Meet the TouchWood South West Team!
Astrid Arnold, Managing Director and Tutor
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 went to become 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.
More recently she has learned how to slate a roof amongst other things as she is building her own house together with her husband Hugh.
She lives on Dartmoor with her family and apart from being a director of TouchWood South West, she also chairs the local sustainability group and is a board member of the Carpenter’s Fellowship.
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 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 partner Jerry, 2 cats, 4 hens, a garden, and soon: 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. Apart from being a director of TouchWood South West, she is also a board member of the Carpenter’s Fellowship.
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
Passionate about trees since childhood, Hugh 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 serves his community as a Parish councillor and enjoys rock climbing, martial arts and music.
Rowena Eakins, Apprentice
Rowena has been working in the building trade for the last 4 years before becoming an apprentice at TouchWood South West. She left the field of research science to do something more personally relevant that would be better suited to a rural and outdoors lifestyle. When Rowena is not doing carpentry and joinery she can be found running around without shoes or hanging upside down in her local gym.
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 and aims to bring that love to all the children she works with. She lives on Dartmoor and keeps 2 horses. When she isn’t teaching in school, Annkatrin can be found horse-logging; pulling trees from the woods with her horse or transporting garden compost 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 Moretonhampstead Primary school.
Gavin McGregor, Tutor and Carpenter
Gavin has over 20 years working experience in carpentry with skills in both workshop based and construction carpentry. He has also spent considerable time as a trainer and teacher of young people and adults. Gavin has facilitated courses for community groups and formal education organisations in a range of personal development and skills based projects. He believes personal development through skills training is very rewarding for the student and teacher and that learning new skills keeps life fresh and interesting!
Lois Raine, Tutor and Painter & Decorator
Lossie has been a Painter and Decorator for the last 15 years, specialising in traditional paints and their applications from limewash and distemper to guilding and woodgraining. 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, Lossie got involved in creating and teaching our DIY Course because she wants to pass on her skills and knowledge to other women. Her website is www.loisraine.co.uk
Laurie Smith, Historian and Early Building Design Researcher
Laurie is 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 different schools and educational settings. Because of his work many children now have access to learning about those forgotten but fundamental design principles.
Laurie lives in Sutcombe, North Devon.
Check out Laurie’s website www.historicbuildinggeometry.uk where you can download a range of free geometrical design articles.
Naomi Hills, Tutor and Plumber
Naomi has always wanted to be a plumber, ever since helping her dad build their family home back when she was just 14. Now with over 25 years experience in the industry working as both a lead engineer for some of the largest household plumbing and heating companies, as well as 7 years running her own business, she joins the TouchWood team ready to enthuse people and help them get to grips with their own domestic systems and take away the fear of the unknown. After spending the last 17 years in Yorkshire she is happy to have now returned home to Devon and back to her favourite pastime surfing the waves of the Cornish coast.
Janette Staton – Well-being Coordinator, ‘Women Build!’ Project
Janette has been working in mental health teams for the last 20 years and it was fortuitous that her work eventually led to her relocating to Dartmoor. She believes that managing mental health requires a multi-layered but simple approach and will prioritise helping people identify activities that support their well-being. She feels strongly that good occupation – that is work and/or play – is essential to maintaining a positive sense of self and good mental health.
Janette is passionate about the creative arts. She likes to draw and paint and can often be found in her studio making a mess and striving towards that elusive masterpiece.