Handmade in Britain

Brothers, Matthew and Andrew Galvin, design and make functional hardwood furniture with a twist in their Yorkshire workshop.

Have you always loved making things?

It’s just natural to us. Our dad has been a joiner/carpenter for 62 years, and he had his workshop with all his tools and machinery in our garden. However, we probably spent more time breaking things rather than making them – and then we’d have to find a way of mending them again before dad got home and gave us a rollicking! I remember prototyping a pair of football boots once when I was about four years old by sticking nails through a pair of sand shoes. Designing and making things has always been in our lives.

How did your business come about?

My brother was my dad’s apprentice and I had become a graphic designer, so part of my business is about developing brands. One day, my brother, dad and I were talking about how carpentry is struggling in the north with competition from the big discount furniture stores, and how there’s talent that isn’t necessarily being promoted in the right way. We realised that by putting our expertise together we could do something truly authentic. We wanted to celebrate classic joinery but put it into a contemporary setting by creating functional objects with a twist.

How has the business developed?

My brother and I started working on the business in March 2012, and launched our company website in November that year with a capsule collection. We wanted to simply grow into it – cutting our coat according to our cloth, if you like. Since then, we’ve added a few new products here and there and collaborated with some other brands – we’ve also done a pop-up shop in London, which was really successful. Plus we’ve released some limited-edition pieces. We are changing rapidly, but it’s all happening organically.

Could you describe how you work?

I’m involved in the germination of the designs, and my brother, dad and an apprentice produce them. I sketch things quite quickly and show them to the others. We don’t overdesign – in fact we prototype very quickly from the back of an envelope. We turn a leg on the lathe and go with our gut feelings.

Where does your inspiration come from?

There is inspiration everywhere. As a designer, you walk around with your eyes open and things just pop into your head. Our designs are mostly based on things we would like to own or use ourselves. It’s about combining the functional with the modern. You can trace a lineage to Danish furniture and classic English joinery.

What has been your proudest moment?

The launch of our website was a big thing for us. Especially for my brother as he got to see the fruits of his labours photographed. We also get a lot of pride from the lovely responses we receive from other designers, friends and customers. Without exception, everyone who has bought something from us has emailed afterwards to say how happy they are with it.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Luckily, any problems we’ve had haven’t been very dramatic, we have just worked our way through them. That’s what designing is all about – it’s not rocket science, it’s just joinery.

What’s the best thing about your job?

We’ve got the freedom to do what we want, when we want. It’s the autonomy of being self-employed. We might work all weekend sometimes, but we’ll be happy about it. No one is cracking the whip.

What would you say is the most important thing you’ve learnt along the way?

Just to keep things simple, and the biggest thing of all – to enjoy what you’re doing.

What does the future entail for the Galvin Brothers?

Several other furniture manufacturers like us have moved their production overseas, but we want to make sure we keep it British. We are aiming to invest in apprenticeship schemes and put something back into the local community. The immediate thing is that we’re about to open a shop – we’ve found a beautiful little property in the oldest street in Beverley, and we’re going to sell our own furniture as well as pieces by other people. The opportunity came up and it seemed like a good idea. It feels right, so we’re just cracking on with it.

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