The Making of Misbah

Last year we were started our residency project, providing a space and access to the workshop for a recent graduate or an individual needing support with starting or developing their creative business. We were fortunate to welcome Misbah Siddique to Blackhorse Workshop, a graduate of Chelsea College of Arts, who was exploring her creative processes and how she could develop as a maker.

Misbah first came to our attention as part of A New Direction – a trainee initiative for a group of young creatives that partnered with us to deliver the Create Marquee at last year’s Walthamstow Garden Party. Keen to develop her skills further, Misbah took up the residency, developing skills in turning, wood and metalwork. She quickly became part of the Blackhorse community, collaborating on various projects with studio members, and the Atomic 50 experience. So what have the past few months been like for Misbah?

At art college, Misbah’s focus was on metalwork and she came to Blackhorse with the intention of pursuing this further, but with the opportunity to spend extended time in a workshop that she didn’t have before, Misbah found herself drawn to woodworking.

‘The residency came at the right time for me as I was unsure what direction I wanted to take, the time and space here enabled me to explore more methods of making and gave me the opportunity to think about my own business ideas, how I could run a small business or work with other makers.’

Being based at Blackhorse has led to several commissions and work opportunities including working on a project for the Savoy Hotel with Saunders Seasoning based here at the workshop. Misbah helped produce over a thousand London buses made from sustainable hard wood to be used in the hotel rooms, the project went on to win the London Wood Enterprise Award at the ‘Tree Oscars’.  She has also worked on freelance commissions, as well as contributing towards several projects including Atomic 50 and the Create London’s Useful & Beautiful Tent at this year’s Walthamstow Garden Party.

Being immersed in a community of makers enabled Misbah to spend longer periods working on projects that she did not have the space for previously. She participated in courses and learned to turn.  ‘I tried to learn everything and I’m more comfortable with workshop machinery now. I am more aware of what carpenters and joiners do. Seeing other freelancers working on their own projects was nice as it created a community of individuals. It was fascinating to see how everyone works differently.’

Sometimes a process of elimination is the best way to find out where our strengths lie. ‘I did a table-making course and a wood-carving course.  I enjoyed the techniques in table-making but it also made me realise that furniture making is not for me. But I now understand the structure of furniture and how joinery works. It’s a lot more simple when you get to do it step-by-step. You get to observe how other people work and the range in pace. Whereas with woodcarving the technique is less about structure and more about detail and design, the movements are smaller, using strength in the right place.’

Over time she has gained confidence using a wide scope of machinery, Misbah could often be found at the wood lathe where she got the opportunity to experiment. ‘If I hadn’t had the time here I wouldn’t have been able to turn in the same way, I probably would have made a few bowls rather then be able to see how far I was able to go.  I got to be creative with the turning but also more precise, using hard and soft woods.’  She has been working on a selection of bark pots that she developed for a fellow studio member.


So what have been the highlights and what has she learned?
‘Doing commissions and projects for other makers and myself, the community, meeting other makers – the people are really friendly and helpful.’

Misbah feels that she is still developing but she has discovered how she works best, with space and time, at her own pace. ‘I like having a continuous stream of time, where I can just go with whatever I am learning.’

And what does the future hold?

‘I would like to do more freelance projects, exhibitions and developing own products and ideas over time, working with new materials.’

A new six-month residency will be available next year, further details will be issued. You can find out more about our current resident Anna Cooke-Yarborough.