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“I was always interested in designing and building, I don't remember having any other ambitions,” says Richard. “I enjoyed art and design at school, and, fortunately for someone with an aversion to exams, the Art & Design module was by continual assessment.”
A Diploma in Jewellery and Ceramics at York was followed by a first-class honours degree in Furniture Design (BA Hons) from Northumbria University.
“I had a small forge on the farm at home and worked for a blacksmith during holidays. I was fascinated with architecture, construction and engineering. During my studies I worked for a fine art sculptor who designed and built furniture.”
Following then-girlfriend Rachel to Scotland in 1994, Richard launched Bisca from a barn just north of Glasgow, and, like many design students, bespoke furniture was Richard’s first business venture. Whilst exhibiting at 100% Design in London in the mid ‘90s, a property developer asked him if he could design a staircase for his own home.
“I knew little about staircase design at that time, but of course, I said ‘yes’,” confesses Richard.
The developer must have liked the work because further staircase commissions for his property portfolio followed and, a couple of years later, Bisca had – in Richard’s words – “a very nice collection of unique staircase designs”.
The business began getting enquiries from other people who had heard about, or seen, the staircases, and appreciated the design, quality and bespoke nature of what they do.
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Modern-day houses seldom have that wonderful feature that draws the eye upon entering, and most home-owners think of the stairs as functional, rather than a feature.
One man would like to change the way we think about our staircases, and re-introduce the elegance of a well-constructed, bespoke design to be both functional and beautiful.
Richard McLane, of Bisca (an acronym of Brass, Iron, Steel, Copper & Aluminium), has built up a business with an enviable reputation for creating beautiful, hand-crafted and high-quality commissions, working for clients locally, nationally and globally.
Now based in Helmsley, on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors, with wife Rachel and two children, Richard grew up on a farm with very creative parents and three siblings. From an early age he was helping his father to build go-karts, grain silos, stock pens, farm buildings and treehouses. By his late teens, he had developed sound skills in welding, fabrication, carpentry, machine-fitting and building.
Bisca has earned a soaring reputation for creating beautiful bespoke staircases and, although the team enjoy doing one-off architectural pieces including sculptures, lighting, entrance gates, doors and canopies, the majority of their time is spent in the design and manufacture of staircases and balustrades for clients in the UK and overseas.
Richard is rightly proud of ‘The Bisca Difference.’
“What we do say with confidence is that every Bisca staircase is designed for a specific property and to client specifications. We start with a blank sheet of paper and the client’s brief. We don’t carry stock and our purchasing department sources and orders-in precisely what the client wants for a truly ‘bespoke’ design.”
“The team at Bisca today are a fantastic, hard-working and creative group who will attempt - and carry off - projects that other companies baulk at,” Richard continues. “Two recent examples were bronze panels for a building in Russia, and a wheelchair escape ramp for a special needs school. Interestingly both clients told us they had exhausted every avenue before they chanced upon Bisca and that no other company was even willing to consider the project.”
Often projects that are completed a significant distance from home are interestingly challenging due to logistics and transport. Their most ambitious project was a series of staircases that rose through four floors of a home.
“We pride ourselves on our environmental and social responsibilities,” Richard says.
“Wherever possible, we use a trusted network of local suppliers; many are craftsmen themselves. We also promote the use of environmentally-friendly products and techniques where appropriate and economically viable, such as timber from sustainable forestry.”
Well, they must be doing something right, because last year Bisca was presented with a clutch of honours: namely the Judges’ Special Award at the 2015 York Design Awards for the staircase in Northminster’s Piccadilly Lofts, York; followed in October by winning Best Joinery Product in the prestigious ‘Build It’ magazine awards; and then they carried off Best Product Design at the Northern Design Awards in October.
They have also just found out that they have been shortlisted for the 2016 ‘Build It’ awards to be announced next month.
Step by step, it is a company which is clearly reaching impressive heights.
Bisca House, Sawmill lane, Helmsley, North Yorkshire, YO62 5DQ
Telephone: 01439 771 702
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.bisca.co.uk
The sweeping grandeur of a curving staircase tells you something about a property, and images spring to mind of great, old houses with magnificent galleries from which anyone could make an imposing descent. Or perhaps hear echoes of the joy of the children of the house, sliding and squealing from the dizzy heights at the top to the very bottom.
Heather Barron finds herself three steps closer to heaven on a Bisca staircase.