Benchspace was started to help makers and designers get into business. For a lot of making disciplines in Ireland it has always been a tough prospect to make it at your chosen occupation. We see a lot of people coming through craft and design courses in Cork, like furniture design at CSN and jewellery at St John’s College. They spend a year or two in a well-equipped creative environment surrounded by lots of like-minded teachers and students, there is time and space to explore their discipline. Then after graduation, they are suddenly cast out into the big bad world and all of these resources are taken away. It’s hard to find space, it’s hard to find customers, and motivation can be a problem when you’re working on your own. Most of all it’s much harder to improve and develop without other people to bounce ideas off or be inspired by.
This is the gap that Benchspace seeks to fill. If you want to have a go at a creative business then you don’t need to buy all of the equipment, you don’t need to rent a lot of space and you can get help finding customers and getting advice about how to run your business. That is the environment we are working to build, not just for woodworkers but for instrument makers, jewellers, ceramicists, product designers, artists, graphic designers, set-designers, etc. In fact we think it will be so good that non-making designers will want to hang out, like web designers, bloggers and architects. When we get to that point, we know that people will interact, inspire and create new things, new ideas, new possibilities, that’s when it gets really interesting.
Even if you’re not a pro, if you’ve just got the woodwork bug or need to get out of the house for a few hours, then we want to meet you too. When it grows up, Benchspace wants to be a kind of ‘third place’, not work, not home but more like a café where you can make stuff. If it’s for an audience of one, or a market of hundreds we want to see people making and creating.
So what has that got to do with a 9ft sycamore table? Well, it’s a small project but it has a lot of the qualities we like in a creative project. The Cork County architect’s office made contact saying that they would like to see some local work in a building fitout they were doing in the Cork Fire & Building Control in the County Hall campus. Often this would be completed with imported contract furniture, but thanks to the County reaching out to Benchspace, we were able to put some really good Cork makers on the job. To complete the project we sourced local wood from Mark Donnelly’s yard in Carrrigrohane, and delivered a smart spalted sycamore dining table to site a couple of weeks ago. This example allowed us connect some emerging makers to a local contract, and we managed to use some local materials along the way. Hopefully we’ll see plenty more projects like this.