In anticipation of this year's YCN Student Awards, we check in on the progress of the bespoke wooden awards, created with designer and maker, Tom Forsyth.

With less than three weeks to go until our annual student award ceremony, we have been tracking the progress of this year’s custom-made awards – created with and manufactured by creative consultant, designer and master maker, Thomas Forsyth.

With over 10 years’ experience, Tom has a deep knowledge of materials and manufacturing processes. And thanks to his diverse approach to clients and projects, he has worked on everything from conceptual items through to functional and bespoke end products.

Tom says that, when new projects arise, he asks himself three questions. Firstly, "do you need the money? If you need the money, then you may just have to do it". Secondly, "do you want to do it? If you don't, try and identify reasons for why that is". Finally, ask yourself, "is there something that would be a more valuable use of your time? This could be anything from sourcing a new type of client or business relation, to developing new skills and personal projects that expand your portfolio in a direction you want it to go, or even taking well needed rest to prevent yourself from burning out. Going through this process, in a critical and honest fashion, can be very useful for your professional development".

"Sometimes I'm suited and booted, liaising with clients and managing various parties to bring the vision together, other times I'm covered in dust with bleeding hands."

Based in northeast London, Tom works both independently and collaboratively, using a wide range of materials, including metal, plastics, computer navigated cutting (CNC) and 3d printing technologies, and counts Google, Ogilvy, LUSH, Greenpeace – and YCN – as clients. For productive collaborations, he relies on "an array of tools and processes" to effectively communicate with clients, "whether it's writing emails, creating documents, making technical drawings and CAD visualisations, or face-to-face meetings and conversations".

"If possible meet face-to-face. It can be one of the most productive and powerful tools there is."

The face-to-face element is an important part of Tom's creative process after receiving a brief: "it can be one of the most productive and powerful tools there is". He starts by creating a design document ("useful to refer back to as the project progresses"), then gets all the "necessary parties/processes in place and on track", whether this is sourcing and "assessing the reliability of" new suppliers, or researching and learning new techniques. Lastly, if possible, he always aims to over-deliver: "sometimes this may actually involve sensibly managing expectations at the beginning of the project".

"If possible, over-deliver. Sometimes this may actually involve sensibly managing expectations at the beginning of the project."

At the heart of Tom's work is a passion for design and wealth of experience that allow him to turn people’s ideas into real, physical solutions and objects and ensure the smooth running of a project from concept to finish. He says he is inspired by "the sheer joy of working with people and their ideas, problems and needs", "science and technology" and "creating a balanced and healthy life, full of exploration and discovery". At a practical level, his role is "very much dependent on the specific project": "sometimes I'm 'suited and booted', liaising with clients and managing various parties to bring the vision together, other times I'm covered in dust with bleeding hands – happily so either way... though preferably minimal blood loss".

This week Tom’s oak supplier began the processing of the timber that will form each YCN bar: each bar is cut from American White Oak, to be planed and sanded to a 120g finish and completed with the YCN logo. There is a beauty in using an organic material like oak; variations in tone, colour, grain density and knotting (as not all the bars will be cut from the same tree) mean that each bar is unique.

Early stages at the timber yard, mid-August:

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Mid-August: the timber yard
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Mid-August: freshly cut timber
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Mid-August: taking shape

Three weeks to go: creating the bars

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Work in progress: cutting down to size
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Work in progress: blocks ready for finish
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Work in progress: Tom at work
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Thomas Forsyth Ltd: a selection of projects
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Thomas Forsyth Ltd: a selection of projects

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