Jack designs and builds custom furniture by hand. After graduating with a Bachelor of Design from RMIT at the end of 2017, Jack Sheahan moved from Melbourne to Edinburgh in 2019. His woodworking practice has since flourished. A deeply process-oriented woodworker, Jack uses hand tools for the impact they have on a finished piece, which cannot be duplicated with machine processes. He designs and makes his own tools to suit particular ways of working, including custom vise mechanisms, the dovetail square, and Japanese style marking gauges. Jack took part in the Compass: Next Generation Program run by Craft Scotland and in 2020 became a member of The Scottish Furniture Makers Association. In 2022 he was awarded the Jorum Craft Award to assist with the development his creative practice and held a solo exhibition – Ergo - of his work at Sierra Metro.
What value does craft have in daily life?
“A work devoid of innate beauty is a dead work: this is therefore the importance of the artist-craftsman to whom we today ask not only to produce good works, but also to work closely with the traditional craftsmanship so as to revive beauty even in everyday objects." — Yanagi Sōetsu
Machines are efficient, precise, and repeatable, but they result in mundane, interchangeable, soulless and often thoughtless pieces. Human eyes and hands are exceptionally good at picking up subtle variations, and the right kinds in the right amounts are actually preferable to us; we are deeply tuned to reject the cold, harsh, impersonal results when these are artefacts aren’t present.
Machine-made goods are cheap, consistent, available and good-enough, but they often represent a missed opportunity. This is why I have a focus on hand-tool methods. It may be slower, more difficult, and result in irregularities, but there is beauty in the time taken and the ability to design – not with a ruler but by eye, there is depth to the imperfections, and uniqueness in the resulting story.
What does Scottishness mean to you?
As an Australian-born person who has only recently made his home here, Scottishness to me features broad inclusivity, good humour, strength of conviction, and connection to history. I have witnessed the same welcoming attitude I saw in Melbourne, a city of immigrants. Perhaps it’s the ginger in my beard, but very quickly I felt welcomed and at home here, despite my accent and passport.
As I spend more time amongst Scottish makers and in the world of Scottish craft, I have noticed a strong and passionate connection to the history of making in this country – a history that extends much further back than where I’m from. This results in a very sensitive connection to, and use of, materials and methods. To me, Scottish makers tap into the rich history here and continue to develop its progress to create pieces of unmistakably Scottish beauty.
Come and visit us at Bard in Leith to see Jack’s work, or get in touch with us directly.