Selwyn House is formed by Sean Best and Ellie Smalls, who met studying Fine Art at Leeds Arts University.
Always drawn to making things, Sean bought a second-hand lathe and began teaching himself woodturning. An all-consuming obsession for understanding and working with wood followed, and after making the move back to Ellie’s home county of Derbyshire in 2017, they formed Selwyn House, combining their creative talents to create small-batch handmade serveware & homeware from the best British-grown timbers they could get their hands on.
Their work is now stocked in several independent shops across the country, but is always made individually by hand at their Derbyshire workshop. See the current stockist list here.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Selwyn House is the place Sean and Ellie now call home and where their workshop is based. They love to cook and eat with friends & family, so the choice of name came from a wish to make warm, honest and functional pieces with longevity which can be used and enjoyed from everyday meals through to big family get-togethers.
Through further research they found ‘Selwyn’ is an old Anglo-Saxon word roughly translated as ‘friend in the house’ - pretty apt as a design brief!
The raw materials
All the wood used for Selwyn House pieces is sourced as locally as possible to the workshop and is from trees which have grown in Britain. Most wood is bought from small independent sawmills, who either manage woodland around them or buy directly from local tree surgeons. The wood is milled and air-dried at these sawmills for a minimum of 18 months before it even comes to the workshop. Working in small batches means they are able to source more unusual and characterful pieces of timber to work with and adapt designs to make the most of the wood.
For many of the turned bowls, the tree itself has been taken down by Sean and slowly air-dried in the workshop. By working from tree to finished piece the wood is carefully used to it’s maximum advantage and any wastage is kept to an absolute minimum.
The most important element of a Selwyn House product is that it’s made by hand - processed from rough-sawn timber or individually turned on the lathe.
All Selwyn House pieces are designed to be functional as well as beautiful, and only by handling a piece throughout it’s production can you really make it ‘feel’ right - shaping the handle a little more to fit well in the hand, turning a bowl to the ‘right’ weight, or spotting those miniscule flaws before they become a problem.
At finishing stage, the oils and waxes used are carefully adapted to suit each type of timber and product. Serveware is always made to be food-safe and all boards are now made with a beeswax-free finish (suitable for vegans).