In conversation with Ochre and Wood

30 Apr 2020

During lockdown, we’re focusing on bringing the outside, well…inside.

We caught up with Mike Whittall from Ochre and Wood about the incredible Scottish bespoke handmade furniture they make.

What is Ochre and Wood?

Ochre and Wood is a designer and maker of bespoke furniture and cabinetry.  We mix traditional craftsmanship techniques with contemporary design to create enduring pieces which reflect the environment in which we live.

How do you source the wood for your furniture?

We like to use locally sourced woods where possible so favour Scottish hardwoods.  Having said that, we work to client briefs so if the request if for a particular non-Scottish wood then we will source that instead. We will, however, always look to procure wood from reputable suppliers who have a sustainable approach to buying wood.

What is your favourite wood to work with and why?

It’s difficult to pick a ’stand-out’ wood as all are different in character and so suit different projects.  For example, Elm burr is beautiful and, with its mesmerising patterns, looks stunning where a particular detail is needed.  However, if I wanted to create long slender table legs, I would look to woods such as Ash which have a straight sinewy grain pattern. Ultimately each different type of wood behaves in its own way when being worked and the challenge is to assimilate my working techniques with the character of the wood I am working with.

Where did your love of fine furniture making come from?

It’s difficult to put an actual date on this.  I learnt basic skills through my father’s love of woodworking and carried on with making simple things on and off through my life when time and space allowed.  I always admired more elaborate pieces but it was relatively recently when I really started to develop this interest to the point where I decided to make it my business.

What has been your favourite creation or restoration piece to work on and why?

This is another difficult question to answer as I find fascination in all the pieces I work on.

If I had to choose a restoration piece, it would be working on a very large extending table which sits in the banqueting hall of Eilean Donan Castle. My contribution was relatively minor but nevertheless played an important part in recommissioning the table and I still feel a little frisson of excitement/pride to see the table back in its rightful historic place!

As far as new pieces go, it is harder to choose but if I had to pick one it would be a boardroom table I designed and made for the Balmenach Distillery.  As well as being given a free rein design-wise, the particularly memorable part of that commission was being able to incorporate some very old and beautiful Oak reclaimed from one of the Distillery’s decommissioned spirit receiver vessels. This would have been one of the original vessels dating back to 1824 when the Distillery was built.  Add to that, the trees the wood came from were likely to have been a few hundred years old at that time when they were cut and milled so I was probably working with wood which was at least 400 years old. I found it quite a humbling experience to consider the world events those pieces of wood are likely to have witnessed during its existence!

How has Ochre and Wood had to adapt due to Covid-19?

The workshop is right next to our house and I work alone so distancing is not a problem.  What has impacted me is not being able to visit clients which is an important part of the bespoke process so the flow of new commissions as well as delivering finished pieces has come to a halt.  I have also found access to supplies of wood is currently restricted due to many suppliers having closed down during the crisis.  What I have done it turned my attention to a number of workshop upgrades which I’ve been meaning to do for a while but haven’t due to client work. “Every cloud…”, as they say!