Setting up a business in the South West is the trickiest at the best of times, let alone in the arts industry. The UK economy is changing rapidly and the vast range of businesses to compete with across the country and in the South West, in particular, makes it hard to stand out above the rest. For business owner Paul Mills and his son Andy Mills, Cedarwood Arts doesn’t just stand out, it shines with utter uniqueness. OM caught up with Paul and Andy to find out more about Cedarwood Arts and how their business is quickly evolving.
Being self-employed isn’t new to Paul Mills, who has worked in the building trade for over 40 years. Paul has been striving for a new venture that combines his love for nature and walking, with his passion for arts and creative work.
Paul’s son, Andy, has been working in publishing for the last 5 years around London and Cambridge but decided in March 2019 to take a leap of faith and move back to Plymouth to fulfil his dream of illustrating fulltime.
The concept of Cedarwood Arts originated from Paul’s love of walking and nature. He has been walking National trails around Britain for the past three years, including the Two Moors Way, a trail from Lynmouth to Wembury to the Cotswolds Way last year where he met Laura and Amy. Their friendship inspired the feathers behind Cedarwood Arts when Paul left a trail of feathers for them to find during their journey along the trail. Since parting ways from the trail, Paul has kept in touch with the pair who are from Portland, Oregon; they encouraged him to make the feathers.
“Last year I purchased a scroll saw, and I was experimenting with ideas and things I would like to make, but then I had this idea about creating feathers.”
The experiments started out as a hobby when Paul invested in his scroll saw, quickly he began to see potential in the creations. After getting in touch with a local furniture maker in Yealmpton who supplies locally and responsibly sourced offcuts of wood, from oak and beech to birch, Paul began to experiment with the feathers, the Cedarwood signature piece.
“They were originally conceived as bookmarks and paperweight. But they have gradually evolved.”
After showcasing and selling the feathers at networking events, Paul was told that it was as far as they would go. Then Andrew came on board.
Cedarwood Arts began in March 2019 when Andrew moved back to Plymouth, he wanted to try and do something different. With a BA in Illustration and MA in Publishing, creating artwork was only a natural progression for Andy. He explained:
“When I came back, my dad had a new hobby every week or so. One week he’s going to be a painter, the next week he’s going to be a carpenter. And on a whim, he had bought the pyrography machine. He had done little tests with it, some were better than others, but he was getting frustrated with it.”
Andy tried out the pyrography machine and found it clicked with him straight away, becoming second nature.
It started off as little patterns and designs, moving to more ambitious, full blown illustrations. Having only moved back permanently in March this year, they quickly changed from little books marks and paperweights into full-on art pieces.
Since Cedarwood began a short few months ago, Paul and Andy have been proactive in networking and showing off their beautiful creations at exhibitions, tradeshows and have even grabbed the interest of 4 local galleries. Including Kaya Gallery at Plymouth Barbican and Wildwood Arts based on Dartmoor.
“The pieces get a lot of wow factor, they haven’t seen anything like it. It is very beautifully unique. We’ve developed our own style and embraced it.”
Each and every piece Cedarwood Arts produce is distinctively unique; photographs don’t do them any justice, they are truly stunning in person. Andy creates the illustrations on the wood after it is cut, shaped and sanded by Paul. The pyrography pen gives different marks and textures depending on the nib used and the temperature. No two pieces are the same with different types of wood having different responses to the heat, the wood almost guiding the illustration.
The inspiration for each piece comes from the interest Andy shows in myths and legends.
“Once I get a flat piece, I don’t really plan it out, I’m drawing and it draws itself really. When people have asked for a certain piece I’ll do something that is tailored for them, otherwise, it’s just my own little world in my head coming out.”
The opportunity for this business is just phenomenal, everything they can do is bespoke, if you want something in particular made, they can do it. It’s no wonder their calendar has filled up rapidly! With festivals, networking events and shows taking up a vast amount of their time.
“If we’re successful we will carry on doing it. The opportunities are just endless.”
Things are looking up for the pair who have been busy growing their social media presence through Instagram, Facebook and their newly designed website by Andy. They have focused their time on creating an online shop to showcase and sell their pieces beyond Devon and Cornwall, investing in 3D scanning and printing their original pieces to sell at an affordable price.
“It’s not just the artwork, it’s carved down first, it’s got a full on journey behind it with two people working on each piece. Each one being anywhere between 6 and 10 hours, in completion!”
It’s been a massive learning curve for Paul and Andy, they have worked hard trying to find out which markets work for them and what events will be the most beneficial to getting their name out there and working out the best way to move forward with this new venture.
“I know it’s going to take 18 months to 2 years before it really gets to a point that you would hope people have heard of the name at least.”
With business evolving as successfully as their’s is in only three months, we asked both Paul and Andy what their vision is for Cedarwood Arts.
Andy told us – “For me, this project came at a good time for me, I wasn’t too happy in London. I was wanting to get away and to be honest, I don’t think I’m built for office work, it’s just not my thing. So it sounds really low scale, but just being able to make a living from the artwork and doing something that I really really love, that’s really what’s driving me. The dream would be walking into a shop, going to the art section and having a book that’s a collection of my work. My artwork has always been a hobby, I never thought it would come to anything. The possibility of it being what I can be known for is the drive for me.”
For Paul, it is more about combining his passion for nature, with creativity and making a living out of it. – “I’ve been in the building trade for 40 years and I’m looking for a way of cutting back and if I can make a living from being creative; with me starting this process and with Andrew coming back, its fate really, things have really come together.”
It really is incredible to see how hard work, authenticity, and motivation has allowed Paul and Andy to develop Cedarwood Arts into a unique and well-received business in just three months. Their bond as father and son, along with the raw talent from both will only allow them to be successful not only in the South West but internationally. There are limitless opportunities for Cedarwood Arts, and with local support, they really will go from strength to strength.
For more information about Cedarwood Arts, or if you want a commissioned piece, please don’t hesitate to contact Paul or Andy.
Call us: 07557058011
Arundel, Higher Churchway
Elburton, Plymouth, PL9 8LA