James Dabell studied with us for a year and created some great pieces during his course. Since graduating, he has gone on to work at bespoke furniture maker Silverlining, which we take students to visit on their course. We caught up with him to see how it’s all going!
When did you study at rhs and which course did you take?
I completed the one year designer and maker course, finishing in early 2019.
What did you learn from the projects you made at rhs?
I think the most important (and transferable) lessons were in developing attention to detail, patience and a curiosity towards types of materials and how they can be used.
My self-designed projects were a keepsakes box, a sideboard and a pair of sculptural side tables. Necessarily I learned about the materials and techniques specific to these pieces. There are often various ways to achieve the same outcome and I liked the fact that between Theo and Marc both traditional and modern approaches and techniques are covered.
But I would add that one of the great things about rhs is the fact that you can also see and learn from the pieces made by other students. The enthusiasm of and discussion between students, and breadth of work encouraged by Marc, means the learning opportunities are much wider than the projects each student individually makes.
How did the school help to prepare you for gaining employment?
During the course workshop trips and talks from people in the industry were organised (e.g. from Richard Williams). These gave an insight into what commercial work was like and what was expected from applicants / makers. There were also weekly business sessions that covered creating a portfolio (and draft portfolios could be be reviewed).
At interview with Silverlining they did specifically comment that my main projects were closely aligned to the type of work they produce (e.g. the experimental approach to finishing and choice of materials). So the emphasis on making forward thinking and mixed material pieces at rhs was, at least in my case, particularly helpful.
What is your current role and what kinds of projects do you work on?
Towards the end of my time at rhs I secured a cabinetmaker role at Silverlining (https://silverliningfurniture.co.uk). Silverlining is a leading maker of high end bespoke furniture for residences and super yachts globally.
I have been fortunate to immediately run with my own pieces, from a pair of coffee tables for a super yacht deck to a 6.5m extendible dining table. I’m currently now working with my team on a bar for a large private residence in London.
What made you want to work at Silverlining?
During the course at rhs, Marc organised a trip for students to see the Silverlining workshop. I was really drawn to the variety of work and level of expertise across a broad range of materials, techniques and styles. The year at rhs was really stimulating for its variety and so I wanted to work somewhere that continued to offer this breadth.
Do you have any advice for our students who are looking for work when they graduate?
Not all companies have a big online presence, so I think there are probably more workshops making interesting furniture, sculpture and installation work to a high standard in the country than you might think. (For example, they might not have a strong online presence if most of their work is from pre-existing relationships / as sub-contractors.) So it might take more research and digging around to really find all the potential jobs in a given area.