29th May, 2018
The Oak and Rope’s Journey to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018 and “Chelsea Gold”
It all started in January when The Oak and Rope Company was offered our very first trade stand at the world’s largest and most prestigious flower show. We decided we had to GO FOR IT and the next 5 months were busy with designing and planning our stand, designing and making new garden lines along with making several of our stand props here in our workshop and finally the logistics of taking it all up to London for 10 days.
So in mid May the day arrived when we packed up the truck with military precision and the help of a small team of carpenters and fitters and headed for the Chelsea Show ground at the beautiful Royal Hospital in Chelsea, London SW3. To say it was chaos when we arrived, 5 days before the show officially opened, is not really an exaggeration. The show gardens, both large and small were in varying stages of completion, and several looked as if they had only just been started. There was heavy machinery everywhere and by 8am the show ground was one huge traffic jam. But the goodwill and good tempers of all the site workers, landscapers, garden designers and traders alike was paramount and we managed to unload all our kit and get going on building our stand.
The next few “build” days of fine weather was a blessing, if a little too hot in the afternoons. By Sunday evening we were ready, as were all the gardens that had looked like they had only just been started a couple of days before! What a pleasure and privilege to wander around the ground in relative peace, listening to the birds singing and watching the finishing touches being put to some really stunning gardens. And the trade stands weren’t too shabby either. Some of them looked like show gardens themselves and had areas of planting designed by former Chelsea garden designers. No pressure for us then! The design for our stand was to show our beautiful products in the best possible way, along with some quirky little touches and lots of gorgeous, luscious house plants making a “potting shed chic” look.
And we weren’t disappointed with our efforts. The stand looked gorgeous and our little willow “Prince” made by willow sculptor Caroline Gregson, standing on a large swing, was our piece de resistance!
So early on Tuesday morning when the judges present their prizes, we weren’t disappointed either. We were presented with a 5 Star Trade stand Award, the highest accolade a trade stand can win, our “Chelsea Gold”. How thrilling that our home grown hard work had been recognised at such a stunningly high standard of show.
It made the next five days when 168,000 visitors attend the show, a happy place to be with many admiring comments and lovely new customers. Now we are home and planning 2019!
RHS Chelsea Flower Show, see you next year!
17th September, 2016
Rainy Saturday in September...
What to do, what to do? Do you remember when building a new lego set was the highlight of a rainy Saturday afternoon? Everyone happy that the instructions have been followed, everything accounted for and those odd bits left were simply gratis not necessary. How long was it before, what was a magnificent replica in lego of Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon, is found scattered to the four ends of the sofa, back of beyond and the vacuum cleaner?
Children cried, adults tutted, never would that magnificent bird fly again. But had we taken care, maybe just ensured it had a place, a shelf, a box…even a cage, then before we knew it those children who were too cool to play yet never too old to love wanted it back in all its glory.
My own children fight over ownership, yet one is too old to ever be seen playing with such toys, whilst the other thinks nothing more than spending the occasional hour changing heads, legs, arms and weapons. No matter who owns what, the children are invested in every character, they can name each one, know what birthday or Christmas added which one to the collection, and even when one small, almost inconsequential part is recovered from the hover they will know what part belongs with it and somehow know exactly where to find them.
As parents we invest, but it is not counted in sterling, euros or dollars, its is counted in memories, those things we look back on and although they may add a wrinkle, bring with them that precious gift of a smile. You may not have laughed when you stood on that annoying yellow eight prong brick, but like all of us who take up parenthood it is a right of passage, one that we can say we have not fulfilled unless we have suffered that pain.
So this rainy Saturday in September my significant other and I spent the afternoon reliving both our childhood and adulthood creating and framing these memories. The finished pieces will hang in the children's rooms, still accessible for those who want to play and at the same time reflections for the older children of a wonderful moment in time. We are really pleased with the end result because they are built with the love we share with the children and for us become another heirloom that represent a wonderful snapshot in time…
29th February, 2016
We would love to share our story with you... (click on photo to watch)
4th February, 2016
I have often tried to describe to you the joy it gives us to turn sawn oak planks into things of great beauty. Many of you have been able to appreciate the end product through ownership or the photo’s we post.
However, there is an intermediate period that I have not been able to share with you before. It is that stage when the oak is naked, still emitting the rawness of its origins…yet it has started its journey to becoming the heirloom we hope it will be. We have given the piece its form and engraved the wording, but we are only halfway to full metamorphosis. It is here that the piece is at its purest.
The ‘look’ is very tactile and sensuous, but sadly in this state it would quickly become tarnished; finger marks and stains would soon form and distort the beauty of this period. For hundreds of years the solution has been to oil the wood, protecting it from ‘spoiling’.
However, although the oiling brings out a custom, almost static beauty in the wood, which allows us to appreciate the grain in a different way I always felt there should be more options. I recognise that the oiled finish is traditional, one we have grown to understand and accept as the ‘look’ of oak; Something we value for its beauty, strength and durability.
