Crafts champion in the Dales

A young craftsman in the Yorkshire Dales is adding elements of the landscape into his pieces of furniture. Mag North meets the creative and talented Tom Addison
June 13, 2022

A little piece of the Yorkshire Dales now graces an apartment in Central London. It’s a desk, that was designed and hand crafted from prime grade quarter-sawn oak and sycamore, a beautiful, contemporary and functional piece of office furniture that’s striking as a stand-alone piece. And it’s called Ribblesdale.

It’s named after the valley of the Ribble; it holds features reflective of this iconic Dales landscape. The dovetails run the full length of the top edges mirroring the famous Ribblehead Viaduct. The rippled grain of the sycamore and oak runs through the piece shimmering like the flowing River Ribble.

And the outline shape created by the delicate under-storage units and the angle of the frame of the lower desk resemble that of the steeped profile of Pen-y-Ghent.

The 'Ribblesdale' Desk

This is how the craftsman describes his creation: Tom Addison, a young designer and maker of fine, contemporary furniture who is inspired by the landscape around his Wensleydale workshop. “I take great inspiration from the landscape and places I pass through when I’m running or walking,” he says. “I get such a great feeling when I'm among the stunning scenery and I just want to try and put that feeling into my pieces by trying to capture some of those key features I find in the natural - and sometimes man-made - places. When you are surrounded by beauty all the time it's hard not to want to try to create something that's equally as beautiful.”

Tom, originally from Kendal, set up his business in September last year, turning a dream into reality. He had an apprenticeship, and then worked for six years, with the Cumbrian master-crafts furniture makers, Peter Hall and Son, mastering essential skills and expertise of fine furniture making.  “The high level of training and professional working standards gave me the perfect start in my wood-working career.”

He admits to being very driven, and having a passion for his craft, but Tom was – not so long ago – at the top of a very different sort of tree. He’s been running since he could walk: his father, Mike, and brother, Shaun, married sisters Heather and Fiona, an athletic quartet who between them raised eight excellent fell-runners. Tom became a leading light at Helm Hill Runners, with a natural agility for spectacular descents, and in 2014, age just 24, he became English fell-running champion.

Tom Running the 'Three Peaks Race'

“At the same time, I immersed myself into fell-running,” he recalls. “I was obsessed with it. Having this mindset helped me to compete at the very top end of my sport - mountain running, they call it in Europe. It sounds a cliche but all it was hard work, dedication and listening to my body...most of the time! I sacrificed so much at a young age to improve myself in my discipline, I missed nights out, socialising, parties, holidays, music festivals.” The sacrifices paid off; he was rewarded with international selection to race for England and Great Britain in European and World Championships. “I got to travel to lots of different countries, see different cultures and meet many like-minded people. I wasn't a professional; you can't really make much money at fell running, I just did it for the love and to prove to myself that I could achieve my dream.  I could have moved over to Europe and maybe made more money at races. I did train in Europe with professional mountain runners, but my heart was always here in the Lakeland fells, the Yorkshire Dales and the boggy moors of Lancashire.”

But when he met his wife, Rachael – who comes from the Dales – and moved with her to Wensleydale, a different sort of passion took over, to develop his talent for creating beautiful objects from wood. He worked for a local builder, learning new skills, but his passion for furniture-making was simmering away “and I wanted to become my own creative boss. I approached this new venture with the same amount of passion and desire I’d shown in my running.”

His clients love the personal approach, because Tom works with them to produce unique, one-of-a-kind pieces of extremely high quality, using the best possible materials that are personalised for them in design and functionality. 

“I love working closely with clients to create something truly bespoke and stunning to them. It's a creative journey you go on together. I'm there to help guide them, advise them and suggest ideas to them that will help bring their own vision to life. Seeing their reactions when the final piece is delivered to them is very rewarding. That’s what I envision when I'm making it for them: their reaction and love for their new piece of furniture that they will go on to treasure for years to come.”

The 'Ellerbeck' Side Table

Tom aims to source all his materials as locally as possible, using a timber supplier in the National Park near Settle, Wonder of Wood. “When trying to use the very best, sometimes some materials come from further away, but it is important to me that these are all sustainably sourced from trusted suppliers.”

Tom’s joy in his work – and his life – is evident in everything he talks about, with immense love and enthusiasm. “One of my favourite moments of the day is opening the blind of my east-facing workshop window to see the morning's sunrise over Penhill. It's a great way to begin a day's work as it's never quite the same view."

“Most of my days are spent working on pieces in my workshop. The workshop is only small so usually I work on one piece at a time taking great care over the whole process so that each piece I make has its own unique quality. I enjoy the peace and tranquility of working on an item of furniture. I get lost in the whole making process, I'm just so focussed on what I'm doing and enjoy it so much that the hours can fly by."

“Usually before I know it the working day is done, and I love coming back into the home environment and spending the early evening playing with my daughter Ellen and getting her ready for bed before hitting the hills again and taking my dog, Spot, for his evening walk or run.”

He and Rachael now have a younger daughter, Sarah: “My way of relaxing is spending lots of time with my family. I'm very family oriented and there is no better way to help switch off than spending quality time with them, whether it’s just being at home or getting outside for an adventure along the shores of Semerwater or playing in the woods at Ballowfield Nature Reserve.” But that creative mind is never off-duty. “It was here where I was inspired to make the Ellerbeck table while throwing stones off the footbridge with my daughter. And when I went for a run on the steep slopes of Ellerkin, a hill just behind my house, its profile helped inspire the shape of the Ellerkin Lamp Table with its stepped features typical of the Yorkshire Dales. I could have had a very stressful day but if I go for a run usually it just helps me put things into perspective and I come back feeling positive and with a different mindset."

Tom’s larger pieces are on display for sale:

The Ellerkin Table at Linda Joseph Interior Design Studio in Kirkby Lonsdale

The Addlebrough Hall Table at the Stacey Moore Art Gallery in Richmond

The Ellerbeck Table can been seen in Heather and Grouse Arts and Crafts Shop in Askrigg.

For further details and commissions