A Shropshire homebuilder is supporting the local heritage craft industry through the sponsorship of greenwood courses organised by a supplier it recently commissioned to provide bespoke items of furniture.
During the process of pruning and felling trees at its Besford Gardens development in Shrewsbury, Saxonby was approached by Mark Eccleston from Wroxeter based Pics and Sticks, who offered to make a bench for the company’s office reception area.
Always keen to recycle material director James Wood also ordered a second piece which Saxonby donated to Floreat Homes, its partner in the development.
Pleased with the results, Wood decided that Saxonby could add its support to this sector of the British economy which, due to its specialist nature has at times, struggled to remain sustainable. However, despite barriers such as a lack of interest particularly among young people to enter the industry, there are positive signs. From a recent Trends Business Research Ltd report, carried out in conjunction with the Heritage Craft Association and entitled Mapping Heritage Crafts¹, 210,000 people are employed in the sector throughout the UK with the highest in the West Midlands (37,200), 78 percent of whom are self-employed. Its employment footprint is expected to grow by 12 percent over the next ten years, with an annual growth rate perceived at one percent.
Mark Eccleston’s route into becoming a self-employed crafts person is in general, fairly common. He established Pics and Sticks in November 2013, having previously worked as a railway signal box operator. With an interest in photography and greenwood issues, he used redundancy money to set up the business, which now includes a wood yard and workshop at Wroxeter and the management of a seven acre piece of ancient woodland in Halesfield, Telford. Since then he has attended a number of refresher courses, subsequently taught his skills in schools, and exhibited at craft fairs.