Me and My Dickies - Designer and Maker Bruce Kenneth

Me and My Dickies - Designer and Maker Bruce Kenneth

STORIES | 23.05.2022

In less than a decade, designer and maker Bruce Kenneth has moved halfway across the world and acted on an interest in woodwork to become a sought after craftsman whose impressive creations have seen him picked up by television stations in his adopted UK home. It's been a whirlwind, and we're keen to find out more.

Hi Bruce, great to catch up with you today. As we've just mentioned, it's been quite a ride these past few years. For anyone who isn't familiar, what's your backstory?

I'm Bruce Kenneth, a native of New Jersey but now living in Yorkshire in the UK. I design chairs, make bespoke furniture and feature on BBC 1 and Channel 4 on a number of restoration and garden shows.

So woodwork's something you've been doing for a long time?

I have been doing it for around eight years now. I have always been enamoured with furniture, design, architecture and art, so it has been something from a young age that I have been interested in, however it wasn't until around 2014 that I started woodworking and making pieces of furniture of my own. I instantly fell in love with woodworking and being creative. It has all been self-taught, but I would look at designers that really excited me with what they were creating and try to work out how they made something.

Wow, ok. So it really has been a fast rise. What made you choose woodwork?

To me, it's starting with raw material like timber and turning it into something functional and beautiful. It really excites me to think what a piece of oak, ash or walnut can become. I also love the mid-century period, and I like designs that challenge the eye and take you on a journey of movement around the piece of furniture, whether that's a chair or a table. So when I look at the wood, this is what I am thinking about. I feel that good design should evoke emotion and make you want to touch it. That is what I want when people come into contact with my work, I don't want them to be passive with how they interact with it. The quality of materials is essential in everything I make, from the selection of timber to the construction of the piece of furniture. When those are right, I am able to work and create a style that is uniquely my own.

That's the beauty of wood. If you have a vision, you can find a way to make it work.

We know you're a longtime Dickies wearer, but what was your first piece?

The coveralls were the first pieces I bought. They're fantastic for workwear; they completely cover you and they last for ages. I would wear them when I used to work on cars back in the day too. I actually have a few embroidered for my business!

Bruce wearing Dickies’ Everyday Coverall

What is your favourite Dickies product?

It's a new one for me, but I love the Portland shirt. It feels like a light jacket that doesn't restrict movement but it keeps you really warm too. 

Bruce wearing Dickies’ New Sacramento shirt

When you're choosing new workwear, what does it need to offer?

It needs to hold up well to everything that I put it through. I will be on the floor a lot, kneeling, laying down fixing machines, wiping brushes on it, getting glue and sawdust all over it and pulling it all over the place, so it needs to be able to take a bashing and protect my skin too.

I also want it to look good and stylish. I work in TV, so whilst I don't have to be pristine at all times, I want my workwear to hold up.

Your work is seriously impressive. If you had to call out one creation as your favourite, what would it be?

I will have to be more general here and say my chairs. I mentioned it before but to me there is nothing better than having something that you can use and interact with. So chairs are perfect for that.

How have you found the move into TV, and how did that one come about?

It's been really fun to do and something that happened very randomly and quickly when I moved to the UK. I was asked to be on BBC Money For Nothing in 2017 because I followed Simion, who is an upholstery expert on the show, and I happened to comment on a photo of his cute dog; he then looked at my profile and saw my chairs! He showed the producers my work, and they contacted me, and five years on, I am still a regular on the show.

That's such a great story about having faith in yourself and sticking your neck out there.

It's a funny and lucky story! Since then, I have been an expert on a show called Mend It For Money (exactly what it sounds like) on Channel 4, and I have recently finished filming the second series of Channel 4's The Great Garden Revolution as a co-host. 

Having the disability that I have makes it even more important to be on TV to me. I want it to be so normal to see people in all shapes and forms on TV.

Your creations are unique, was it always natural and easy for you?

Thank you so much! Natural yes, easy no. As you'll see, I am missing around half of my right arm, and it has been that way since birth. I have also had multiple surgeries on my left hand to separate the fingers so it can function as it should. It does take its toll on my body; having to lift heavy pieces of wood, operate machinery, and do simple things that most people take for granted becomes far more fiddly for someone who is one-handed. But I am certainly a determined mind, and I do think that making something that is functional and beautiful is all the more rewarding.

So, what's next?

I am filming my TV show right now that will air in late May in the UK, and I have some more shows coming with a TV legend, but I can't mention those yet.

Beyond that, I am forever designing furniture and planning a whole range that I hope to get out before long. I also have some of my designs being bulk manufactured for British company Knightsbridge Furniture, so hopefully, they will be appearing in commercial and domestic settings soon.

 


 Find out more about Bruce and his bespoke creations at www.brucekenneth.co.uk / @brucekennethdesigns


Photo credit: @bck_photography


  1. Portland Shacket Men by Dickieslife - view 1
    Portland Shirt
    €69.00

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