Back on the 17 May a strange thing happened on our Facebook page. Our post reach increased by a staggering 3,400% in comparison to what we had previously considered “a good day”, our post likes increased by 1,300%, our post shares increased by 1,900% and our page likes grew by a healthy 30%. The cause of all this excitement? A folding outdoor wine table.
Gina Wallace of Project Northern Lights, spied a sunny picture of a folding outdoor wine taBack on the 17 May a strange thing happened on our Facebook page. Our post reach increased by a staggering 3,400% in comparison to what we had previously considered “a good day”, our post likes increased by 1,300%, our post shares increased by 1,900% and our page likes grew by a healthy 30%. The cause of all this excitement? A folding outdoor wine table.ble in her social media feed and asked us whether or not we thought we could produce something similar. Of course we could. We posted the picture on our Facebook page to gauge the reaction to it … well, it’s fair to say that it struck a chord with plenty of people and it clearly blew all our Facebook stats out of the park!
Perhaps it is the image conjured up of relaxing in the sunshine with the grass between your toes, picnicking and sipping wine with friends that caught everyone’s imagination. Or maybe it’s because the folding wine table is the answer to that age old problem of trying to find somewhere suitably flat for your glass and finally banishing the inevitability of knocking it over. Or maybe it’s because it immediately strikes people as a great idea for a gift, especially when you add our ability to engrave a message on the table top to create a truly personalised gift for that person who is impossible to buy presents for. In any event, a new Workshop product has been born. Production has started and with it, a story that we will dine out on for some time to come.
You can tell when summer is approaching at The Workshop by the number of event medals and trophies in production. May was a busy month with more than 1,000 medals and trophies sent out!
First off was 20 perspex trophies for the Dunkeld Enduro, a mountain bike event kicking the season off at the end of April. Organised by the volunteers of Highland Perthshire Cycling the event showcases some of the fantastic riding and trails we have here in Highland Perthshire.
Sticking with the bike theme we were delighted to be asked to produce another set of 175 wooden desk trophies for this year’s Tour de Force road cyclists who take on the Tour de France route 7 days ahead of the pro’s.
Still on two wheels but with motors this time, the Bob MacGregor Motorcycle Club approached us to make trophies and medals for their 10th anniversary Memorial Trails at Killin. We produced 200 engraved beer mats as finisher awards and designed a 2D wooden trophy individually engraved for 17 different prize categories. The club were delighted and reported that many riders commented on how different and non-plastic the medals and trophies were!
Back to road bikes and Highland Perthshire Cycling but this time for their women only road cycling event Belles n Buns. With rides of 16, 32, 64 miles touring the beautiful Perthshire/ Angus glens and a noticeable emphasis on cake stops it seems fitting that they opted for 100 engraved wooden spoons for their finishers. All the better to make more cakes with!
Finally, we have produced 500 oak medals for the Martin Currie Rob Roy Challenge. It’s all change this year for one of Scotland’s most established and successful fundraising events with brand new routes and an event base in Kenmore. Also new for this year is a partnership with Monacle Mhor to create the Kenmhor Festival. It’s set to be a fantastic weekend in the community calendar with food, live music, DJs, market, entertainment, ceilidh and culminating with a legendary firework display.
A trail-blazing project helping unemployed young people from Highland Perthshire has celebrated becoming independent.
Two years ago the Workshop Aberfeldy opened its doors, based in a dis-used industrial unit on Dunkeld Road.
Founded by forward-thinking design and technology teacher Paul Parmenter, the industrious team received initial support from Scottish charity, Project Northern Lights.
The social enterprise pilot took in youngsters, many with additional support needs, and started training them to produce a range of plastic, wood and metal goods for surrounding businesses. It quickly gained a reputation for quality work at attractive prices.
The Workshop Aberfeldy received a Start It award of £4000 in July 2014 from Firstport, Scotland’s national agency for start-up social entrepreneurs.
The good news is the Workshop Aberfeldy has now exceeded its first year income target by 85%, generating £39,000 in sales and a key achievement has been offering two local young people fixed term employment and training.
Now, having seen around 40 young people gain valuable hands on experience that could help them into work, the craft enterprise is off the ground and going forward alone. The Workshop became an independent charity in January.
