Wye Life meets talented furniture designer and craftsman, Matthew Smith.
How did you become a master carpenter? Please tell us about your training.
I grew up in the heart of south Wales. My dad was active in teaching me how to build and create from a young age. At ten years old I made a picket fence for my grandparents’ garden. Then, through making many go-carts and an eccentric bird house, I discovered a love for working with wood. In 1997 I completed a four-year apprenticeship in traditional carpentry and joinery (which also included all aspects of the building trade). A few years later, after working for the rm in which I learnt my trade,
I moved to the island of Jersey.There I worked for an established company before setting up a business on my own. I worked on and oversaw many projects, covering pretty much all aspects in and around houses, farms, barns and commercial buildings. I was fortunate to work for many customers who appreciated ne detail and highly skilled, traditional craftsmanship. After ften years of living and working in Jersey, my heart brought me back to south Wales, where I have set up a workshop in the Brecon Beacons.
I am now working on furniture, by commission, where I like to use an array of timbers, from the perfectly straight to the most unusual. I have the ability and machinery to fell and plank trees, so furniture can be made using wood from a clients’ estate. The uniqueness of each piece I make sometimes involves combining wood with other material like steel or glass.
When did you establish Dragonfly Woodwork?
Two years ago.
What was your first commission?
A sweet chestnut dining room table and two long benches.
What type of wood do you prefer to work with and why?
I like working with hard woods, rather than soft woods. Hard woods are more durable and long lasting. Which allows me to create pieces that will last for generations.
What type of work do you take on?
Mainly commissions on interior and exterior furniture.
What has been your favourite commission to date?
There has been no particular favourite as I thoroughly enjoy everything I do, finding pleasure and love in the uniqueness of each creation.
How far would you travel for a commission?
I am fortunate to have my own work- shop to work on the commissions, which means nowhere is too far to reach. If someone sees and wants the integrity and craftsmanship of what I can offer, it’s a pleasure to travel to meet them. I am currently working on two projects a fair distance away, with one client being in Holland and the other in the south of France.
You live in a beautiful part of Wales. How does the landscape inspire you?
The whole of life inspires me. Wood taught me from a very young age that it needs to be heard; it has a voice in its own silence, guiding the direction of each new creation. Which makes it an honour to work with.