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News > Alumni News > Tia Owen-Smith (2011-16) - A practical skillset combining creativity and commercial nous

Tia Owen-Smith (2011-16) - A practical skillset combining creativity and commercial nous

30 Jan 2020
Alumni News

Tia Owen-Smith (2011-16) left Oswestry School aged 16 and, in three short years, is a livery member of the Furniture Makers’ Company, has attended the Royal Charter Dinner, and now is the Director of two companies.

When Tia left Oswestry School following her GCSEs, she knew she wanted to follow a creative course, but wasn’t sure which specialism to choose. Tia visited the WorldSkills UK Live Show at the NEC where over 150 exhibitors gave young people the chance to explore career opportunities. Here she found a course and spent the next two years at Hereford & Ludlow College studying Level 2 and 3 in Furniture Making. Despite learning a great deal, Tia completed the course with no real confidence to go off and get a job in the industry.

After some research, Tia came across the Peter Sefton Furniture School where she enrolled on the 35 week course. Here, Tia went from learning basic skills to creating her statement piece, a champagne cabinet in the shape of a champagne flute. The piece was incredibly technical and challenging and Tia wanted to enter it into the Young Furniture Makers Innovation Award in London. Sadly, her tutor convinced Tia that the piece wasn’t good enough, but that the cabinet would be exhibited at the next Peter Sefton Open Day. At the Open Day Tia’s cabinet was awarded the Most Visually Stimulating Piece of Furniture Award by members of the Furniture Makers’ Guild, who invited Tia to exhibit the cabinet at the Young Furniture Makers’ exhibition in London. As the exhibition was full, Tia’s piece had to be presented to a panel to decide if it was worthy of inclusion. It was.


The exhibition was held in October 2019 and Tia’s cabinet created lots of interest. It was here that the Master of the Guild, and Future Master, invited Tia to become a Freeman of the Furniture Makers’ Company. At this ceremony to induct Tia in the Guild the Future Master invited Tia to be a guest at the Royal Charter Dinner held in the Apothecaries’ Hall, Black Friars Lane, London, with guest speaker Lord Kirkham, founder and chairman of sofa retailer DFS.


Belief in ‘giving back’ has been foremost in Tia’s mind, and none more so than with Axminster Tool Company who gave Tia a bursary/sponsorship award; she was recently interviewed in their newsletter about how she helps schools and gets involved in educating children about working creatively.


Tia now is the Director of two companies, Zultra Designs, makers of high end, and Willow Leaf Gifts, makers of wooden gifts for the National Trust.

Tia’s whirlwind journey hasn’t all been a bed of roses though. There have been times in the past three years when Tia has found things hard; like being the only female on all her courses. 

“Leaving school after GCSEs was pretty scary,” said Tia, “although there are lots of options for people who don’t want to study A-levels, finding the information wasn’t always straightforward. The Skills Show at the NEC really opened my eyes.

“I feel really strongly about supporting young people to get into furniture making and design, there are so many opportunities and different jobs; like leatherwork. I am currently supporting Design pupils at Llanfyllin School with any wood-based projects they are working on.”

Tia’s future is clear. “Since September I have been setting up a workshop where I can create my designs, but this all takes time and money. The contract I have with the National Trust will enable me to generate an income to initially fund the workshop. Eventually, my dream is to solely work on my designs”.


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