student experiences


Tel: +44 (0) 1984 667555


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student experience

We attract students from all over the world, from a variety of backgrounds. Connecting them all, is their passion for making beautiful furniture. The most rewarding aspects of our role is to witness their progress, success and enjoyment. To illustrate this, below is a selection of current and past students. Including past experiences, personal reflections, achievements and final destinations!


Features OvervieCharles Byron and Maria del Mar Gómez are the driving force behind the highly successful furniture start up – Byron and Gomez.

byron and gomez

During their time here, Charles and Marìa developed their making skills and flair for design. The idea for the business partnership formed while they were on course at Williams and Cleal, and with tutorials with Jane Cleal they acquired knowledge in setting up and running a successful furniture business.

Upon completion, Charles and Maria took advantage of our incubation workshop where they now run their business from. This has the added benefit of maintaining access to school facilities and tutor support. Since establishing Byron and Gomez, they have garnered strong attention from the furniture making industry and commercial partners, reflected in the the publicity and recognition achieved by Charles’ final project produced here – his ‘Log Stack’ cabinet. It created a buzz that saw the piece featured in publications such as Wallpaper, Design Milk, ARCH and the Furniture and Cabinetmaking magazine

It went on to be awarded a bespoke guild mark by The Furniture Makers’ Company, won the 2015 Alan Peters Award for Excellence and was shortlisted for The Wood Awards. They applied and were selected for the Craft’s Council’s Hothouse Programme – a highly regarded initiative that selects talented makers and supports them to establish strong foundations in designing and selling a collection of work.

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This experience gave them access to expert mentors in business and workshops on a range of topics related to every aspect including product photography and galleries and commissioners relationships.

They have formed collaborations with other successful businesses such as Foster and Gane, Kate Colin Design and the Little Joy Jewellery.and made for other designers in addition to their own work, including a side cabinet for a design by John Makepeace.

Byron and Gomez continue to win steady commissions based on their high quality traditional and contemporary portfolio, and they work hard to keep their business visible by exhibiting at trade fairs and exhibitions – and by maintaining a busy social media presence. They are consistently developing new designs and expanding their portfolio, and their business is consistent.

Thomas Whittingham

I've always had a passion for making things and a keen eye for detail. After finishing a degree in product design I sought out a career which would allow me to do both. After completing a taster course in fine furniture making was completely hooked. I went on to complete a course with Williams and Cleal furniture school in Somerset and haven't looked back.

I was selected by the Crafts Council as one to watch in 2016 through their hothouse program and have since been invited to show my work at some of the most prestigious UK exhibitions including Chelsea Flower show and Celebration of Craftsmanship. The satisfaction of designing a piece of furniture, crafting it from the finest materials, finishing it to the highest standard and then delivering it to a customer who will appreciate it for a lifetime is why I love what I do. 


George Harding

After graduating with a degree in Graphic Design from Chelsea College of Art and Design, I chose to focus on my passion for furniture design and enrolled on the year-long course at Williams & Cleal Furniture School in Somerset. I love using traditional techniques and modern design to create furniture that’s made to the most exacting standards. I want everything I design to be a unique piece of functional art – something that’s a joy to look at and use and which gets people talking.

George has now successfully completed his course, and is working as a furniture designer for the very successful furniture company - Benchmark.



Chris Sleigh

After several years as a research scientist, Chris decided to change direction and follow his passion for furniture design and making.  Whilst on his 40 week course with us, Chris made a wide variety of pieces, including a dovetailed box, a cherry occassional table and a wenge & cherry cabinet.

Chris's recent work employs visually simple pieces inspired by accessible design.  Both his dividable coffee table and 'Tesla' shelving allow the client to arrange pieces according to their requirements.  

His furniture has a contemporary style that emphasises the tactile nature of wood.  As someone with an analytical nature who pays careful attention to detail, he ensures each piece is to the highest quality and craftsmanship. Chris has set up on his own as a designer-maker in Nottinghamshire area.  His ambition is to create individual items of furniture that will bring enjoyment to their owners.

