Board games: Meet woodturner William McHutcheon

William McHutcheon


Board games: Meet woodturner William McHutcheon

What’s your background?

I have always loved making and woodturning. I have spent the last 19 years honing my craft, working with some of Ireland’s leading companies along the way.

Cheryl and I set up Ballyshane in 2016, with a focus on making smaller items, like bowls and boards.

We wanted to create pieces that are made from 100% sustainable Irish hardwoods.

The business continues to grow, and we are stocked across Ireland and in the US.

Following our attendance at Showcase last month, we are planning to expand into the US market more, which is a big step for us.

We first won the best product award in the gift category at Showcase in 2018, which was our first year attending it.

We were highly commended in the same category at this year’s event, which we were delighted about. This was for our Ballyshane range.

What’s a typical workday like for you?

I am generally in the studio from 8am and can be there until 8pm. I will normally check emails first to see what orders have come in and I will make a note of those for shipping.

I am making every day, to keep on top of the orders.

We are under different time pressures throughout the year: for example, right now, after Showcase, we are sending out the orders we received from that.

Also, we are planning to attend our first tradeshow in the US in March, so we are starting to get ready for that.

Things aren’t as busy then for the coming months up until around June, and then we find that from then on until Christmas, it’s extremely busy.

Tell us about a favourite project you have worked on?

Last year, we worked with the jewellery designer Chupi to make the furniture and shelving for her new studio in the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre in Dublin.

It was a wonderful experience. We really enjoyed the design process and collaborating with her on the work.

We’d love to do another project like that.

Ballyshane Range
Ballyshane Range

What’s your design style?

Our designs are simple with no fuss.

I always say to people, don’t buy with your eyes, test the design with your fingers to see if it has been made well — the sign of a well-designed bowl is that you can run your finger from the middle of the bowl out to the edge with no interruptions.

We make our products using only 100% sustainable and traceable Irish hardwoods.

I tend to make pieces from Beech, because they are more readily available than Ash would be, so I can commit to making those pieces for customers.

What/who inspires your work?

The wood inspires my work, as does everything really.

I can find inspiration anywhere, for example, one of our latest designs was inspired by the shape of Cheryl’s engagement ring, a teardrop shape, and, would you believe it, the shape of an egg!

I incorporated the curve of those shapes into our latest design, our Duckett’s Board.

I will generally try out new ideas, but then it is only on reflection later that I’ll know if it is a design that will work for us to mass produce.

That’s the real test of whether it is something that I can reproduce again and again — it comes back to that idea of keeping things simple.

Ballyshane Board
Ballyshane Board

What’s your favourite trend at the moment?

While I would notice what trends are out at the minute, I wouldn’t pay heed to them in terms of our own work.

What’s your most treasured possession?

I don’t know that I have any treasured possessions really, but I do have a bowl by a woodturner I greatly admire, Ray Key — I had read about his work over the years and came about it by chance at a flea market.

I couldn’t believe my luck in picking it up for €5.

Who is your favourite designer, or style inspiration?

Ray Key for his simple, elegant designs.

Rathgall Board
Rathgall Board

Your dream project?

I’d love to make more furniture. We did get some bespoke commissions at Showcase this year which I will begin to make shortly.

I love the idea of helping someone design a piece of furniture like this for their family home.

It’s very rewarding work.

Have you any design tips?

Keep it simple — don’t over-complicate the design or you won’t be able to reproduce it.; Instagram: @ballyshanes

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