• Pictured: Skydan 2: The Mayor of Ipswich, Councillor Jane Riley, with Tony Welham of Skydan Furniture, at the opening of his new store at Sailmakers Shopping Centre.
A bespoke furniture maker has been inspired by the Duchess of Cambridge to overcome mental health issues and suicidal feelings to open a new business in an Ipswich shopping centre recently.
Tony Welham, 42, who was diagnosed as suffering from bipolar just before his 40th birthday, saw his Skydan Furniture shop opened by Ipswich Mayor Jane Riley in Ipswich’s busy Sailmakers Shopping Centre.
He says the interest the Duchess of Cambridge has shown in bipolar and other mental health issues means so much to him and other sufferers.
“When someone of the Duchess’ stature brings awareness to mental health problems it really puts them in the spotlight,” said Tony. “We owe her a massive debt.”
Bipolar results in huge mood swings, ranging from euphoria to deep depression.
“Sir Winston Churchill suffered bipolar and look at his achievements,” said Tony. “He was a brilliant leader during the Second World War and a fine post-war Prime Minister.”
After a career in retail and a time as head chef at a residential care home, father-of two Tony made tentative moves to launch his furniture business last September.
But it is only since February that he has “got the bit between his teeth”.
Until now Skydan – named after Tony’s daughter Skye, 21, and son Daniel, a 19-year-old forensic law student at Canterbury University – has been based at the family home he shares with wife Kelly in Ipswich.
Always skilled with his hands, the first thing Tony made with the top notch reclaimed wood he uses was a cake stand.
Sailmakers Shopping Centre Manager Mike Sorhaindo said: “We are delighted to have Tony here with his unique range of hand-made furniture, these really are one-offs and if you own one no-one else will have anything like it.”
Mike Sorhaindo added: “Tony’s is an incredible story and Sailmakers is proud to support this initiative.
“We would encourage people to come and view Tony’s one off and handmade pieces on the Upper Mall at Sailmakers– you might even take one away with you.”