm, Turner Furniture, in 2003.
I work a lot with hardwoods but also love working with veneer. Unlike solid timber, marquetry can be used to depict patterns and pictures. It’s a technique I use a lot in my designs.
The natural beauty of the outdoors has a big impact on me. That includes the trees themselves – their patterns and shapes are reflected in my furniture.
“The natural beauty of the outdoors has a big impact on me. The patterns and shapes are reflected in my furniture”
I love the German architect, painter and designer Richard Riemerschmid (1868-1957): the abstract triangular forms of his furniture have fascinated me for years, ever since I made a reproduction of one of his tables for a college project. It inspired my recently completed Uisge Beatha Whisky Chair.
I also like artists who are pushing boundaries and trying to do something different, such as Kevin Stamper and Christine Meyer-Eaglestone.
The best part of my job is seeing the smile on someone’s face when they are delighted with their furniture. There’s a real feeling of pride at that moment when something you’ve made has such a positive effect on someone’s life.