Laura Cartledge discovers how childhood dreams and creative talent are a winning formula.
When we were little my sister and I had plans to run a book and sweet shop, combining both of our passions in an enterprising fashion.
Growing up in Worthing, friends Josh Kennard and Oliver Milne also had a similar vision, but it was for something a bit different.
“We always had ideas of businesses we were going to do together,” admits Josh. “We used to skate a lot and one of our ideas was to open our own skateboard company, I would make the decks and Oli would do the graphics.”
While this has been put on the ‘to do’ list for the future, furniture maker Josh and graphic designer Oli haven’t strayed too far from this path as the pair launched Forge Creative last year.
“I struggle to remember the eureka moment,” Josh reflects. “One day we sat down and said ‘we keep saying it so why don’t we make it happen?’”
So has it lived up to the childhood dream?
“We are a good mix,” replies Josh. “While Oli has had his training in graphic design, I went straight into the practical side of things and did a furniture making course in Chichester. It was great starting up the company in the first place as I had all these products and Oli came along, took photos and built the website.”
Admitting they have been friends for so long ‘I wouldn’t be able to tell you when we met’, Josh reveals the inspiration for the pieces they produce also has links back to their youth.
“We’ve both grown up outside – we were up the downs every weekend when we were younger so we are passionate about celebrating the beauty of nature,” he reveals.
“I think it is clear, when you look at our collections, we are quite… wooden.”
This description goes some way to sum up the work but words like rustic, innovative and organic spring to mind too.
“Our design process is kind of weird – it just seems to flow out of us,” Josh admits. “We always say if you come up with a good idea, even if it doesn’t link with our other designs, go with it.
“I’ve recently moved out so a lot of pieces have been inspired by household items,” he adds. “It’s the best feeling when you think of a really standard item in your home and make it better, make it more attractive.”
The Forage dining table is such a piece. It’s what you would expect from this item of furniture but given a twist as the centre is planted with herbs so you can season from your seat.
“The forage table started as a really low coffee table with just grass growing out the middle, it looked cool but it was not useful,” reveals Josh, “so the idea to grow herbs in the centre grew from there.”
From small geometric occasion tables, made of striking wooden triangular prisms stacked together, to frames, iPad holders and slingshots, it seems nothing is safe from a Forge Creative makeover.
“The bookends are one of my favourites,” admits Josh.
However, it is not all wood as Josh has made a furnace from an old chemical bin with a special lining, in order to melt copper and brass.
There’s no doubt the business is keeping Oli and Josh busy and with each item painstakingly made by hand you can’t help but be amazed to learn they also both work full time.
“We just have to cram as much in as we can at the weekends and in the evenings,” Josh smiles. “My boss rents out a
workshop to me at the moment, so any big bits I can make there. And in my parents’ garden I have a cabin, where my lathe is, so I can make smaller items.”
Having already attracted attention from retailers means it’s all – or rather four – hands on deck as Oli helps Josh in the studio.
“I think the idea, in time, is he can be my apprentice in a way,” says Josh. “I’ve started teaching him and he has made some of the trees and he can make the slingshots.
“It’s exciting and it’s good these opportunities keep coming up. We are going to give it a go – time will tell,” he adds modestly.
“We are quite happy already, but the main dream for us would be if it could support us both and hopefully grow bigger than that so we could employ others as well.”
But it is not just the business that Josh and Oli want to make bigger, with talk of bespoke furnishings, sculptures and commissions – as long as Forge Creative can make it its own.
“I’ve turned down jobs for sprayed MDF cabinets because I’ve seen quite a few people say yes to those projects and now that is all they do,” Josh admits. “For us it’s about going with the flow and things seem to be moving, which is really cool.”
To follow Forge Creative on its journey, visit forgecreative.co