I’ve taught a lot of woodworking students of all different skill levels – from beginners to professionals – all over the world. Despite that, I was shocked and delighted by the full-time students at Rowden Atelier in Devon when I taught a tool chest class there in 2014.
Most of the Rowden students had less than a year of coursework under their belts when we ran the course, and David Savage instructed me to push them to work at a professional pace through the week.
David thought they would be accurate but a bit slow. I had no idea what to expect. When I teach a tool chest class, I usually have time to instruct, time to build the project, time to work with each student one-on-one and time for many cups of coffee or tea.
Not so at Rowden. The full-time students were monsters and nipped at my heels all week.
It turns out the training there is even more impressive than David suspected. And after watching the students for more than two weeks, I remained deeply impressed. Not only did they have a firm grasp of joinery, machine work and hand work, they also knew how to draw, paint and do a bunch of tricky veneer and inlay stuff that’s frankly beyond me.
They had been schooled in the realities of business – all of the instructors there are hard-bitten professionals. And they had been given the opportunity to work at an extremely high level on some of David’s own designs for clients.
Had I been in my 20s, I would have dropped everything in my life and enrolled myself.
When David Savage died on Jan. 18, he had already stepped away from day-to-day management of the school and put it in the good hands of instructors he hand-picked and trained. Many of them – David admitted – were even better woodworkers than he. Daren Milman, Ed Wild and Jon Greenwood are all world-class woodworkers and instructors.
“Despite (or even fuelled by) David’s recent death, his vision for teaching the next generation of cabinetmakers at Rowden continues to surge onwards,” according to Matthew Lacey at Rowden. “We knew this was coming, of course, and his presence is greatly missed by all of us. But, because of the work he did over the last 15 years setting up the group there today, day to day nothing has changed.
“The same goes for the students at Rowden, learning the craft of cabinetmaking, pushing themselves as they move through this part of their furniture-making adventure. The next generation of students are now coming through Rowden to start their cabinetmaking story, lead by David’s philosophy and guided by the team he put together to achieve this.”
If you are considering a woodworking education, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better school than Rowden. Its roots stretch back to the English Arts & Crafts Movement, but the design aesthetic is entirely contemporary. The shop is located deep in Devon where you are surrounded by nature, high-quality machinery, beautiful bench rooms and drawing/painting studios.
Though I miss my friend, David, I am glad he left Rowden in the hands of these capable instructors. And I look forward to meeting the future generations of capable and confident woodworkers that will come from Rowden.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. We’ve never published a single sponsored post here at Lost Art Press, and we’re not starting now. The above opinions are my own.