From living walls and futuristic vacuum wardrobes to a 24-hour house build in the Welsh Valleys, Hastings-based Johnson Bespoke is revolutionising the notion of traditional carpentry and joinery. There are few small companies that can offer the client a completely bespoke design and manufacturing service in-house, working with any material conceivable to meet their expectation and to deliver nothing else but pure craftsmanship.
Putting his passion to the test, Robin Johnson’s career path took an unexpected turn from being the Head of Design and Technology at Hurstpierpoint College to becoming a first-time business owner. Johnson Bespoke started off as a one-man band delivering projects from a lock up at the end of an alley. Shortly afterwards, the start-up moved to the basement of an empty newspaper building and from there Robin’s ingenious designs put the business on the map for bigger and better things. Inevitably, it wasn’t long before more space was needed to cater not only for bespoke commissions, but larger projects and even develop a client base in TV.
Now in their very own workshop in Hastings, Johnson Bespoke was able to access a combination of grants through Business East Sussex and Locate East Sussex in partnership with East Sussex County Council to aid business growth. The support allowed Johnson Bespoke to continue to meet growing demand by employing two additional full-time, skilled craftsmen as well as bringing all elements of production in-house.
Business East Sussex was able to support Johnson Bespoke with an ERDF South East Business Boost Grant, which not only allowed Robin to expand his workforce, but also part-funded the machinery needed to boost production levels. The East Sussex Invest Grant provided by Locate East Sussex helped Johnson Bespoke equip the workshop further with equipment vital for increasing business revenue.
When asked how he found the application process, Robin replies, “It was all about creating new jobs and getting the machinery that would allow us to be more productive. Everyone was on-hand to help us.” Looking towards the future, Robin adds, “it’s something I’ll be doing again, to help to employ more people and purchase a CNC machine to aid production further. The support has really helped us to grow.”
Johnson Bespoke has a well-earned reputation as a collective of forward-thinking and innovative designers, joiners and fabricators eager and un-afraid to take on a challenge. Its efforts proven with the collaboration on some ambitious high-profile projects namely with architect and presenter George Clarke and William Hardie on their design and build of a futuristic rotating house for the hit C4 show, George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces. Johnson Bespoke was tasked with creating a ‘living wall’ of moss to fit inside the house and a ‘space age’ wardrobe which could hold vacuum bagged clothes, to stop them crumpling when the house rotated.
One of the tougher projects that Johnson Bespoke took on for Amazing Spaces was the timed house build, based on the Ty Unnos 600-year-old Welsh legend that states if you can create a house with four walls, a roof and have fire burning inside in less than a day, then the house and the ground beneath it are officially yours. Using only natural, raw materials found in the surrounding Welsh Valleys, the team tested this theory and created a cabin in just 24 hours. Project managed by Johnson Bespoke from concept to completion, this monumental build was complete by sunrise – despite facing extremely challenging weather conditions.
From starting out in the abandoned basement of the old Observer Building in Hastings to collaborating with George Clarke on C4’s Amazing Spaces, Johnson Bespoke’s reputation for creating awe-inspiring projects goes from strength-to-strength.
Whether you’re a start-up enterprise or just wondering what it takes to help your business grow, Business East Sussex and Locate East Sussex exist to support the local economy and create job opportunities. Just like Johnson Bespoke, these services are there to help your company reach its full potential and because Growth Hubs are publicly funded in partnership with East Sussex County Council, business support is provided to eligible companies at no cost.