The Furniture of Mike Whittall
Photography by Craig Stephen
Two years ago, Mike Whittall made a dramatic change to his life. He left his accountancy-based career of twenty-five years – which had included working for Customs and Excise, Grant Thornton and Deloitte in the south and London – and moved to Scotland. He started in Aberdeenshire
working for Deloitte and after some time freelancing and
working, settled in Netherdale, near Aberchirder.
His new home, which he shares with wife, Jane Craigie – who runs a marketing business – is also the site of his new business venture. He will run ‘Ochre & Wood’, furniture-making and restoration in a steading workshop, which he is converting as we write. Mike gained an appreciation for woodworking from the age of five – from his grandfather and his father who were enthusiasts. Now Mike is in a position to realise his dream to be a professional woodworker. Although he is largely self-taught, he did attend a recent nine month course at the Chippendale International School of Furniture at Haddington – tutored by
Anselm Fraser. Until now he has been travelling back and forth using the
school’s well equipped workshops and has produced some outstanding sample pieces.
His aim is to use our local Scottish woodland heritage for the raw material.
Despite centuries of felling for fuel and building, our countryside is still home to some 1.4 million hectares of forestry – three quarters of which is coniferous and the remainder broadleaved trees. He is a firm believer in sourcing his timber locally where possible. Apart from the obvious ‘wood mileage’ benefits – his resulting pieces will have provenance. Mike’s philosophy is that ‘every tree has a story’…
To read the full story, be sure to pick up a copy of the August 2016 issue!
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Royal Enfield 350 WD/C 1940
By Nigel Bodiam
One of the first of the Enfield 350s ordered by the British Army for use in WWII.
Following the Second World War, this bike was sold as surplus and in the fashion of the day (or because all our metal paint colour available post-war was gloss black) was painted gloss black. I acquired the bike in 2007 and transformed it into its current ‘desert livery’ complete with the ‘used look’. This is quite accurate and looks just as it would have appeared during the North African Campaign between 1940 and 1943. This bike, which normally would have been olive drab (green) for military service, was used in its desert livery in North Africa by despatch riders (DRs) to deliver urgent information from one unit to another.
The army ordered the first 1,000 WD/Cs from Royal Enfield in November of 1939. Three months later in February 1940 the British Army received these motorbikes, of which this is one. It is one of the earliest Enfields ordered during the Second World War. This bike would have served throughout the war although it is likely it never actually left the UK, because many bikes used overseas were abandoned there once finished with. This is corroborated by eye-witness accounts of piles of bikes and jeeps being heaped up and burnt in North Africa after the war – burying them in the sand was more economical than bringing them back!
I have picked out evidence of traces of the original green paint on the
bike: orginal olive drab for European military use, which was the most
likely life of this bike. Otherwise this is the same bike that would have
been used in the desert.
To read the full story, be sure to pick up a copy of the July 2016 issue!
Pete Danks: Model Maker
By Doug Matheson
They are in our midst. We pass them by in the street every day without really knowing who they are. No, I am not talking about doubleglazing salesmen, but talented people; very talented people who quietly go about their lives doing amazing things while hiding their lights under bushels. People, such as Pete Danks.
Now, Pete is fairly well known hereabouts as a chap who knows about boats; and he has been heavily involved in a number of local boatbuilding projects. These have included the construction of a replica east coast salmon coble, a Faering skiff and the St Ayles skiffs in Portsoy and Banff.
He is also currently teaching boat-building skills to pupils in Banff Academy; and he prepares kits for the local primary schools – which the pupils assemble into small ‘Pragmatist’ dinghies. So far, so nautically good.
However, what is not generally known is that he happens to be one of the UK’s top boat modellers – who specialises in the construction of the most detailed scale replicas of wooden naval vessels of ‘museum’ standard. What is even more surprising is that he is an aeronautical engineer by profession and has no nautical background whatsoever. How did all this come to pass? Ed and I visited Pete at his workshop in Portsoy to investigate.
Pete’s interest in modelling started after a chance read of an Airfix magazine. Airfix was a well-known plastic model maker of the time. This inspired him to buy a few plastic tank kits though he was not content with just making them ‘straight from the box’. He preferred to model unusual variants of each vehicle instead, in order to create something unique, which exercised his creativity and modelling skills. Modellers have it much easier today, of course, as there is a vast range of commercially-produced modification kits available for this purpose – but this was a long, long time ago when Pete was a teenager.
To read the full story, be sure to pick up a copy of the May 2016 issue!
Carn Standing: Artist
By Doug Matheson
Not much escapes the gimlet eye of the Editor of the KN : he knows everyone and everything that happens in the area. Just in case you think I have gone all soft and have started saying nice things about him, this has been said by way of observation rather than a compliment. It is the duty of the Editor to be well informed as there is a continual need to find fresh material to satisfy the insatiable appetite of the printing press. If all else fails and desperation sets in then he will ask/command me to write an article.
However, this was not one of these occasions and, as usual, it all started innocently enough. “Do you know much about art?” he asked one day. “Of course” I lied, not wishing to appear unsophisticated. “The Impressionists are my particular favourite, combining the brilliance of colour with the urgency of transmitting the essence of the scene with the minimal of brushstrokes”. He was clearly as stunned as I was at this though he probably suspected that I was quoting from an article in the arts supplement, which I was! After a slight pause he said “Good, then you can come with me to visit local artist, Carn Standing, to help to write a profile on him, but do brush up on your arts lingo before you come!”
Most of you will probably have seen some of Carn’s work even if you do not know his name. It was he who made the life-size dolphin sculpture which was on display during the last Portsoy Boat Festival, and will be permanently sited at the Old Harbour this year. He also has a small studio in Strait Path, Banff, where some work is displayed and where he also carries out unique, bespoke tattoo artistry. Those who may have visited the Community and Sports centre in Fraserburgh cannot fail to have noticed his impressive winged figure Community Spirit. Hundreds of lengths of round steel bar were used for the body. Ceramic was used for the face and hands. Acrylic glass was used for the wings creating a six metre-long figure in a ten month project. Its contemporary design ‘swoops’ from the reception’s ceiling welcoming visitors with outstretched arms. The work was funded by Aberdeenshire Council and key to the process were workshops and consultations with local people and schools which influenced the design. Other artworks by Carn are situated in the swimming pool area – which were commissioned by local fundraising group FISSH…
Banner image: Amy Davenport
To read the full story, be sure to pick up a copy of the March 2016 issue!