Contact Us

  • Celtic Sustainables
  • 01239 777009
  • 9 Parc Teifi Cardigan Ceredigion SA43 1EW


About us

Put something nice about your company here...

Skip to main content
Free delivery icon
Free delivery icon
Free delivery icon

“Real-time Repair Shop” - Mark Mitchell Furniture Studio

“Real-time Repair Shop” - Mark Mitchell Furniture Studio

Posted by Morag, Celtic Sustainables on 12th Sep 2022

If, like us, you love The Repair Shop on the BBC you will thoroughly enjoy following  MitchellFurnitureStudio on Instagram. It’s like watching a real-time Repair Shop! 

We first became aware of Mark’s Studio when he tagged us in some posts that featured our  Earthborn PigmentsClaypaint and Furniture Wax alongside a rather battered painted wooden chest from the early 19th Century that he was restoring. We have been hooked ever since! 

The regular updates that Mark posts about the restoration process are fascinating. The detailed explanation of his historical design investigation, decision making, sympathetic repairs and conservation techniques on his blog are a real insight into the world of furniture conservation. 

Repairs take time. The Wooden Chest was purchased by Mark in early July. The restoration completed on the 30th of August. To be fair Mark doesn’t currently work full-time on his conservation work. However, following Mark is like attending a masterclass in the craftsmanship and attention to detail that goes into a restoration project. Not to mention a glimpse into how much footage must be cut from filming The Repair Shop to squeeze two or three restorations into a one-hour programme. Oh, how tricky that editor’s job must be! 

Fascinated as we are by furniture conservation and repairs, we had to find out more about Mark and his process and he very kindly agreed. 

Mark, you trained as a cabinet maker, designer & restorer in your early 20s. How long have you been restoring furniture? 

“I’ve been cabinet making, designing, and restoring furniture for both private customers and high-end trade customers since leaving Rycotewood College in Thame (since disbanded) in my early 20’s up to my early 40’s. I worked on a diverse array of furniture and projects from every period from the early 16th C to early 20th C. Then I took a break to run and own a specialist traditional wooden toy shop in Cirencester (Crocodile).

“Now in my mid 50’s I am desperate to get back to my roots, like any artist I have struggled being away from that, so Mitchell Furniture Studio has been reformed but in a very specialist and directed way to promote the spread and education of a now almost dying art of traditional hand skills and restoration.

“We hope this will be spread through our regular blogs on our website and Instagram, following the processes at every stage of each restoration project of furniture that we have acquired after careful selection and then eventually to the point of sale for those that wish to purchase them from us at its end, but by offering free blogs, there is no barriers to anyone wanting to learn or follow the skills.” 

How do you decide which pieces you would like to restore? 

“It’s hugely important to me that they should represent a key moment in history and furniture design, but also equally important that they have a foreseeable role and place in today’s desires and demands within the home, to insure they are used, cherished, and of course have a market. But in doing this it will also insure they are kept and will remain a visual history and tutorial for future generations to learn from.”

Do you have any favourite periods of time or type of furniture that you like to work on?

“There is no doubt I have a particular fondness for the Arts & Crafts period, particularly in the Cotswold group (Barnsley, Gimson, Peter Waals etc) & leading onto Sir Gordon Ramsey slightly later in period (who we have been lucky enough recently to acquire one of his early pieces dating to just before the utilitarian period, so somewhere between 1930 -1940). 

"However, I am equally fascinated by any piece that can be defined within a period of rural or purposeful design and function associated with it, like the recent Marriage or Dowry Painted Wooden Chest we have just completed. This was almost certainly produced by a rural craftsman in Eastern Europe in the early 19th C, but it would have been hugely important and highly prized by the family and a real depiction of their status, it would have been expensive to commission but a vital component of the traditions of the area and period.”

Do you take on commissioned projects?

“It certainly represented a very large proportion of my first two decades in the art, however I now have a very different mission with Mitchell Furniture Studio, and that is primarily to champion the art of a fast depleted art of hand skills and traditional restoration. But yes of course all appropriate work is considered, and I am a trained designer, a skill which is also needed in restoration. Equally, however, I truly feel it is important to utilise what we already have and minimise the need to unnecessarily use new materials and resources unless absolutely necessary.” 

What would be your dream restoration project?

“Anything that has a true connection to culture, design and period. But of course, I have a connection to the Arts & Crafts period.”

What was the most interesting and/or difficult bit about restoring the wooden chest?

“Probably getting the design correct for the missing section of the base and the missing components of the intricate decoration, and then finding a way for that to blend seamlessly to the original and be a true structural and finish history to the piece and its place in history.”

Removing and replacing feet

Which part of the restoration process did you most enjoy?

“Probably the very start, where I had to remove the imposters (applied feet) and work out the true design both structural and decorative. This can only be done by picking up on clues left behind, sometimes fragments of ghost imagery or structural tell-tale signs. Equally it is done by totally immersing yourself into the process and thought mindset of the craftsman that originally made it, this can only be described as intuitive, and I get to in essence feel it.”

Did you mix the pigments straight into the paint, or did you need to grind them down first and make into a paste?

“No, the  pigment was of such high quality that all that was needed was to blend the pigments together in the dry, then mix into a high concentrate paste with a few drops of water, this is then blended with a slightly thinned Clay Paint as a carrier. Always starting with the lightest tones and darkening or richening with requirement, as it is always easier to go forwards not backwards.”

Mixing pigment poweders with claypaint to create authenic finish

The “knocking” back of your finished paint work must have been a bit nerve racking, especially as adding the wax later deepens the colour. How do you judge that? Worst case scenario if you go too far, do you just paint again? 

knocking back fresh paint work to blend in with old

(In brief, Mark painted the missing part of the design onto the chest as if new, then slowly removed that work (knocked it back) to blend it in with the old – see  Mark’s blog post for detail). 

“It is a very difficult thing to judge, but in essence about the feel of a project, you become so immersed and in tune with it, it becomes an intuitive thing, and you have to trust your gut and be confident in that. Of course, things go wrong and that’s a learning curve but yes in essence remove and start again if necessary.”

How does dismantling and rebuilding older furniture impact your own designs?

“Hugely, as its always a continual absorption of looking into what has worked and what has not worked overtime through the reasons something needs restoring and of course the reason something has lasted so long.” 

Mark thank you for your time and for the use of your photographs on this post. Good luck with your venture. We are sure it’s going to be a success. The end result on this restoration project is stunning!

Finished restoration

The Painted Wooden Chest is now available for sale, along with other pieces Mark has restored, on the  Mitchell Furniture Studio online shop.