If you've stayed at an Ashore, you've benefitted from the handiwork of Oxfordshire-based furniture designer, Michael Buick. In today's guest post, we follow Michael's journey in creating an innovative peg-based joinery brand.
When I arrived in Oxford fresh-faced and excited to study philosophy I never imagined that twenty years later I would have swapped my pen for a pillar drill. Now I design and make furniture. The way I got here explains a lot about the furniture I make and about Pegg, the business I’ve founded.
My Dad took pride in the efficient way he could pack a car. Good thing, because he was going to help me do that six times a year. Like my fellow students I would set myself up in my room at college and then two months later pack it up again at the end of term. This was just the start of life on the move. In my twenties and early thirties I changed home an average of once a year!
Well, that is a lifestyle that can make you hate furniture: the bulky to lift; the impossible to store; making do with ugly because it’s only temporary. I did my time at the IKEA desk with the wonky screw-on-legs and a shoe box for a monitor stand!
The other thing that took root at Uni was a physical conundrum which would help to define my career: occasional typing-caused twinges in my arms became, in my first job, a pair of limbs that had exploded with pain. I remember being at the cinema unable to put them on the arm rests. Although it eased, it was the start of a long dance with something that might be called ‘carpal tunnel syndrome’ (it wasn’t), or ‘upper limb disorder’ (nice and vague) or ‘arm nerve pain’.
Anyway, I threw everything at solving it, but it always came back, and haunted my rise as a sustainability communications genius (the profession I’d picked). Yoga, physio, swimming sessions during lunch breaks, ergonomic everything… nothing kept it away for long.
It was so frustrating. Eventually I decided that one day I would look back and be grateful for my condition, whatever it was. And I am. Because it gave me the push into changing career and becoming a designer-maker.
While renovating my first home I found that my arms had recovered - I was doing minimal computer time, you see.
So I vowed to find a way to avoid returning to spending five+ days a week on a computer. I found a furniture maker who let me turn up at his workshop for a while, and then discovered - what good fortune! - that Oxford has Britain’s best furniture school, Rycotewood.
Three years later I graduated with a First, four Pegg prototypes, and then brought together my previous career and my new one by creating my own ethical furniture brand.
So Pegg has these roots: a passion for furniture that makes it easy to move home or adapt the one you are in; a determination to be more than just sustainable but to champion a rethink about how we live and consume; and an awareness that we need furniture that helps computer time stay as easy on our bodies as possible.
The Pegg Desk is perhaps the product that best achieves all these so far. Designing it was so satisfying, because a whole set of goals were realised so elegantly.
But that’s a design story for next time…
Next week we'll be publishing pt 2 - how Pegg innovation helps power the Ashore workspace.