Will Worsp and I had been weather watching in the lead up to my planned visit to Raglan. We’d already postponed once in an effort to strike a beautiful day to maximise my trip and first time in the area. Luckily our patience was rewarded and it really turned out to be mission accomplished. Not only was it a great first impression … I pretty much want to move there!
On checking out Raglan and her surrounds it made sense to me that Will has chosen to base his furniture business out of a town that mixes its rural backbone with the vibrancy of the international visitors that file through it daily – in a way matching the vibe of the modern rustic tables emerging from his workshop.
I hope you enjoy this story and introduction to what is a young but super promising brand.
William Worsp grew up a country boy on a sheep and beef farm in Te Akau, just 40 minutes north of Raglan – a property still owned and run by his parents. Spending most of his high school years in Auckland he then shot to the South Island for his final one at Wanaka’s Mt Aspiring College.
In 2000 he stayed on in the south and enrolled at the Otago Polytech Art School majoring in digital moving image and photography. On his graduation he headed back to Auckland and for 3 years got stuck into the tv and film industry as a set dresser and buyer.
In 2008 the outside world beckoned and he headed for Spain and “the boats”. He managed to get himself a job on a 70m superyacht with which he worked and travelled on around the Mediterranean, to Cuba, Bulgaria, the Ukraine, Poland, Iceland, Alaska and San Francisco!! It was on the boat that he met and made friends with chef; Ben Cooke. Ben recognised Will’s passion for design and interiors and bought him on board to help bring to life the restaurant he was building on the Isle of Wight.
While back home on a break from his travels and awaiting his work visa for the UK, Will made a table from some ideas he had been sketching. An Auckland store took the table on consignment and almost immediately he had 3 orders to fill! Looking back, this certainly sewed a seed of a potential business opportunity but back on the plane he went, this time bound for London.
In 2010 he took up a role as a Project Manager for a NZ run company specialising in commercial fit outs for large corporate clients. For a year he worked intense hours on projects for GAP, H+M and Selfridges – then was abruptly made redundant when the economic downturn finally caught up with the business.
Wondering what his next move might be, he was invited back to the boat and off he went on another adventure, this time to the Maldives via the Suez Canal and pirate infested waters of the Arabian Sea. During those years overseas he had been lucky enough to have been exposed to the diverse surroundings of cities such as Milan, Paris, St Petersburg, Havana in Cuba and Tallan in Estonia. He had spent much of this spare time wandering the streets and by late December 2012, packing all that inspiration, he returned home on a mission.
From a family owned house in Raglan he started the wheels turning on WRW & Co.
Via word of mouth from his previous work, he was commissioned to make two tables of different designs. This was a valuable opportunity to get his ideas out of the sketchbook and into the 3 dimensional world…and be paid to do it! Buoyed by the orders, he gained the confidence to approach a local German cabinet maker and ask to work alongside him, learning the finer detail of tongue + grooving and other traditional wood crafting methods. He built on top of his own experience and soon was armed with new knowledge to help him continue to develop his designs and handle his growing list of commissions.
By February 2013 he had pushed forward to purchase his own equipment and set up his first workshop. His choice to stay and develop his business from Raglan is an interesting and exciting one. With Auckland under 2 hours away it would have been easy to succumb to the pull of the big city and the bonus’s attached to that in terms of supply, production and distribution. But instead he armed himself with a beamy van and a growing network of regional suppliers. First he set up in a very small old woolshed on farmland accessed only by a causeway ruled by the tide! By August he was given the opportunity to move across the paddock to take over the lease of an ex surfboard factory and with new room to move he got to work growing his collection.
On my visit, the WRW & Co. workshop was full of tables in various stages of production, the legs waiting to be matched to newly finished tops. There were also piles of valuable old timber Will had managed to source and save from heading to the landfill or farm rubbish piles. While his designs are clean and uncomplicated he holds a real passion for patiently bringing those finds back to life – resulting in strong, beautiful furniture that is modern but packed with texture. In addition to his custom orders he has developed a base collection reflecting his own aesthetic and due to the hands on nature of his manufacturing process, they remain super customisable in their specifications.
Driving back to Auckland that afternoon I kind of felt smug that I had had the opportunity strike Will and his business at such an early stage. He oozes enthusiasm and ideas around what shape WRW & Co. might take in the future and his ability to remain truly flexible and open to any opportunities that come his way has me totally convinced his brand is in for the long haul.
I’m thinking this might be a new era for the small town makers out there!All photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home
WHAT I LEARNT FROM WILL:
Return to your roots and take a new look at your hometown.
It might just be the perfect place to grow your own creative business.