Our carpentry skills learner David Bentley-Miller has been nominated for a Inspire! Learning Adult Award!

28-April-2023
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Our learner David Bentley-Miller has been able to use the skills learnt in his carpentry lessons at the Port Talbot Learning Hub to creative beautiful works and set up a business selling his bespoke handmade wooden pens. His tutor, technician and support staff have seen David’s confidence grow as he developed his skills. . .

Our Carpentry technician Jason Passmore tells us why he has nominated David for the Inspire! Learning Adult Award.

Jason says, “David Bentley-Miller has been a member of the ‘Carpentry for All’ Branch, based at ALWs ‘Port Talbot Learning Hub’, for just over two years. David is a practicing Solicitor Advocate and local businessman, who attends Branch sessions on Wednesday evenings, under the experienced tutelage of Derek Edward, Branch Chair and Volunteer Tutor.

David left school at 16 years of age, with no formal qualifications, and began his working life as a Police Special Constable. One day, David spotted an advertisement to study law at Swansea University and was intrigued by the opportunities that this endeavour might hold.

At the time, mature students didn’t necessarily need school qualifications to embark upon postgraduate study, and David was successful in his application to study for an undergraduate degree in Law. The following three years were spent travelling from his home in Pembrokeshire at 7:30am each morning, to Swansea University, and staying on after lectures to study and make use of the Library until late each evening. The significant work, commitment and dedication paid off, and David successfully achieved his law degree and began working in the field of legal practice.

Being a self-described ‘workaholic’ helped David in his new and demanding career, but the hours and regular travel to London began to take their toll, and after a long drive home one night, David decided to consult a doctor, and received a diagnosis of Bipolar. The Doctor gave David the following piece of advice; given that your brain is kept busy at work, try and find something to keep your hands occupied as well. So David reached out for ideas through social media, and a local lady recommended the ‘Carpentry for All’ Branch.

With the natural anticipations and trepidations of joining a new group, David visited ALWs ‘Port Talbot Learning Hub’, and after talking with Derek Edwards, decided to make a wooden pen on that first night. Little did he realise at the time, that making that pen would open up a world of possibilities to him, outside his successful career in law.

David felt very welcomed into the group, and both the tutor and other Branch members gave willingly of their time to demonstrate techniques and offer advice. Soon, David was carving quality pens, and he started to give these as gifts to family, friends and work colleagues. One of his friends suggested that he should consider selling the pens, such was the quality of the workmanship, and this suggestion planted a seed!

In the months that followed, a flurry of activity led to collaboration with a website designer, to create https://wigandpens.com, and David set up his own bespoke wooden pen business, buying his own lathe and equipment, and sourcing distinctive pieces of wood such as a WW2 Mosquito propeller and a part of the 1860’s House of Parliament, from which to carve the unique and meaningful bodies of the pens.

Now with two lines of work – crafting pens and a self-employed Lawyer, David speaks fondly of the ‘Carpentry for All’ branch, that he describes as a group that looks at ways where people are encouraged to try new things and develop skills and untapped potential. David’s business continues to go from strength to strength, with orders flooding in from across the globe.”

 

David says, “I am 51 and I suffer with Bi-polar. I used to be very ashamed to admit that especially working in the legal profession where I felt it may have been seen as a weakness. The job is very demanding and stressful with lots of plates spinning at the best of times.

Finding the Woodwork class has been an absolute godsend to me because apart from learning totally new skills, I have made lots of new genuine friends where everybody is treated the same regardless of background and job. All members of the class made me feel very welcome from the very first moment. Which assisted me greatly as I took this step into the unknown.

The kindness and patience shown to me by the instructors Derek Edwards and Jason Passmore simply could not be purchased for any money. If I have had a bad week with my illness, I try to think about my next woodwork class and what I will make or even just to go along to see friendly faces who are equally pleased to see me. This has helped me on so many times. The instructors for some reason just seem to ‘get it’ and understood that when I get unwell there are still things I can do in the class. That makes me emotional.

When I was a Crown Prosecutor dealing with some pretty tough issues by day, it was so therapeutic and necessary to be able to go to class and switch off from the stresses and pressures of law, often which would make me poorly. The classes act as my safety valve.

Clearly, almost by accident, my skills have been honed at this class and have turned into a nice business where I supply high quality and unique pens around the globe. By way of a few examples, we have provided a pen to the British Ambassador to Egypt, British Diplomatic staff in Ireland and also have received orders from the judiciary and leading barristers. I have also just been commissioned to make a pen for a judge from Qatar and he has pledged to use it every day. I sometimes have to sit back and pinch myself that this all started when I went looking for a diversion for when I get poorly.

I have now become known internationally for making unique and special pens such as from the wood of a WWII Spitfire Propeller and also have pens made from 1860 Houses of Parliament refurbishment to name but two examples. Despite the current difficult times financially, people are still prepared to pay for a quality product. Truth is, even if I had to make these pens for free, I would. For me, it all helps with my mental wellbeing and resilience and for that, I have 100% to thank the Classes. They have saved me.”

We would like to congratulate David on working so hard and learning the skills to create incredible works of art! His handmade pens are beautiful! Wishing David the very best of luck in the Inspire! Learning Awards!