There’s an old nautical saying that sailors had to wait for the sun..." /> It’s all about timing – Cheers North East


Published on October 4th, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour


It’s all about timing

There’s an old nautical saying that sailors had to wait for the sun to rise over the yardarm before they could have their morning drink. Nowadays we call the occasion “beer o’clock”, “wine o’clock”, “gin o’clock” or whatever the favourite tipple is.

The times can also vary but one man is making sure the clock is always right. Furniture designer Nick James has created handsome oak clocks with the relevant words marking the appointed hour. Nick not only owns James Design at the Mushroom Works in Ouseburn, Newcastle, but he operates the building that houses designers, artists and all manner of creative there and at Brighton Road Studios in Gateshead plus the Brick Works in Byker, Newcastle.

The idea came from his practice of winding up early on a Friday afternoon with his team, Adam and Joe. There’s a lot of tidying and sweeping up to do in a high quality furniture workshop but often they’ll pluck an idea out of the air and work on it until it’s time to retire to the pub (usually the neighbouring Free Trade Inn).

“It’s normally something daft made out of a piece of wood,” says Nick. “It can give us new skills and perhaps the start of a new product development – but I call in ‘fun’. We were always looking at our watches wondering ‘is it beer o’clock yet?’ so we decided to make a clock to avoid any confusion.”

This developed into other drink o’clocks and people started to buy them from the James Design workshop and website. Staff at Byker Post Office remarked on the number of boxes going out nationwide and internationally then all ended up buying them.

“They were also available on Not On The High Street,” says Nick, “but I was in the Lake District with the family when they put it on their Facebook page. I couldn’t get a phone signal there but eventually got one days later when we were in Keswick and saw the clocks had been given 95,000 ‘likes’ in three days.

“We ended up selling 3,000 from that. They went to Australia, Argentina, the US and all over the place. It was a completely different way of working for us.”

The Nick James philosophy stems from traditional working practices: “A machine can’t pick up a piece of wood, study the flow of the grain, or make a decision about how to use it.”

But a simple machine can tell you what time it is.

*The Mushroom Works Studios & Gallery hosts a preview evening on Friday November 22 (6pm-8pm) to celebrate opening five new attic studios, followed by Open Studios Days on Saturday November 23 (10am-5pm) and Sunday November 24 (10am-5pm). It’s a rare opportunity to meet artists and designers in their own workspaces.

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Alastair Gilmour

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