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In the workshop with Todd Finnamore of Mono

After finding himself furloughed from managing a local coffee shop, Todd found that he had time on his hands to pursue an interest of his, carpentry. We caught up with him 11 months on as he gets ready to launch his website.

Where did your love for woodwork start, what made you start Mono?

I've always been into building things with a purpose, whether it be utilitarian or as an art. At the start of last year, I'd been spending time building stuff out of reclaimed wood for the coffee shop and growing my confidence. I realised I wanted to progress with carpentry as it's something I enjoy and around this time; oh my god, Coronavirus lockdownnnn. I was put on furlough. If it wasn't for that I wouldn't be anywhere near where I am now.

- We've been hearing that a lot, for the first time ever people are finding they have the time to explore more of what they enjoy doing creatively -

It's really cool, it's nice to have a positive come from all this negative. The coffee shop owners have been really cool about it, saying "let us know if there is any way we can help out". I basically had 5 months off from March, I just had all of this time so I ordered tools and had the motivation to do it because, well.... i've got an indefinite amount of time off and nothing else to do with my day!

At this point I had a saw, one planer, a set of chisels and a hammer. I was using a small work-bench on the patio outside because I didn't have access to the garage yet (Todd's landlord has since let him use his garage which is now his workshop where we're chatting right now).

The first things I made were these wooden blocks for rolling cigarettes. The idea behind my work is born out of utilitarian things that I make visually pleasing while looking minimalist. This is where the name Mono stems from.

So you make everything yourself, are you self taught?

Yes, as I've taken on bigger projects I've found myself researching to develop new techniques which have progressed me further. It's so much easier to learn about something when you're interested in it as you HAVE to look it up in order to progress with a project. A lot of it has been researching and figuring it out as I go. While I'm still learning, making can be a pain as I'm just not skilled enough to make all the ideas I've got in my head yet... but I am enjoying solving the problems presented by my designs (he says as he points at record cabinet he recently made). At the moment, when I face a problem I'm like "Ah cool, I've wanted to learn this technique for a while so now's the time" - for example using a different wood for this cabinet as the one I'd used originally kept splitting.

I think creating the piece is my favourite part, the process. Designing it and getting to a certain point where I can see it start to take the form I had envisaged. The physical making is secondary.

Where do you find inspiration?

I take a lot of influence from Korean and Japanese carpenters - a lot of the pieces I've admired use visible joints, you can see the structure of how it's been made. The work that's gone into it is visible. I think it looks great compared to the Western style where joints are often hidden.

Walk us through a day in your workshop?

I usually wake up, make breakfast and watch some wood working videos which get me in the mood to go and do it! I can't start till 10am as it's noisy and I have neighbours. After breakfast I'll go out and work 'till 5/6 O'clock. I try to structure my days so I can manage how much time I spend on a piece so I know how much I should be selling it for. The more i'm doing this, the more I'm like - oh my god - this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

We're hoping your story will inspire someone else to pursue their dreams, have you been inspired by anyone locally?

Certainly this year, I've started to learn about the creative circles in Leicester through people drinking at the coffee shop. Like Ria, I didn't even know she was the owner of House of Wabi Sabi until recently. Like, Lorna from Lesser Than Three and Josh from Pink Pigeon. I think these people are kind of where I want to be so it's cool to get to know them and seeing what they've achieved. Knowing it's possible. It's like "what's holding you back?".

Where would you like to see Mono go? I've gone part time with work now, it's nerve wracking but I feel I just need to push and it's nice to have some conviction behind my actions and think "I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna take the steps and the risk". With the part time coffee shop hours I'll hopefully still have enough to pay my rent and bills. I'm gonna work hard to do it. I would just be happy if it's something I can live off. I guess the dream would be to have a big workshop with a physical shop that sells all the stuff you've made. Having something you're happy to plough all your time into is very satisfying.

Todd launches Mono today, February 5th. You can find his website here and his social media here.

Written and translated by Anthony Sotelo & Nikki Millar.

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