Jenny Shipley is the founder of Cut By Beam, a team of creative engineers and designers who use lasers to help companies bring their ideas to life (including ourselves!). The team use creativity as a force for good and are driven to create things that will be used, kept and cherished, always striving to use sustainable materials to create objects that will last and endure. We caught up with Jenny to find out more.
Words by Jenny Shipley | Photography by Jenna Foxton
What led you to opening your creative workshop, Cut By Beam, and can you tell us a little more about the work you do there?
I think I always knew that I wanted to start my own business. Growing up, my Mum’s side of the family were very creative; with both my aunts working for themselves as artists and designers. That definitely inspired me and made me see it was possible for me to do something like that too. I studied design at university and had used laser cutting during my degree. After graduating, I worked part-time with a furniture designer who laser-cut laminates as finishes for her work. It has always been a process, and form of machinery, that I had been interested in and enjoyed using. It therefore felt very natural developing a business around it. We are essentially a making service and every day work on a huge range of products; from trophies and medals to architectural models, signage and conference badges, with much more in between. It's a very flexible process, that we are able to apply to many different materials and markets so we are always doing something new. It's a great way to be able to work.
Can you introduce us to your team and describe what a usual day at the workshop looks like?
Yes there are 4 of us here at Cut By Beam. Apart from myself, everyone works part-time. So, unless we are super busy, we tend to rotate who is in the workshop. Most of my time is spent dealing direct with customers; discussing and creating designs with them. That leads on to providing quotes and lining up the jobs ready for the machines. Lynn and Toots do most of the machine operating and construction tasks. Celia works in marketing and admin, keeping everything organised and running smoothly. Everyone is very creative, and doing all sorts of interesting work outside of Cut By Beam as well, so it’s nice to be able to accommodate that and offer flexible working patterns.
No day is really the same here. The nature of the work we do means we have a high turnover of jobs so are always up to something different. I think because of that we have always made an effort to punctuate the day by taking coffee and lunch breaks together.
We are all dog owners too and it’s great to be able to bring them into work. Because of the rural location we can stomp through the fields when we need some headspace or fresh air and take the dogs out for some exercise.
What is the most challenging project you have worked on in-house as a team?
I’m not sure that there is one job that stands out to be honest. We are problem-solving every day, sometimes because we have been given an unusually shaped item or a particularly intricate design to create. But also because we are always trying to push our capabilities and having to work out new ways of doing things. The most challenging time of year tends to be the lead-up to Christmas as we always get a lot of last-minute work coming in.
As a small business, what is the mission that drives your team forward?
I think, put quite simply, it is about wanting to be the best at what we do. To create work that is the most sustainable, most suitable and highest quality we can. We are a business but, for me, it’s not about making the most money, but it IS about making really great work.
You say ‘creativity is a force for good’ which we would absolutely agree with, how do you exercise this mantra throughout your business?
I think the most obvious one is environmentally. We have a great opportunity in what we do to be able to suggest design changes that can minimise waste, speed up manufacturing times and offer alternative materials that may be more sustainable and more suitable. By working with the goal of low environmental impact at our core, we are ensuring those values are in all the work we produce and will extend into the businesses and people that we do the work for.
We visited your workshop a couple of years ago and were really taken by the community spirit of the businesses you’re surrounded by. How does community play into your work at Cut By Beam and why do you think Cornwall is such a creative hub?
I do feel incredible lucky to be surrounded by the businesses here at Argal Home Farm.
To have other people working with similar goals, ethos and enthusiasm feels like a real shared energy which is contagious and motivating. When we moved up here from our previous site, it was one of the things I noticed the most. Cornwall as a county has such a rich heritage for art and design and the environment and lifestyle down here seems to work so well for creative people. There’s a real shared love of where you live and everyone wants each other to do well.
How do you intend to keep challenging the industries you work with to question the materials they use and to consider alternatives?
I think by pushing ourselves to be as sustainable as we possibly can be, we are naturally pushing all the work we produce to be that way too. I have always had a keen interest in materials and there is a lot happening at the moment with new and interesting options, product alternatives and ways of using things. If we keep questioning and analysing what we do, and stay informed and up to date, we are always able to offer our customers new and exciting opportunities with the work we create for them. I feel incredibly lucky to be working for clients that share the same desires of quality and sustainability.
What does Maverickness mean to you?
I’d say it is about a truly unique approach, finding your own way of doing something, being proud of it and celebrating that difference as a part of your identity.