Our featured maker this month is Garance Sayagh – a furniture maker and designer based at the workshop. She takes us through her journey through making, from Medicine to setting up her own business.
‘I studied science A-levels in France and then 4 years of a Medicine degree in Brussels, before realising it wasn’t for me. I took a gap year to recalibrate and while I was working in a restaurant in Brussels, I met some crafts people’ – Garance began to spend time with various crafts people who were generous with their time, including a metalsmith, jeweller and carpenter. ‘I found them to be passionate, humble and honest about the barriers they had each had to overcome in the business.’
‘I decided to enrol in the Brussels Arts and Crafts classes, which is the equivalent of the London City and Guild. Firstly the cabinetmaker classes, then joinery and gilding. I was in school from 8am to 9pm for 4 years and on Saturdays I rented space in a workshop to practise and experiment with my own designs. My teachers were old-school, meaning that if it wasn’t good, they would throw it in the bin and ask you to start again until it was perfect! We only used hand tools for the whole of the first year, which soon changed for students in the subsequent years.’
‘After I graduated, I worked in China for one year. This was a big leap, as I didn’t even speak the language. I soon found a job as a designer/maker in a huge wood workshop. I was designing bespoke furniture for expats living in Beijing. I also learnt a lot about Asian joinery, how they treat timber and the way they work differently with their hand tools. I learned knife making with my boss, who was obsessed with Japanese steel.
‘I then came to London and worked in various places; I was a Project Manager for a luxury bespoke furniture company and then worked as a joiner in commercial workshops before finding Blackhorse. ‘
‘In October 2021, I took the leap to focus on my own business, Studio Sojourner, based at Blackhorse Workshop. It is the only place in London (or even the UK!) that is made for small companies like mine and has all of the machinery I need for my own projects. It’s also the first place in London where I have found a real community of makers who are so passionate about what they do. I have recently built a window-seat, a fitted wardrobe and bespoke storage in private residences. My plan for Studio Sojourner is to continue with these joinery projects but to focus mostly on free-standing furniture which I have designed myself. I have dozens of designs, such as chairs, homeware, wall-panelling and room dividers which I now just need the time to make!’