“Creating pieces that are both aesthetically pleasing, as well as functional is very satisfying,” says Catherine Johnston, a woodworker based in Glasgow, Scotland. “I am drawn to the traditional skill, which still translates well in our fast-moving world and the natural affinity people have towards wooden items.” After gaining a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Painting at the Edinburgh College of Art, Catherine found her calling when she visited a small wood shop, Reid Timber, and bought some cherry, plum, apple and pear wood. “The experience of choosing the wood alone was so enjoyable and impulsive that I was hooked,” she says. The first spoon that Catherine made was from a piece of cherry tree, sourced in East Kilbride. “The sense of place, knowledge of the origins, and satisfaction from creating something practical, was gratifying in a way I had not experienced before,” she says. Since October 2014 she has been focussed on her business Object Company, featuring her handmade wooden lifestyle wares.
Which five words best describe you? Ambitious, calm, strong, sensitive, motivated.
How did you get your career started and what path have you taken since? I quit my job and took financial and emotional risks. The pressure and adrenaline I experience each day keeps me from stalling and allows me to appreciate the positive aspects of this new, more positive lifestyle.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? I’ve learnt to focus on my strengths and uniqueness. I now appreciate that collaboration is important, and a way to grow, through new experiences and learning how to understand others.
What’s your proudest career achievement? I am proud of the stable growth my business has experienced over the past five months and I feel empowered by the support I have received from both friends and family.
What’s been your best decision? Although working for myself is unpredictable: it is self-affirming and creative in ways I couldn’t have guessed.
Who inspires you? Each week I meet new people who inspire me. This has been one of the most gratifying parts of self-employment. I have begun swapping pieces with other artists/makers and hope to place more focus on collaborations throughout the rest of this year.
What are you passionate about? I’m passionate about the houseplants that I tend to each day, many grown from seed or through propagation. I feel strongly towards the wood that I work with. Its character and figure, sense of place and the knowledge that it has not been cut down without good reason are integral to my choices. I’m drawn to natural materials with strong form, as well as function. I appreciate simplicity and space and hope to emulate this through my work.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Roger Deakin. His expertise concerning the natural world altered my perceptions of the importance of woodland. His subtle focus upon “local distinctiveness” has allowed me to appreciate my own surroundings more effectively. He worked towards the preservation of woodland and ancient rights of way, in a hugely challenging environment of change.
What dream do you still want to fulfill? I long for a space in which to create work and to live: a place connected to the outdoors but still firmly within a cityscape.
What are you reading? The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd and Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin.
images courtesy of object company; photography greig jackson
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