Meet the Maker:
The Man Behind the Method, Callum Robinson

Jul 3, 2024

Photo: Marc Millar

Collaboration is one of the founding principles of anOrdain, and its spirit has taken us down some unexpected paths, and introduced us to some great friends. One of those friends and collaborators is Callum Robinson of Method Studio, the skilled carpenter and craftsman responsible for the undulating texture of our Model 3 Method. With his first book, Ingrained: The Making of a Craftsman, eagerly anticipated for publication in August, we caught up with him to learn more about his process.

The eldest son of a Master Woodworker, Callum spent his childhood surrounded by wood and trees, absorbing craft lessons in his father’s workshop, playing amongst the sycamore, oak and Scots pine that bordered his home. In time he became his father’s apprentice, helping to create exquisite bespoke objects. But eventually the need to find his own path led him to establish his own workshop; to chase ever bigger and more commercial projects, to business meetings, bright lights and bureaucracy, to lose touch with his roots. Until the devastating loss of one major job threatened to bring it all crashing down. Faced with the end of his business, his team and everything he had worked so hard to build, he was forced to question what mattered most.

In beautifully wrought prose, Callum tells the story of returning to the workshop, and to the wood; to handcrafting furniture for people who will love it, and then pass it on to the next generation – antidotes to a culture where everything seems so easily disposable. As he does so, he brings us closer to nature, and to the physical act of creation. Close enough to smell the sawdust, to see the wood’s grain and character and to feel the magic of furniture coming to life. At the same time, we begin to understand how he has been shaped, as both a craftsman and a son.

Blending memoir and nature writing at its finest, Ingrained is an uplifting meditation on the challenges of working with your hands in our modern age, on community, consumerism, and the beauty of the natural world – one that asks us to see our local trees, and our own wooden objects, in a new and revelatory light.

Read our Q&A with Callum below.

Hi Callum! As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As far back as I can remember, the business of being a child irritated me deeply. People are always telling you what to do, where to be and what to think. The injustice of it, and all those bloody rules. So first and foremost, I wanted to be a grown-up. As far as I was concerned, that really couldn’t happen fast enough. (I was right too; being a grown-up is infinitely superior.)

Photo: Marc Millar

Beyond that, it wasn’t a career I dreamt of, but getting out into the world and having adventures. Trying to do something interesting, exciting. Getting life under my fingernails. I’m just fortunate that, whilst it was lucky timing and a father with similar inclinations that landed me in this line of work, making things for a living (and making it all up more or less as I go along) has allowed me to do just that!

Is there a specific reason you were drawn into this particular branch of craftsmanship?

I learned to work with wood from my dad, so really woodworking found me (and dragged me into the workshop to help!). Indeed, because I grew up with housebuilding, design, carpentry and tools all around me, for a long time I took it all completely for granted. And is there anything quite so unappealing as the job your father does? Woodcraft wasn’t love at first joint, then, but a passion that grew gradually. But little by little, grow it did. With the acquiring of skills not learned so much as earned, and the feeling that, however minutely, I was finding my own solutions rather than following the rules, there was a freedom in it which caught in my imagination and slowly started to take hold. In fact I remember the exact moment it properly got me by the throat and wouldn’t let go. The first time an inanimate pile of sticks was given life and form. When two dimensions first became three…

Wood is very accessible, which is something I’ve always loved about it. It’s versatile too, forgiving and tactile, and it smells fantastic. But more than that, perhaps more than anything, I’ve come to believe that working with this remarkable, impossibly sustainable stuff is special because it’s a living material. That bound up inside every single piece of wood is this unique life story, written in the figure of the grain. The chance to add to that, to create something new and beautiful that might just endure for generations, even after more than twenty years it still gives me chills.

The Model 3 Method Lichen

You’ve worked with an illustrious collection of companies and makers, from Vacheron Constantin to Bentley to anOrdain(!). How has collaboration shaped the direction of your practice?

