Ashwin Workshop in Dalston – still going strong through the decades and developments.
Hidden away behind the hustle and bustle of Kingsland Road the furniture makers of Ashwin Workshop have been quietly going about their business for over 30 years. This small workshop began as a women-only venture in the 80’s, in the hey day of TOPS courses and the London College of Furniture. Over the years it has seen makers come and go through it’s door and today there is no gender prescription.
The workshop is a valuable resource for furniture makers in Hackney. It provided me with a bench, machines and affordable rent for the first ten years of my sole-trading business life. At the time we were 5 women working in the limited space which dictated a strict working regime. Whilst we were all independent makers we collectively ran the workshop and all took responsibility for order and maintenance and the general smooth running of the premises. This practice continues to this day.
The beauty of sharing workshop space, beyond the obvious cost benefits, is that you have other like-minded people on hand. Furniture makers, in my experience, are affable, collaborative people and in a communal workshop ideas, muscle, hand tools and even work is often shared around.
Revisiting Ashwin Workshop today, I marvelled at it’s size and how on earth I ever managed to make some of projects that I did in the years that I was there. But where there is a will there is a way and no one is more resourceful and able to think outside the box than a furniture maker!
Small workshops and light-industrial sites have all but disappeared from their traditional homes in the East End (once at the heart of the London furniture making industry) in favour of housing. When I left Ashwin Workshop, I moved across the road to the larger premises of Oblique Workshops on Gillet Square but that lasted just 6 months before a rent hike forced us all out to Walthamstow. Now, as the threat of development hovers over my current workshop, I’m wondering where to next ………….