Handmade: Britain's Best Woodworker - Interview with Helen Welch

Category: Press Pack Article

Helen founded the London School of Furniture Making in 2013 to address the needs of amateur furniture makers and anyone else wanting to learn how to make their own furniture without having to commit to a long course at a college or university.

Thirty-six years in the industry has seen her work in construction, furniture making, guitar making and forestry. She is first and foremost a woodworker followed by tool collector, tinkerer, life-long learner and avid reader of anything to do with making stuff. Over the last 26 years, Helen has taught hundreds of adults how to make furniture and enjoy a valuable skill.

Why did you agree to become a judge on the series?
I was involved with it from quite early on. I’ve been getting questions for a while about why there isn’t a competition show for woodworkers, so now it’s happening, I thought, why not be part of it.

How did you find filming your first TV project?
It took a couple of days to get used to being on a TV set, being in front of the cameras is all new to me but I really enjoyed the process. We were in our Covid bubble and it was quite good fun, it felt like a long holiday in Wales.

What sort of judge are you?
I am probably the critical but constructive one, whilst also being quite cheeky. I think that’s me.

You’re judging alongside Alex, how do you complement each other?
We’re quite different but, actually, when we’re looking at stuff, we generally agree with each other on whether or not there’s merit in it.

What was it like to work with Mel?
It was great. Mel keeps the energy up and puts zip and pep into everything which keeps everybody going.

Were you impressed with the standard of the contestants on the show?
Yes, I was. As the competition got into the latter stages, I was more and more impressed, the contestants put their heart and soul into everything and showed a lot of woodworking strengths.

Are there any standout woodworkers the viewers should keep an eye out for?
There are standouts, not necessarily because of their woodworking but more because of their characters. Billy is one, he throws himself into any challenge. Joe is also a delight, Mistie’s smart and brilliant, Radha is charming and gives us some good, refined joinery. And watch out for Charlie, she’s quiet but she means business.

How pleased were you to see some women in the mix?
Well would it be extremely dull if it was just white men, that wouldn’t represent the world of woodworking in general. I’m delighted we have so many women in the mix and hopefully it will encourage more women to give woodwork a go as a hobby.

How important is the setting for the series?
The setting is brilliant, we were in a very wooded area and there’s a direct connection between what was happening on set and what was surrounding us. The animal sculpture round used materials directly from the estate, which is brilliant.

What tips would you give to any beginners keen to give woodworking a go?
Get a little bit of training to get you going and just keep at it. You need some good foundation knowledge then you can take it any direction you want.

What do you want viewers to take away from the series?
I would like the viewing public to realise how versatile wood is and there are many different strands to this seemingly simple material, whether it’s carving or joinery, it’s versatile, it’s fantastic and it’s accessible. So, I hope there’ll be more people who look at it and think oh I could do that.