Ray Sylvester declares with a chuckle that he is the man who has to think inside the box because of the limitations of the band saw he uses to turn simple blocks of wood into his intricate range of boxes.
When he and his wife Kathy took early retirement from their teaching jobs at Kirk Hallam in 1995 they fully intended to relax and enjoy their pastimes.
Kathy was already a successful textile artist selling her work in local galleries and Ray a keen but very amateur woodturner.
They had no idea that the hobbies would turn into practically a full time business – Temima Crafts – that now sees them touring the country to 15-odd fairs a year – including of course those held by the Peak District Artisans of which they are proud members.
“We were lucky enough to be able to retire at 51 and jumped at the chance. We were thinking about what we could do when Kathy had the idea of selling our work at craft fairs. I was determined to find myself a niche product and at first turned wooden hanging pomanders,” explained Ray.
“But then potpourri became unfashionable so he had to think of something else,” chipped in Kathy with a grin.
It was around that time that Ray says he had his “Epiphany on Seventh Avenue” moment while on holiday in the USA to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.
“The shop on New York’s Seventh Avenue was called The Great American Woodworker and I couldn’t resist going in. I saw these beautiful boxes and couldn’t get them out of my head,” said Ray.
Kathy urged him to go back and buy one or he would always regret it.
“I knew he wouldn’t enjoy the rest of the holiday unless he found out how they were made,” she said laughing at the memory.
Back home in Ilkeston, where he now has a purpose built workshop, he set to working out how to make the intricate boxes. Eventually he found the band saw which would allow him to realise his dream to make boxes using a complicated jig saw construction technique.
“I needed a band saw that could make tight turns and cut at a certain depth.
“The whole thing about what I do is that it is actually very simple but at the beginning it took me a lot of wasted wood and perseverance to get it right.”
As his skills have developed over the years the boxes always beautiful on the outside have become more intriguingly complicated on the inside. Ray’s favourite story is revealing how the boxes gained their name: “We were looking for a name for them a few years ago when a customer who was taking one of them apart muttered to himself ‘these are bloomin’ clever boxes’ – it was perfect and the name has just stuck.
Find out more about their work at http://www.temima.co.uk