Irene Banham

I was attracted to furniture making because I love to design things and make things.  A change from my occupation as a civil engineer was beckoning and fine furniture making provides the perfect combination of functional and aesthetic design and the opportunity to make pieces myself.  When choosing a furniture school I liked the look of the W&C offering and I visited there first, for a look around and a chat with the team - I was immediately hooked! 

As I really like both the designing and making processes in furniture making, on completion of my course I decided to start my own business, offering both bespoke designs and pieces from a collection. The past three years in business have definitely been an adventure!  I found a space in a shared workshop near the centre of Bristol, which is ideally located for me and it’s helpful to have some experienced furniture makers to work alongside.  I then started to make things and work out how to sell them!  In the first year I attended some large multi-day craft shows and a couple of smaller local ones, which were all a good learning experience.  

In the second and third years of business I’ve continued to investigate new ways of reaching customers and have made several bespoke items for shows/exhibitions and commissions and produced some repeatable designs.  Good opportunities have come my way during this time - I entered a design for The Richard Seager Annual Arts Award and as a runner-up I was able to display my work in a London art gallery for a month.  Also, since entering a student piece into the New Forest Fine Crafted Wood competition I’ve been invited back to exhibit my own ‘professional’ pieces at the New Forest Show for the last two years, providing more exposure for my work.  One of my best-sellers - not strictly speaking a piece of furniture - is the Cantilever Cake Stand which I designed and made for a project at the school.  Since then I have refined the making process and take a batch of these to any shows/exhibitions I attend and have sold a good number of them.  Thanks to Jane for setting the project which got me to design and make it in the first place!

January 2018 is the start of year four of my business and happily things are progressing on a steadily upward path. The shared workshop is working out well and so far this year there are dining table and bedside table commissions in the pipeline.  I’m also looking forward to getting stuck into a commission for an arts centre later in the year and will be making something new for a couple of shows/exhibitions.  Now, back into the workshop to have fun making stuff, which is after all, the whole reason I changed my career to fine furniture making!

Craig Selman

I have been making furniture for family and friends for several years in my garage, but learning from books and you tube clips can only get you so far. Influenced by rich 18th century French Furniture and modern businesses such as Silver Lining, I wanted to learn to make the very finest furniture to the highest possible standards using the best available materials and techniques. I have learnt so much in my time here. I never realised that hand tools could do that! I have discovered the possibilities of veneering and laminating, and I am so pleased with the pieces I have produced and the new standard that I work to. My dusty garage seems like a world away now. I have just been offered a dream job where I can continue to learn and have the chance to make some really amazing furniture. Thank you to all at Williams and Cleal. Having successfully completed his course with us and after a number of job offers Craig is working at - 

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John Hampton - Production Manager

“Artichoke specialises in the bespoke design, manufacture and installation of the highest quality fitted furniture commissions; including bespoke kitchens, bedroom wardrobes, libraries, gunrooms and the full conversions of town and country properties. 

We enjoy an ongoing relationship with the Williams and Cleal Furniture School and we have a great respect and admiration for all that they do.  

The Williams and Cleal School teaches their students practical furniture making skills and technical knowledge to an exceptionally high level. While nurturing and developing a passion and appreciation for craftsmanship, quality and design.  Importantly, they also teach all their students how to successfully utilize and apply all they have learned in a commercial environment.

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Within our industry high quality cabinet makers are very difficult to find.  When recruiting, as well as advertising within the industry, we see the Williams and Cleal School as a valuable source for potential future Artichoke employees.

Former pupil Craig, one of our cabinet makers, joined us following a recommendation from Jane and Justin.  Since joining us he has become a very valued member of the team, producing high quality work with his skill, knowledge understanding of all aspects of furniture making.  He continues to grow within the business through his passion and dedication to everything makes. I have no doubt that undertaking a furniture course at Williams and Cleal was instrumental in preparing Craig for a successful career within the industry.

Williams and Cleal have an excellent reputation within the industry and we have no hesitation in continuing to recommend them to both prospective students and industry professionals.”