On the sofa with
Photo: Oliver Douglas
George Winks grew up in Johannesburg and founded Temper Studio in 2013, designing and making idiosyncratic, contemporary furniture, household objects and the occasional structure from a small workshop in rural Wiltshire. He was one of eight UK-based designers chosen by Friends & Co to create a bespoke product for the Makers for Selfridges homeware collection.
Q: Congratulations on being chosen to submit an exclusive product for Makers of Selfridges. How important are high-profile commissions like this for promoting your brand? Do you notice a surge in bespoke commissions and sales on your website as a direct result?
A: As a small independent designer and maker selling high value pieces, brand credibility is incredibly important. High quality handmade furniture is expensive and the client needs to know that their money is in safe hands. Commissions like this help with that as well as get the brand out to a larger audience. Friends & Co have been wonderful to work with in bringing this product to market.
Q: You chose beech for your chopping board. What are your favourite woods and how are they better suited to different products?
A: We have a particular love for material combinations, marrying wood, concrete, steel, leather, brass and glass. However, sustainable UK grown timber is the constant throughout. This is for the most practical of reasons. We like woodlands, they’re lovely to be in, and if we don’t give value to the trees that populate them then nobody can afford to maintain them. It’s also fortunate that this country produces some of the most beautiful timbers in the world. All the timbers have things to which they are best suited, it totally depends on the thing being made.
Q: You make beautifully crafted wooden furniture, candle holders and kitchen accessories, but you’ve branched out into workwear with the Bolt half-apron and even built a shepherd’s hut for food blogger Stock, Pot and Two Smoking Barrels. What’s next?
A: Temper Studio is really a design studio with a workshop facility. I, as a designer, have interest in all sorts of things, not just furniture and homewares – that’s where I’ve chosen to start but I’d like to go wherever my interests take me. Throughout next summer we will be running weekend experimental making adventures with Four Feathers Adventures, and Stockpot and Two Smoking Barrels called WildLAB in which we invite people to join us in learning new skills out in the woods. Our first one will be to build a smoker to cure meat and cheese.
Q: You’re based in rural Wiltshire and two of the other designer-makers from Makers of Selfridges have connections with the county. Is there a local creative scene we should know about?
A: I think a lot of people who make like to be left alone while they do it. The countryside offers a huge amount space in which to do the making but it also offers a lack of distraction. I’m not sure it could be called a scene as such, many of the us in the South West know each other, but I’m a bit of hermit who likes to just get on with the work. I go to London to socialise.
Q: Temper Studio has a strong belief in provenance and that your clients should know exactly what you have bought, where it has come from and the names of the people who made it. This has been a trend in the food industry for a while now – do you think it’s becoming more prevalent and sought-after in the furniture and design sector?
A: I think this is part of a natural swing away from mass production and consumer culture. We’ve all been doing it all our lives and we’re a bit sick of meaningless stuff. I think there is a general trend toward having fewer things but of greater personal value. You can buy a chair for £5, so why buy mine for many hundreds of pounds? You buy nuance and story, and fortunately it seems that more and more people are beginning to appreciate that.
Q: You’ve studied graphic design, drawing, painting, knife-making, sculpture and carpentry and believe there’s nothing you cannot learn if you have a practical application for that knowledge. If you had time to learn a new skill or trade, what would it be?
A: Oh dear, so many things! You’re only really alive when you’re learning. If I had to choose… it would probably be programming and robotics. Coding is a craft in itself and I think it would be a terrible shame not to learn how to incorporate these beautiful machines, full of possibility, into the work we do. I use rudimentary machines in my work – table saws etc – they are an extension of my hand. I don’t think robots are any different. It’s the lowest common denominator, the mass-production side of things, that I find repulsive.
Q: Your furniture designs are influenced by the complex precision of Japanese joinery and the honest manufacturing of the American Shaker workshops. Do you travel a lot to learn new skills and find inspiration?
A: We live in a most fortunate time for autodidacts like me. I’ve always loved learning on my own, finding bits of knowledge here and there, figuring things out my own way. The internet and Youtube have made it possible to learn almost anything you need to know. All you need is information, time and space. I’ve been lucky to have all three. I would love to travel to Japan and America but it is not at the top of my list of things to do. I travel in my workshop, from ‘I have no idea what I’m doing’ to ‘Aha! So that’s how that works.’ It’s a huge amount of fun.