I only seriously thought I could earn a living out of crafting wood in the late 1980s when somebody offered to buy the first box I ever made. Since then it has gradually developed into a full-time career.
I began my working life as a teacher at William Howard School in Brampton. My wife and I decided to go to Botswana in Africa, where I taught for two years.
The education system there had not moved forward as in the UK, and I basically taught the children woodwork and technical drawing.
When we came back, I had to decide what I wanted to do. There were no jobs in Carlisle; it was either move out of the area or set up on my own.
I had always wanted to work for myself so I decided to turn my garden shed into a makeshift workshop. The only equipment I had was an old science bench begged from William Howard and a radial arm saw.
I started turning out mock antique mirror frames from the wood. They were decorative pieces, but the work was boring – I might as well have been in a factory, I dabbled in that for less than a year, selling them for about £15.
The very first box I made was with a gnarled piece of burr oak someone had given to me. After selling that first piece I did some market research to find out if you could buy quality wooden jewellery boxes in high street shops. You couldn't and you still can't. Even Harrods in London only sold poorly-made boxes from Italy.
Over the years, the box-making has turned into a full-time career.
After four years in the shed, I had an extension built to accommodation a new workshop allowing me to put in some more machinery.
My woodworking and practical skills have improved, but the most important skills that I have learnt are marketing – something I had to learn from scratch.
When you set up on your own, you've got to learn very quickly how to sell the product. You can make to most gorgeous work but it has to be available to the market.
I went to better quality craft fairs, half a dozen each year, and began to make a name for myself.
I tried to be as professional as I could afford – not easy with limited resources. The literature you produce needs to reflect the products; a glossy brochure with gaudy colours wouldn't suit my boxes.
Communicating with other woodworkers has definitely helped. Last year, I got involved with a London boxmaker, Andrew Crawford and we put on an exhibition at Tullie House. This has toured all over the country, which has helped generate a lot of interest.
Next year, we plan to take it to the United States and Australia.
Picture Caption — From teacher to boxmaker: Peter Lloyd at his workshop in Hallbankgate