Gina Wallace, chief executive of Project Northern Lights commented: “Our small charity incubated the Workshop as a pilot. Having initially offered it strategic network support, I’m thrilled to see it setting off on its own.”
Deputy First Minister and Perthshire North MSP John Swinney was at the Workshop’s opening in 2014 and he took time to return on Thursday for a “Going Solo” party.
He said: “I first came here nearly two years ago. Then the facility was largely empty but there was a clear ambition it would make a difference in the lives of local young people.
“Coming back now, it’s very clear that that has been achieved. Paul Parmenter’s leadership has inspired young people, reaching them in a way that some parts of our system do not reach those young people.
“The Workshop is really exciting project with great potential within the community.”
Using a state-of-the-art laser cutter, the Workshop can make anything from bespoke logo buttons to Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s stage sets.
Completed work includes Escape Route’s new café signage, a bespoke log arch for a local estate, a seat dedication plaque for the Birks Cinema and signs for the Corbenic Poetry Path.
Paul Parmenter told the PA: “It’s been quite amazing, a huge success.
“We have a passion for providing young people with training and employment opportunities in rural areas.
“Becoming independent really validates the Workshop as a concept. It enables us to continue to grow and offer more opportunities to people with additional support needs.”
“We’ve had 42 young people in for varying periods of time and gained a reputation for providing a whole range of well made products in wood, metal and plastics. We can make things by hand, laser and machine.
“We’re now looking seriously at one or two other locations to provide the Workshop ‘wherever’, as opposed to just the Workshop Aberfeldy.”
The Aberfeldy Parish Church is an active part of the local community and keen supporters of The Workshop and our core aim of supporting young people into employment, self-employment or further training. They have made good use of The Workshop over the last 18 months to make a wide range of improvements to Church facilities.
Our first job was to make an adjustable shelf for a DVD player on a Unicol stand which we were able to produce more cheaply than the standard accessory. We then built a modular stage extension with concealed cable trunking and multi-function removable stands for music monitors and microphones which has provided more space for musicians and approved the appearance of The Sanctuary by tidying the cabling and reducing the number of stands. Following the installation of a new PA system, the existing arrangements for AV operators at the back of the church needed to be improved. We designed and made a console desk to house 19 inch rack equipment and two operator work stations. This large piece of furniture was produced ‘Ikea style’ in flat pack sections so that it could be transported from the Workshop and then assembled onsite. Along with the PA system came two new large black subwoofers which were in need of some disguise. Flowers were the answer so two water tight oak planters were made to measure to sit on top of the speakers. The oak communion table has been given a new lease of life with a sand and refinish. All the work in the interior of the church has been produced in oak finish to complement the existing scheme.
Outside, we have designed and produced a new notice board and signage in European oak and galvanised steel with finials to reflect the church tower design. The notice board section is easily visible from the path and the two signs are angled to make it easy to spot from a vehicle travelling on Taybridge Road. Look out for it when you next drive past!
The Birks Cinema is an amazing, community owned, state of the art rural cinema. It holds a special place in many local hearts after an incredible fundraising effort, over six years, by the Friends of The Birks Cinema, now The Birks Cinema Trust. Fundraising is still a key part of The Trust’s remit and they have committed to donating a minimum of £5,000 to the cinema every year to help it to provide a really good service to all members of the community and make sure that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy using the facility.
Sponsoring one of the 99 auditorium seats is one of the main fundraising strategies. The Trust were keen to find a way to promote the Seat Dedication Scheme and an idea for a plaque was hatched and worked through with The Workshop. The end result is a display engraved on the reverse of clear acrylic, edge lit by LED strips and housed in birch ply to match the existing woodwork in the cinema. Fixing to the glass lift shaft was achieved using suction cups to avoid the need to drill the glass. We are delighted to have our moment of fame with The Workshop’s name ‘up in lights’ together with the generous supporters of The Birks Cinema.
We enjoy taking a stand at Logierait Market amongst the fantastic local talent being showcased there each month. Being an active part of the community and raising the profile of The Workshop is as good a reason to be there as selling products.
Many people have a manufacturing idea or two that they have ‘shelved’ for want of knowing where to start in terms of making it happen. Simply talking through people’s ideas and watching them materialise before our eyes is as interesting as it is rewarding. And it’s always nice to be able to answer a question beginning ‘Can you …’ with ‘yes, we can!’.