I love this question. And you’re right, we’ve been tremendously lucky with the clients we’ve been able to work with over the years – and when it works well there’s nothing more exciting or enriching to a creative practice than collaboration. Gnawing on a problem with new people, colluding with experts in entirely different fields, it doesn’t just teach you about the way they do things but forces you to question your own methods as well. The perspective this affords is incredibly valuable. But aside from the new techniques, material knowledge, inspirations and insights that collaborations have nurtured, we’ve made some wonderful connections. Those in turn have led to other fruitful collaborations. To progression. And to new friends.

Method Limited Edition Trunk in ebonised oak, goatskin and bridle leather

Method Studio describes itself as ‘architects of objects’ - can you elaborate on what this means to you and the work you produce?

My wife Marisa, with whom I started and have run Method for fifteen years, coined that phrase, and I’ve always loved it. She has an architectural background – design and organisational skills that have always been the backbone of the studio – and that certainly has something to do with her choice of words. But really, this goes back to collaboration, and finds its roots in our earliest days as a business.

Back then it was just the two of us, in a windowless little workshop on an industrial estate. With her wearing every layer she owned, a phone glued to her ear, sketching away in the electrical cupboard that doubled as our office. And me screwing and hammering with battered tools and second-hand machinery on the other side of the cupboard door. I could manage the woodwork, more or less, but from the beginning we were always inspired by so many other things (fashion, architecture, industrial design, the travelling trunks of the grand tour era) and I simply didn’t have all the skills we needed.

Before long, we started to work with different trades: leatherworkers, metalworkers, jewellers, electricians, stonemasons, signwriters, even a pipefitter (the Da Vinci of heating engineers), not to mention photographers, musicians and filmmakers. Incorporating their work, and decades of craft skills, into ours, it completely changed the scope of what we were able to do. The habit stuck. And for a long time now, in addition to woodwork, we have delighted in expanding that diverse team. Creating multi-disciplinary objects that none of us would be able to achieve alone.

Are there any lessons you can share with those interested in making a living in woodworking/craft?

Yes. You know that little voice in your head – the one that always gets louder when you’re in rush hour traffic, losing the will to live in yet another meeting, or squeezed in like sausage filling on the tube? The one that says: ‘Maybe I should never, ever come back here, and become a woodworker instead?’ Listen to it. Making things with your hands is a wonderful, meaningful way to spend your days. You would be happier, more fulfilled. Life is short. Get an apron. Make a start.

Take a class, read a book, volunteer to bag up the offcuts or brew the tea in your local workshop and keep your ears open, get your hands on a manual and try a few things. (I have a friend who buys cheap second-hand hardwood furniture on eBay and breaks it down into useful pieces, pre-machined and ready to make into something new, to give a second life.) Never be afraid to ask questions, and don’t be disheartened by mistakes – there is no better (and unfortunately no other) way to learn. Measure twice, then measure again. And try to make something special, something only you could make.

Can you give us a teaser of what to expect in your upcoming book?

Ingrained is my love-letter to trees and timber, craft and hard work, freedom and family and love and finding your voice. It’s a memoir wrapped in a nature book wrapped in a thriller. The story of how I discovered, forgot, and then rediscovered the particular magic of making things with your hands from wood. Of a father and son, a husband and a wife, a workshop in the woods and a very reluctant shopkeeper on the local high street. It is also (I hope) an uplifting meditation on the importance of craft in the modern world, the consumer choices we make, the hand-made and the mass-produced. And (seeing as you asked) it’s a book where I dwell, for some time, on the notion of splitting myself in half with a bandsaw, the bonding power of sausages, the magic of old Land Rovers, and just what it feels like, really viscerally feels like, to be a furniture maker.

Pre-order Ingrained here

Preordering books is an excellent way of supporting writers, as it shows the publishers just how much they should be backing the book. If you’re interested in Callum’s work and want to learn more, we recommend you get this book on your pre-order list!

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