When Wyn Sheryn retired, he found himself with some extra time on his hands. Now, at the age of 83, he is still hand-making furniture for his loved ones.
Wyn started his career working in education, then went into leisure management before retiring. “I’ve had a very full life” Wyn tells us. Now, to keep busy in retirement, Wyn volunteers, travels with his wife, he’s learning to speak Welsh, and amongst everything, he continues to make furniture for his family and friends.
When Wyn retired, he found some extra time on his hands. That’s when a close friend mentioned Burnley College and suggested Wyn set his sights on something new.
As soon as Wyn saw the set up at the college for cabinet making, he knew he had found his place.
“I’ve always had an interest in tools and wood and making things” Wyn tells us, “so I enrolled in a course in furniture making – there was level one, level two all through to level six – I did them all”.
Retraining after he had retired is something that Wyn is hugely proud of. He spent six years with Burnley College altogether.
“The tutor said to me, “there’s nothing else for you to do, you’ve got to do your own thing!”, so I came back to my workshop”.
“The sad thing was I don’t have any machines like the college did, so I started making things with my hands and my family seem to like them, so I keep going.”
“I go around to my friends’ houses and there are pieces of furniture they have that I made for them” – but I’d forgotten about it, that’s always great. I make trays for people and being served tea on one of your own trays – I like that!”
I’m too young to be this old!”
Wyn believes that cabinet making is helping to keep his brain “ticking over” as he grows older.
Although there are days where he’d rather sit down and put his feet up, he tells us that he’s just not that type of a person to sit around all day, he likes to keep busy.
“My work is now a hobby and I can shut the door on it and not come back, but other times, you get on a roll you can’t wait to get out and do it and to work again” he continues.
Wyn’s signature style of cabinet making came to him after he discovered the Shaker movement. “A stick back chair is a thing of beauty, so I’ve made six for my family”.
“That’s one of the best things about getting older”, Wyn tells us - “your family getting bigger”.
“I have a wonderful family” he says, and “I married a wonderful woman, she made me who I am”. Along with Mary, Wyn’s life was heavily influenced by his parents.
“The basis of a good life is education” he says, “my parents drummed it into me.”
He passed this mantra on to his own children, and the kids he taught at school, that you must always keep exploring and to not “settle for the easy life”.
“Keep exploring and keep looking sideways!” he adds, “you must have ambition”.
It’s Wyn’s ambition that has kept him learning and moving forward at age 83 and beyond. After he had started his course at Burnley College, he received a gold medal from the City and Guild – the people running the course recommended him for the Lifelong Learner award.
“The awards ceremony was in the Roundhouse in London. I heard them talking about the winner and I was thinking “I wonder if I know them” and it was me - now I have this superb piece of crystal” he tells us.
“I’ve met some nice people through cabinet making” Wyn continues. “Feeling a connection with the past is an essential element when making furniture”.
“Many people ask me what’s the difference between cabinet making and wood working. Many people who are woodworkers make very fine pieces of work. Cabinet making leans towards the fine side, the microscopic side” he explains.
“A cabinet maker from 200 years ago made everything by hand, that’s really what it’s about. I use machinery sometimes, but it comes back to that moment when you have to use your hand skills.”
“I had to perfect my hand skills in college” he says, “when you finish a piece of work, and you rub your hand over it, you really feel something then.”