One Sunday evening in May 2016 I went into the kitchen to pour myself a nice, cold glass of Sauvignon – I have absolutely no idea how my forward planning went so awry, but I was both shocked and dismayed to find no such bottle waiting for me in the fridge!
So I ended up sharing a bottle of red with my other half, Jon, and it turns out we have an awful lot to thank that bottle for…
We are very fortunate to live in a pretty village in rural North Wales, a thriving place with a popular and lively pub, a lovely little shop, a much-loved village hall, a 13th century church and a traditional Welsh chapel. The village lies in the foothills of the Clwydian range (we can see Moel Famau from our front window) and we enjoy in full the splendid walking, cycling and running country we have right on our doorstep!
In 2012 an inspirational man called David Johnson, together with his wife, Carole, came up with the idea of breathing new life into the then drab and dreary village hall by introducing weekly cafes every Saturday afternoon, each one run by a different charity group. His next step was to organise funding to address the failing fabric of the building and to brighten up the space to make it more welcoming for users. That year, improvement works were begun in earnest, and this work was carried on over the next few years, with the final phase including new windows and a new kitchen being completed earlier this year.
As a carpenter, Jon has been involved in various stages of the building works, including the fitting of the new kitchen. Once this was completed, it was suggested that an island unit would be very handy for extra work space; however, space in the kitchen is fairly limited and somebody joked that a moveable island unit would be just the job, so that it could be moved in and out as and when required. If only…
Cue Jon! As a “thank you” to the Village Hall Committee for all the work they’d put his way, he made a mobile butchers block as a surprise gift to them. Turns out that people LOVED it, and to our delight and surprise we started taking orders, which brings me right back to where I started: that Sunday evening and that bottle of red, when we realised that we might be on to something special!
With the wine poured and the fire lit, ideas started flowing thick and fast…what about a name? It needs to be something to do with cooking and the home. Needs to be Welsh. Well, they’re almost little kitchens – OK, the Welsh for that is cegin fach – that really works! What about a logo? I know, we could firebrand it! Needs to be clean and simple then…and so on, and so on.
One thing we were certain of from the start though, was that we wanted the oak and other materials for our Butchers & Bakers Blocks to be sourced in Wales (as far as we could help it), and that we wanted to work with other local Welsh businesses in order to help each other and to support our rural economy. To that end, we use two local independent wood yards for our timber, which is grown and harvested in Wales, together with the lovely and ever-helpful Julie and Dylan of ‘Stoneworkz’ in Denbigh for our granite and slate tops. Working with these companies means that we have a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw on, which is absolutely invaluable to us, another advantage being that they know exactly where their product comes from.
In fact, we have been fortunate in securing a supply of Bodnant Estate oak as well as some sycamore (sometimes known as Welsh Maple) from the same Estate. Walking around these wood yards in the middle of the countryside, inspecting and selecting the wood whilst taking in the atmosphere, hearing the rattle of the repurposed bus engine driving the giant band saw and enjoying the scent of freshly cut wood is to step back in time, with these places having a charm and personality that is sadly devoid from the larger commercial timber merchants.
Once all our materials are selected and assembled, we work from our small workshop making, painting and oiling each piece by hand, using traditional construction methods, tools and materials alongside modern machinery.
We believe that our passion for making Ceginfach furniture is reflected in the beauty and functionality of each piece we produce, and the words of the great William Morris have become our mantra: “Have nothing in your house which you do not believe to be useful or beautiful.”
So, right there in a little Welsh acorn cup, you have a potted history of Ceginfach so far – I hope you’ll follow our story as we continue to branch out (groan!).