One such conversation started with questions about our welding capabilities and a discussion around moving felled or fallen timber to a point where it could be sawn. The idea of a Log Arch was born and it provided a fantastic final project for one of our young employees who has learned to MIG and Manual Metal Arc weld during his time with The Workshop. We didn’t waste time trying to design our own model but instead bought some drawings online and made our own tweaks to suit the particular Quad Bike. The Log Arch will be able to lift a 5m x 0.65m log using only a Quad Bike to tow it out thus minimising any landscape damage.
We were introduced to Andy Cox of Pop Up Designs through a mutual friend. Andy was looking to build the business but needed help to manufacture the products. It turned out that Paul had crossed paths with Andy when both of them were secondary school Heads of Design & Technology. With a shared interest in education and young people, Andy was very interested in The Workshop and, given our laser cutting capacity, delighted for us to be his manufacturing partner.
Andy’s motivation to start the business was to raise funds to support two children a year, or more, through Compassion UK which gives long term support to children in the world’s poorest places. This goal was achieved for two years by selling a range of products that were made in Gordonstoun School, Moray, for the Christmas gift market. Now that Andy is semi-retired he is trying to raise far more for Compassion UK by investing in the business with a patent, registered and copyrighted designs, a business partner in charge of sales and registered trademarked products.
Pop Up products include post cards, cards and A4 wooden products. All are flat with laser cut parts to be pushed out to make 3D mini models. There is a fantastic collection of unique designs categorised in the following groups: Christmas, Scottish Animals, Scottish Heritage, Fun/Novelty and Custom/Bespoke. We commissioned a unique Wade’s Bridge design so look out for A6 cards and postcards on sale locally in Windows, Spirit of Wood, The Courtyard, The Highland Chocolatier and the Pitlochry Festival Theatre!
Anatom is a Scottish company that produces outdoor footwear designed and tested in Scotland. A sister brand to Teko Socks, Anatom was introduced to The Workshop via WildFox Events. They were keen to support the work of a local manufacturing social enterprise and with their emphasis on ‘designed in Scotland’, together, we are another good ‘fit’!
We have worked with Anatom to create some unusual products that have given our team an opportunity to design and build some complex items in both wood and metal. These have ranged from a 16 holed walking pole stand to a trapezoid shaped wooden boot fitting stools, metal and wood boot fitting ramps, a Perspex boot display and a set of 50 redwood name plaques. Each item is engraved by the laser cutter to create bespoke branded products.
Working with Anatom has also given us an interesting insight into everyday retail trade terminology. Familiar to some, less so to others, we were particularly tickled by the ‘shelf talker’ which is defined as “a printed card or other sign attached to a store shelf to call buyers' attention to a particular product displayed in that shelf”. So now we have a name for all those supermarket price signs we see so often!
David Fox-Pitt is an active member of the local community. As well as being the Director of WildFox Events, he is also the founder of Project Northern Lights, a charity set up to catalyse opportunities for Scotland's young people to get into employment. The Workshop is an initiative of Project Northern Lights and, as such, we have been a lucky recipient of David’s energies from the start. He and the team at WildFox continue to support our work and provide a great variety of projects.
One of their more unusual requests was in relation to The Artemis Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon. This legendary event takes place every July in, on and around Loch Tay. 2015 was The Quad’s 14th year and over 320 participants swam 0.8 mile across the loch; climbed seven Munros in the Ben Lawers range; kayaked seven miles and then cycled 34 miles around Loch Tay. In WildFox’s unique style, the finale sees participants ‘stop the clock’ at the finish by slicing a watermelon in two with a sword. Cutting 150 water melons leaves the swords in need of some TLC and previously, David has had to take them to Edinburgh for repairs. Amongst Paul Parmenter’s vast experience lies competitive fencing so the intricacies of swords are well known to him. The Workshop was delighted to be able to make and repair tangs, wooden handles and steel baskets to two cutlass sabres and a broadsword.
Congratulations to any local teams who completed The Quad this year. As well as being a huge personal challenge, fundraising is a core part of the event. Funds raised to date exceed an incredible £7million for two outstanding charities: Mercy Corps and Mary’s Meals.
Gemma Henderson is the Business Manager at The Workshop Aberfeldy. Always inspired by the variety of products that 'walk through the door', this blog highlights some of the more interesting projects that are created here in The Workshop.