But, ironic as this may seem, I just wish we could make it a bit less ‘woody’. I have been searching for a way of preserving the pure unadulterated form without compromising the durability.
We have tried a number of products, had no end of visits from purveyors of magic potions promising the grail I have been looking for; Yet none have come close to producing the all round tactile and sensual finish I was seeking. I knew I wanted the grain of the wood to be present, the crevices and motions of the ageing process to be evident and touchable, not masked by a layer of stain or wax, no matter how fine.
Like many puzzles, not only was the answer living with me, its genesis had guided me throughout my life! 5 years ago we commissioned a large round oak table for my kitchen. Being the so called family ‘Oak Expert’, I looked at how I would treat/finish it. My inspiration, as for many things in my life, came in the form of my Scandinavian roots.
My Mother handed me a mysterious and what seemed insignificant bottle labelled, ‘Hvit Olje’, saying, in her all knowing way, “this is what you need to use.”
The finished result was much admired…and like many of you reading who congregate around the kitchen table, this piece of furniture simply melded in to family life. Abused and used, it has seen many messy meal times and children’s art projects (acrylic paints not banned in my house). It has been submerged in family clutter for long periods, red wine, gravy, raspberry stains left over night and it has survived, always ready to go above and beyond its duty as a kitchen table. No matter how neglected it still provided a stunning backdrop for numerous Oak & Rope photo shoots.
It has required so little attention over the years that I completely forgot about the ‘Hvit Olje’ as a finish…until now! It still looks exactly how I want it to. The finish has been stress tested for years and has that unique quality of looking better the more you use and abuse it.
I feel my search has ended, I am so happy to note it is also where my business began…around my kitchen table. I hope I can share with you not just this story, but an alternative look to most of our wonderful products in 2016*…
*Simply request 'White oil finish' in the special instructions. The website will gradually be updated with the option througout.
30th January, 2016
Moments & Memories...
There are two perfect occasions coming up for celebrating the moments and memories you only share with the most special people in your life.
Valentines day comes at a great time when we all need a bit of cheering up. Chocolate, hearts and flowers… or cheesy cards with quotes and sayings can be great in the middle of stormy February, but it might not feel quite 'you'...
We do however believe every couple have their own 'romantic'. The little things that make them work. Moments or routines they share and their little 'in' jokes. Little keyword reminders is all it takes to bring it all back and give you a little electric tingle in your tummy. It can be 'that puncture' on the motorway, cooking a particular meal, one very special walk or just the name of the place you used to have your Sunday coffees… Only you will know what they mean. Not a bad thing to be reminded of every time you reach for your keys...
A few weeks later it is time to celebrate Mum! Of course she is your favourite Mum, and the best in the world and all that…
It can sound a bit insincere however, when it is not in your own words. So how about letting her know what your favourite memories are… It could be the burnt carrots on Sundays, the time you forgot to pack the sleeping bags and you had to sleep with layers of all your clothes on, hot chocolates at bedtime or monopoly marathons.
No two are the same. We absolutely love seeing the various customers moments and memories. Sometimes they bring us to tears, other times they are so obscure they just leave us curious as to what they can possibly mean. And we are far to discreete to ask any questions...
Making the list for your special present makes you think about what are the special moments in our lives. Are we taking the time to create and remember those memories? This truly is a gift you will enjoy to give!
We can engrave up to 5 favourite moments on either a key ring or a coaster for you both to smile about every day of the year…
Click HERE to design yours...
15th November, 2015
A Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks ago I was proudly showing off this year's Christmas leaflet to a friend over lunch. He was impressed, but our children were underwhelmed to say the least…
They wondered why grown-ups mail could not be more fun. Why could we not send everybody something they could play with?
This was of course music to my ears. Normally every product I design has a function. It has to look good, but it MUST serve a purpose too. Even our little quote signs really are meant to be used as chopping boards. Simply being beautiful is not enough!
More importantly though, the children were brainstorming and showing real creative promise! Before the chips were demolished Eleanor, Zack, Josh and Toby had decided that what was needed was a ‘present-selection-fortune-claw’!
So we set about designing one. It delayed this season's marketing campaign by a couple of weeks (but Christmas brochures normally arrive too early anyway); we had thousands printed and the children promised to help stuff the additions into the specially designed (somewhat fiddly) envelopes.
What I love is the fact that we got a much more interesting end result, through a somewhat unconventional route AND four children gained a real sense of achievement by seeing their little loopy idea printed and sent out in the thousands…
Of course I hope you will find them very useful when deciding on presents for your loved ones, but on a non-commercial level this Christmas campaign has already far exceeded my expectations.
I wish you all a very happy festive season and hope that you will be tempted by our many new unique, practical and personal gift ideas.
PS! If you would like to receive one of our brochures and present fortune claws, click here.
* Throughout the year, in between jobs we have been making Oak & Rope coasters (as shown above) from all the oak that was too small for our other designs. This year we managed to make and send 2,000 of these to our most frequent customers. This is part of our policy of making sure we use every bit of the super prime oak we are so lucky to work with.