By Promote ShetlandMarch 12th 2021

Cecil Tait is the owner of Paparwark and designs and makes furniture. He created the beautiful Reestit Mutton Serving Platter we're giving away in this month's prize draw. We spoke to him to find out a bit more about his work and what inspires him.

Ever since he was a boy, Cecil Tait has had a passion for making things. He trained as a joiner but knew his passion lay in designing and building furniture. After completing an HND in Glasgow, he went on to do a degree in furniture craftmanship and design in High Wycombe. He then returned to Shetland to set up is own business, Paparwark.

“I set up the business 18 years ago. I approached the old museum at Lerwick’s Hillhead about doing an exhibition of my work and things took off from there,” he explains. “Most of my work has been commissions – tables, chairs, cabinets, that type of thing. Then Covid happened last year and now my online business has really taken off.”

With Shetland being virtually treeless, Cecil uses mainly imported wood from the mainland, sourced from local suppliers. He also picks up pieces of felled woodland and driftwood. As well as making bigger pieces of furniture, Cecil makes objects for the home like clocks, candles holders, serving platters and book ends. “I’m happy to try my hand at anything,” he says, modestly. “The variety keeps it fun.”

He also draws on island traditions with his designs for Shetland chairs and stools, as well as his popular jumper, sock and mitten boards. These boards are used to dry washed knitwear on and ensure they don’t lose their shape.

“For centuries, Shetlanders made boats and things by hand out of wood – it’s vernacular, which, put simply, means local products of the people, rather than following any design trends of the day. That’s what I try to do – carry on those traditions.”

Cecil has a workshop in Bigton, next to his home, where he works alongside an apprentice, Jack. The two have been busy making faerdie maet boxes, which translates as ‘food for the journey. These are a traditional picnic or packed lunch boxes, with a style inspired by Scandinavian tine boxes.

“I posted some videos on social media of us making the faerdie maet boxes and it attracted orders from the US,” says Cecil. “The internet has really opened up the business.”

Alongside videos of his work, Cecil posts about life in Shetland, including the small croft he and his wife run with his dad and brother, which has sheep and hens.

“Folk are always fascinated by the lifestyle here in Shetland. They’re interested in what we do and how we live. It’s nice to share some of that with them.”

“Once Covid restrictions are lifted, I’m hoping we can start running tours of the workshop and the croft. It’d be good to do some woodwork and whittling courses too.”

Until then, Cecil is keeping busy making products for his online shop, including making serving platters, like the one we’re giving away in this month’s prize draw. “The design was actually Jack’s idea,” says Cecil. “It is inspired by the shape of a leg of reestit mutton and there’s a rim around it to catch the juices. You can even hang it up, just as you do a leg of mutton to dry out.”

To find out more about Cecil and his work, visit the Paparwark website or follow Cecil on Facebook and Instagram.

Head to our competition page for your chance to win a Reestit Mutton Serving Platter.