Meet the TouchWood South West Team!
Astrid Arnold, Managing Director and Lead Carpenter
Astrid has been working as a carpenter since 2000, when she bought a van and wanted to live in it. Since it was lacking a bed and cupboards she decided to learn how to do it herself and did an NVQ Carpentry and Joinery Course at ‘Women’s Education in Building’ in London. She loved carpentry so much that she hasn’t stopped since. She has made most things wooden, from carving a spoon to building a timber framed house and everything in between. She has learned how to slate a roof, got to grips with installing the plumbing and some serious tiling amongst other things during the self-build of her house with her husband Hugh.
She was an itinerant carpenter for a while and worked as a Traditional Timber Framer in the West Country, Wales and Spain, where her first daughter was born. She lives on Dartmoor with her family and apart from being a director of TouchWood South West, she also takes care of the local community orchard.
One of her visions is to set up an NVQ Course in Carpentry and Joinery for Women.
Barbara Czoch, Director
Barbara has been timber framing since she decided she wanted to “do something different” in 2002, and so she took herself off to North America for a year to go and play with the Timber Framers Guild. That’s where she discovered that Community projects are way more fun than just about anything else, so now she spends as much time as she can working on them. She lives in the New Forest with her family, 2 cats, 4 hens, a garden, and a dog!
Barbara is also a trained Forest School teacher and occasionally shows boat building students – and anyone else that can handle it! – how to saw planks of timber from a log using a pit saw.
John Willis, Director
John has recently retired from a career in education, as a London secondary schoolteacher, an adult basic skills trainer, a careers adviser and project manager. He has always had a vision of learning that suits the needs and aspirations of all people, young and old. He believes that practical, vocational and lifelong learning are key aspects of this, which are ignored for the most part by our present school curriculum which hugely over-values the academic. Not only does this limit the opportunities in life for individuals, but it damages society and the economy.
Apart from being a director of TouchWood South West, John also chairs another local charity.
Hugh Arnold, Director
Hugh has been passionate about trees since childhood, he is a Carpenter and Traditional Timber Framer. His work includes historic and modern buildings. Hugh followed a circuitous route to the wood trades including an honours degree in Earth Science and training as a mechanic.
When he’s not doing woody things, Hugh enjoys sailing, rock climbing, martial arts and music.
Rhiannon Arnold, Digital Marketing and Woodwork Assistant
This is Rhiannon’s first ‘proper job’. On account of being the oldest child, she got the best job and now works part time in the office with Astrid (her mum). Rhiannon also helps to teach the Parent and Child Workshops. She is in Year 12, where she is has started her A-Levels.
When she’s not working, Rhiannon likes to curl up with one of her many books, sail, walk the dog, or play her plethora of musical instruments. She also is a Black Belt in Tae Kwon-Do (so watch out!)
Jack Dixon, Carpenter
Jack started carpentry straight after school, working for his dad – one of the most reputable builders in Devon – Gregg Dixon. He went on to do his apprenticeship at Emanuel Hendry under Hugh Arnold (one of our directors). Jack’s skill base encompasses ground works, general building and fine finish carpentry.
At work Jack is a master of process and productivity. He is contributing to assessing and systemising tasks, making our work processes more efficient.
Having grown up on Dartmoor, Jack has a strong love and affinity for the local landscape and vernacular heritage.
Rowen May, Junior Carpenter
Ro has been working in the building trade for about 4 years, before joining us and finishing an apprenticeship at TouchWood South West. They left the field of research science to do something more personally relevant that would be better suited to a rural and outdoors lifestyle.
When Ro is not doing carpentry and joinery they can be found running around without shoes or hanging upside down in their local gym.
Miranda Salmon, Furniture Designer, Maker and Tutor
Miranda Salmon is a Furniture Designer and Maker, who has also spent much of her life teaching young people and adults in a range of topics and contexts – from management skills to woodwork & big business to prisons. She loves the challenge of finding new ways to create things and of working with people to realise their own goals.
In her design and make work she mainly works to commission, working with clients to build furniture, small items and boxes, that complements the environment in which they will live. When the opportunity arises, she also enjoys experimenting with the textures inherent in the timber as well as introducing vivid colour.
Miranda teaches woodwork on our courses.
Her work can be found at www.mirandasalmon.co.uk
Ellie Richoux, Woodworker and Assistant Tutor
Ellie has loved woodwork since her childhood where she could be often found up a ladder or working with her Grandpa in the garage.
In 2020 and 2021, she did a Carpentry Course though TouchWood South West. Having gotten the woodworking bug, she then went on to the Boat Building Academy in Lyme Regis to complete the Advanced Furniture Making Course.
Ellie loves problem solving which is the essence of all woodworking, is employed as a bench joiner with a large company in the area and now helps to teach on our courses.
Nicola Lang, Self builder, Handywoman and Assistant Tutor
Nicola is a self-builder and handywoman. Her background is in sustainable building, particularly the use of natural materials such as straw bale, timber, and clay and for the last 12 years she’s worked in energy efficiency (retrofit) and in project management for a new build eco-development for a local charity, of which she is now a Trustee. Nicola and her partner Myrtle built their own A-rated timber framed straw bale house, and she is currently working as a solar PV installer. She loves empowering people to learn new skills and feel more confident to tackle projects around the home and helps to teach on our DIY courses.
When not working Nicola loves walking the coast path, foraging, and DIY projects, of which there are many!
Annkatrin Hendry, Tutor
Annkatrin is a qualified primary school teacher who trained in Germany at state school and alternative settings. She loves craft skills, the outdoors and gardening, she aims to bring that love to all the children that she works with. She lives on Dartmoor and keeps 2 horses.
When she isn’t teaching in schools, Annkatrin can be found horse-logging; pulling trees from the woods with her horse or transporting garden compost that she makes with her horse and cart!
Apart from being a tutor at TouchWood South West, she is also a Director of the ‘Growing Devon Schools’ network and runs a school garden project at Mortonhampstead Primary School.
Maria Kinsella, Multi-Tradeswoman and Tutor
Maria is a qualified Plumber, Electrician and Multi-Tradeswoman. She loves nothing better than helping people create the look and feel they want from their space. Whether that’s painting a room or a complete new bathroom, she does every job to very high standards.
Maria (and her cat) are based in London, her website is: www.phoenixmandr.co.uk
Lois Raine, Painter & Decorator and Tutor
Lois has been a Painter and Decorator for the last 15 years, specialising in traditional paints and their applications from lime wash and distemper to gilding and wood graining. She has worked on National Trust Properties, The Bishop’s Palace in Wells and also works for private clients. Having been a teacher in her previous career, Lois got involved in creating and teaching our DIY Courses because she wants to pass on her skills and knowledge to other women.
Laurie Smith, Historian and Early Building Design Researcher (1937 – 2021)
Laurie was an expert in medieval ‘Daisy Wheel Geometry’ and his knowledge has been fundamental in developing TouchWood South West’s mini timber framed house and our ‘Astrid’s House – Making History’ workshops which are very popular with many schools and different educational settings. Because of his work, many children now have access to learning about those forgotten but fundamental design principles.
Sadly, Laurie passed away on the 2 December 2021 at the age of 83. We are proud to keep a small part of his huge legacy alive in our school workshops for children. Please visit his website :
Laurie’s website – www.historicbuildinggeometry.uk