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Carhartt WIP Meets Bespoke Johnson Joinery

Nov 8, 2023
With a diverse background in surfing, teaching and design technology - we couldn’t think of a better personality to test a handful of the key lines from the Autumn Winter 2023 Carhartt WIP collection. Robin Johnson started producing joinery in 2014 and together with his team produces custom-made furniture, kitchens, cabins and joinery packages using their specialised skills in woodwork, joinery and metalwork.

Our creative team visited the workshop this October to learn about the business
and speak directly with Robin. We experienced a day immersed in sawdust, creativity and good old-fashioned elbow grease.

Having been a loyal customer of Urban Industry since he opened his business, Robin has kindly shared an introduction to his experience, thoughts on the trade, and why workwear is so imperative to the joinery world.
Carhartt WIP at Urban IndustryWhere did your passion for woodwork begin?
Growing up as a kid, we had a workshop in the basement as my Dad was a tradesman, and I had my first working tool kit for my 5th birthday. I used to spend all my weekends and evenings in the basement working on toys, catapults, bows and arrows - those sorts of things.

Where does metalwork come in?
I learnt how to weld when I was 11, my Grandad gave me an old gas welder. I used to fill up the gas at a metal fabrication place - the same one my Dad used to use, and the man there, Jim, showed me how to weld. I’d go home and practise in the basement, burning my fingers, I’d always have burns on the tips of my fingers - from touching the metal. 
Carhartt WIP at Urban Industry
What’s your favourite project you have worked on and why?
The one that stands out the most was a job for a family friend and a business mentor, who lives by Gatwick, the house overlooks Gatwick Airport. It has beautiful grounds that he’s turning into a botanical garden to leave behind a legacy. It started out being a little treehouse in a dell - with a pond. We still call it the treehouse, but the tree fell down, so it’s no longer a treehouse. Instead, we built a metal framed box and put it into the bank, with a curved mezzanine. We designed it all from scratch, milling a lot of the oak from the felled tree, and we made this ‘not quite treehouse’ into a cabin with a lake and a jetty. That’s the one I think of most fondly because we did that through lockdown - when we had that hot summer, working in shorts all day and getting a tan.
Carhartt WIP at Urban IndustryYou’ve made several TV appearances, including Kings Of The Wood, a successful series that showcases the crafts of carpentry and furniture making. Why do you think programs that highlight a specific trade are important and enjoyable to watch?

Trades like mine are dying out. The local college has only got two people on the joinery course, there’s not a demand for it. No kid comes out of college going, ‘I want to make doors and windows’. When this art is lost, probably within the next ten years - especially within the South East it’ll be a real shame. I think it’s really important to prevent that, watching something come from a sawn bit of wood with splinters all over it to a fantastic cabinet, its inspiring - if someone else can do it, then I can do it.

My new show, 'The Travelling Auctioneers' is out on the BBC in the new year, and although not joinery specifically, it shows what you can do with a few tools and a bit of elbow grease - bringing objects back from the brink and saving them from landfill.
Carhartt WIP at Urban IndustryHow long have you been shopping with Urban Industry, and what keeps you coming back?
Probably since I started working for myself, I will always buy something a little more expensive when I know the quality is there, because it’s going to last me a long time. I’m not into fast fashion, I don’t change my look through the years or seasons, I’d rather just buy quality pieces that will last me a lifetime, and that’s what Urban Industry sells.
Carhartt WIP at Urban IndustryWe’re introducing you to the latest Carhartt WIP AW23 pieces. How essential is it to have stylish and hard-wearing clothing for your line of work?
The hard-wearing is a no-brainer. You’ll have wood and metal rubbing against your clothes all day, clothes just get used and abused. They have to be able to withstand a good amount of wear and tear. In terms of looking stylish, when we have clients come down, it’s great to have clothes that are not only hard-wearing but stylish as well, so you don’t look like a group of scruffy guys in a workshop, to be able to make the right impression.
Carhartt WIP at Urban IndustryIf you’ve been inspired by Johnson Bespoke and would like to know more, head over to the Johnson Bespoke website to discover more of the fantastic creations, https://www.johnsonbespoke.co.uk/our-work/. You can also see Robin in action on Kings of the Wood, and Salvage Hunters - The Restorers now available on Amazon Prime, and on the BBC's Travelling Auctioneers, in the new year.