Lluis Matteu has been creating with wood for the past 25 years. He has built anything from bespoke furniture to wooden houses to sets for theatre and cinema. He has been transmitting his skills to aspiring carpenters of all ages. Working with wood not only reduce plastic but if practised sustainably, can bring forests back. Working gloves on, this is an interview for handy people. Lluis and his Woodwork Academy have decided to donate to Plan A Forests projects each time someone registers to one of the workshops. We can only recommend you to go make your own !
Can you tell us more about the Woodwork Academy and the work you do there? How did this project begin in your mind?
It all started around five years ago. I was invited to teach woodworking workshops in betahaus – a popular co-working space in Berlin. A very good friend told me around the same time, that after all these years of gathering experience it would be nice to pass some of it on to new generations. So I did! And after giving some workshops I realized that I loved it so much that I wanted to do it more. MUCH more – and Woodwork Academy started taking shape.
How did you learn to work with wood originally?
That was an early decision. I was only 14 and I knew that I wanted to study something practical – something that would allow me to use my imagination and my hands at the same time. I always liked making things. As a child, I had created many of my toys myself. When graduating from woodwork school after five years I remember thinking: that’s it, I am done learning. Later I realized that learning is a way of being – keeping the eyes open and staying curious. I never lost this interest in how things are being made.
How did you discover that people were interested in learning your craft? Why do people come to learn woodwork?
It did not take too long to realize that in the society that we live in now, there is a lack of natural creative skills. Instead of creating or repairing things ourselves, we usually tend to throw them away and buy new. People spend many hours in front of a screen and the ability to make something in the three-dimensional world is used very rarely. I saw how empowering it is for someone who never made a piece of furniture to create something from scratch. It makes them really happy to experience their own abilities and to see the results. I experience in myself and in the participants how cleansing and grounding it is to spend some time in the wood workshop. Doing, cutting, sanding and creating something meaningful with one’s own hands.
You decided to support Plan A projects by donating a part of your ticket value. Can you tell us a bit more about your decision to support us?
I believe that we all have the ability to contribute something. Yes, the big responsibilities lie on the governments, but big movements also always start from the people. The possibility to work with Plan A came just in the right moment when I looked for a meaningful way to support the environment. And I know and appreciate the work Plan A and Lubomila are doing already since my time in betahaus.
A lot of people assume building with wood is not a good thing for the environment. What is the relationship between the work you do and nature conservation?
When wood is obtained from forestries that replant, it is not that bad. I understand that many trees come from rainforest where they don’t have reforestation programs. In the Woodwork Academy we try our best to know the source of the wood we work with, it is not always possible. What I find is that any product made with wood can be up-cycled and re-used many times. In our workshop, we give away our offcuts for people to be able to upcycle.
Can we see in Berlin some works you have built yourself or with the Academy? What are some pieces that you are most proud of?
The pieces participants make in the Academy are all taken to their private homes… We also built once a kicker table as a team building workshop for “Outer Media” and I believe they still have it proudly in their office. That was a fun project.
What sorts of workshops do you offer right now? How can we sign up?
At the moment I have two workshop formats called WORKING WITH WOOD – for beginners, one of which is only for women. I happily say that I have also recently started a level 2 workshop for intermediates which has been great. We offer open days for graduates of our courses to continue working on their own projects – guided or independently. On top of this, there are options for 1:1 consultations and mentoring. We also create any shape of workshop formats for communities or companies, at the moment I offer a regular one for Contorion GmbH. You can easily sign up from my website www.woodworkacademy.berlin.
What would you say to aspiring woodworkers and environmentalists trying to have a more positive impact on the world they live in?
To stay attentive to what we can do – one step at a time – and that it is amazing what we are able to achieve and how fast we can learn once we set our intention clearly. The same goes for our planet, we still have time to create an impact and our obligation as inhabitants of the planet is to do just that. As small as that might feel at times – we are many people and we should take advantage of that.
Lluis Mateu is a woodworking enthusiast with more than 25 years of experience. He has built anything from bespoke furniture to wooden houses to sets for theatre and cinema. He has a deep passion for woodwork and loves sharing his excitement for the craft – as well as all the tricks he’s learned through the years!