Cedars Yard as a vague business proposal was formed in the summer of 2017. We were staying at Dan's parents whilst in between houses, Emma had just decided not to return to her job post maternity leave and Dan was travelling and working many hours going back to Surrey as a tree surgeon. It was a fairly tough unsettling time, but what came with it too was a sense of freedom of opportunity, or at least the potential to do something scary and new.
In our still fairly young relationship of 3 years and with a young baby in tow we had already learnt that we both had a passion to run our own thing (and do things our own way!), that we could work together in the most stressful and fast paced of environments (we'd run a busy pub kitchen) and that we had similar values of what we wanted a business to achieve. So we hatched a plan of what Cedars Yard could be and got to work on a zero budget, zero experience in self employment but 100% enthusiastic ambition.
Emma's story. Creative to pub management and back again.
Ten years working for a corporate managed house business (that's pubs by the way). I trained, I managed, I was inspired, I had loads of fun, met some great people, I travelled the UK but I also cried, was stressed and was never off the job. Okay, admittedly I'm still never off the job but its on my terms! I had fallen into this line of business and yes I hugely appreciate the years where I learnt to love good beer, a fine whisky and manage a business but I never was that extroverted manager perfect for that front of house role. I had always said to myself and to Dan that I'd love to go back to a job in the creative industry, I just didn't know how or what! I didn't know how I would find the time to explore options and didn't know how I could afford to take a break from my job to start again. I was stuck in a situation many of us find ourselves in.
I studied Printed Textiles at Loughborough University, gees 18years ago! Before this I did a years art foundation, loved it and went down the textile design route. Yes it appealed to me, as I love a pattern but I also felt it would give me more job opportunities (you know REAL jobs!). I had an awesome time at Loughborough but what I learnt about myself at this tender age was 1. I wasn't great at or really enjoyed using CAD, in fact and this might be a sign of the times it wasn't big in our course but upon leaving it quickly became a key skill needed, 2. I loved the prework, the sketching and the initial painting so much more than the actual printing, 3. I was way too messy to be a printer. Think random dye splodges and miss-aligned designs - yep, that was me! And 4, when cooking I rarely follow a recipe so when it comes to making accurate dyes and understanding chemical compounds I always felt I was a little off point with what I was trying to achieve. Despite this I worked my arse off and got a 2:1 which I think was primarily down to my pre-work and sketchbooks. But what now. London called a few to work, some went into low paid or no pay apprenticeships, a few friends continued to qualify as teachers and the rest, I'm not too sure but it didn't feel like there was lots of jobs waiting nor was it a time (like now) when you could self publicise.
I moved back to my parents and it wasn't long after that, my sister who was in the process of looking for her first position in a Mitchlin star restaurant got a chance position back in near Lougborough. I decided to go with her and applied to be a boys wear designer at the NEXT headquarters. So we moved to Melton Mowbray (finger on map moment of a midway town), I didn't get my job so I set about needing to earn some money, quickly! I got a job at my local pub and started working for two managers who I really admired and supported me in my development. I freelanced as a textile designer too, selling a few pieces but I was never able to convert this to a full time wage. So, I stayed in pubs, became involved in their training team and spent the next 5years travelling all over the UK opening new businesses and implementing new systems. I got bored of the corporate side and travelling so went back to management in pubs, eventually heading on my own to London. It was a big move for a shy introvert and I loved it. It gave me a big confidence boost in knowing myself, exploring different scenes and figuring out what I could achieve. I still had it my head that my career wouldn't end in pub management, but I took solice in the fact that the brand I worked for was creative, young and driven by the manager, plus I got to design chalkboards and put my own artwork up on the walls in some places!(my little bit of creative freedom). Facing this fact I went full steam with wanting my own pub and eventually was given my first management position and I moved again on my own to Reading. It was here that I met Dan.
I was drawing then occasionally and these two early pieces of mine I gave to Dan as gifts show my early love of drawing the sea.
We moved to Haslemere within knowing each other for six months. New home, new pub to run and new relationship! We lived above the pub and like many pubs I've worked in it was special and we fell for it and the people. Forward a few years and I fell pregnant, work was super full on but I had my can do attitude on and fully expected myself to go back to work, working 60 hour weeks and still be the mum I wanted to be. Easy right? When I left for my maternity leave, I really wasn't confident in the support my team were being given by head office. Before having Cedar I couldn't imagine how I could be upstairs and not give a toss about the business I had been running downstairs, but without the fortune of hindsight we decided Dan would become part of the team, so at least we could still help them out. Dan loved the pub, as did I, but we probably cared to much about the vision we had for the business and that mixed with the increasing pressures from a corporate business meant it didn't work out and there were fallings out. So when the time came to go back, I realised I couldn't go back to that environment and work my arse off to just afford childcare. Plus my total passion for the industry was destroyed.
So the silver lining and the gift of time was given. Albeit with a eight month old baby, no idea what to do and a need for money.
And so our creative mashup Cedars Yard was born and as I write this 3.5 years on we haven't looked back. Yes its changed, yes, it will continue to grow and yes we spend a lot of time and energy on it but so far its 100% worth it and I'm so pleased things all went wrong to enable us to spread our wings.
Dan's story. Too good for the fire.
So when did my passion for nature, woodlands and whittling begin? I remember as a kid going out with my dad after the storm of 87 and collecting logs from all the local arborists and have a go hero's with their hobby saws as they chopped fire wood and I remember thinking how fun it looked. You know big chainsaws and axes (whats not to love!)
Over 30 years on and when splitting wood I still get that same excitement every time, even if its just wood for the BBQ. And now I have my own nipper running around wanting to help and be involved in EVERYTHING! My dad used to make all sorts of bits for the garden which of course I wanted to help out with and one thing that always sticks in my mind from then is that he always said "if a jobs worth doing its worth doing it right".
Years went by and by college time I found myself doing a sales / computer course...yeah that went well! After about a year in an office I was pulling my hair out, just wanting to get out of there and to the beach to wind surf or surf, or do anything that took me to the coast. I hated it and when I got offered a job as a driver as a chippys mate (ie dogs body!) I snapped it up. I spent 3 years with him learning the trade including basic wood framing and the finer work of finishing (2nd fix carpentry).
Then came the golden opportunity to do some TREEWORK! I spent the next 7 years learning all aspects of tree work from utility, domestic, parkland, woodland management and some small scale forestry. These years helped me gain so much knowledge and set me up for the future so a little salute to John and all the lads at First Call that helped me on my way and set many of the standards I pride myself on keeping today. I moved on and started working for a number of companies as a contract climber but became frustrated at some of the practices I was being asked to do, as I've always tried to preserve trees to the best of my ability. Anyway I wanted to do more than just take wood and burn it so I started making some rustic furniture and playing with basic framing. Soon enough things evolved to what you see today, combining my love of tree work and making things from scratch. From a standing tree to a new tree-house or a dining table. Making something to last and that is personal is what I aim to offer, not something off the shelf or the same as your neighbours. I enjoy playing with the natural grain and embracing the knots and splits to add character to your home. Like life nothing is perfect and if we look past that and you will find so much more that makes you smile.
If like me you can find joy in the naturals swirls and splits in wood then I think we can agree its too good for the fire.