A bloke's shed

JUDITH RITCHIE
Last updated 12:39 24/10/2012
Roger Davies
COLIN SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

CRAFTSMAN: Nelson cabinet-maker Roger Davies outside his workshop at Founders Heritage Park.

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What does a bloke do when he needs a bigger space to make things? He builds his own workshop, of course.

This is what Roger Davies has created at Founders Heritage Park, after 18 months of negotiations and designing the perfect working space for his one-man cabinet-making business.

Roger is a boat builder by trade, then moved into house building, and now works making furniture by hand after graduating in 2000 with a Diploma of Visual Arts in furniture-making from Nelson Polytechnic (now the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology).

Like many designers, he initially worked from his garage at home, making chairs, stools and quirky one-off seats from mixed timbers and steel, and with some featuring old tractor seats. At the same time he continued to work on a private yacht doing a complete refit.

He soon found the garage was limiting as a production workspace, so looked around for a suitable studio where he could also sell work and exhibit his products.

He was drawn to Founders as a possible site because not only did he have friends already working in studios onsite, but he liked the idea of working near other artists and craftspeople.

"It's like a village. If you need a hand there's always someone around," says Roger. "The coffee shop/brewery is the hub of the community, with more artists coming and staying for longer."

He designed a space that is in keeping with the other historic buildings on site, a 144-square-metre barn-style workshop clad on the outside with traditional red corrugated iron.

Built in 2004, now called the Siding Workshop, his shed is an integral part of the Founders landscape, complete with Platform Gallery, open to the public while he works on site six days a week.

From 2006, he started to sell specialty homeware made in the studio, such as bowls, bookshelves, mirrors, stools and shopping trolleys, steam-bending pine veneer and staining them with bright colours and natural finishes.

He then sold at the Nelson Saturday market, but found it a struggle making a living from small pieces that took a lot of time to construct. To bolster his income, he started to work part time for Decade - timeless furniture in Paton Rd, Richmond.

After a period of time, he took over the business and now works full time at the Siding Workshop, hand-making a range of furniture for clients from all around New Zealand.

Still working on his own, Davies says he has found something he enjoys, which can support him financially and is very satisfying, especially the repeat customers who love the quality and style of Decade furniture.

The biggest buzz is when a client is really happy with a piece, he says.

To market the range of furniture, he has an eight-page colour brochure with examples of work and different colour variations.

The furniture ranges in style from hutch units, side tables and dressers to large armoires (wardrobes), each with different handle and colour options or painted to the customer's specifications.

Roger advertises in House & Garden magazine, which works well for his target market.

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With his Siding Workshop, he also has a gallery with work on display and believes more people will frequent Founders Heritage Park for shopping, with the growing number of studio galleries.

In the future, the park will be "an artist's quarter, as Craft Habitat in Richmond was", he says.

- Nelson

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