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The Turners' Company is one of the oldest Livery Companies in the City of London. Its origins go back to early medieval times: the first reference to a London turner dates to 1189. The medieval Company was a trade guild, set up to protect the interests of its members, whose skill was to turn and shape wooden objects on a lathe. They laid down standards for their products; they had a strict system of apprenticeship; they restricted competition from outsiders; and they collected for charity and funeral expenses. Unlike the richer Livery Companies the Turners were craftsmen, not merchants. Yet at a time when many everyday necessities, like chairs, cups and plates, were turned products, successful London turners could make a good living by the standards of the day.
The contemporary Turners' Company reflects many of the traditions of earlier days. Its main objective remains to promote the craft of turning, which, in the 21st century, encompasses a broad spectrum of styles from the traditional and practical to the intricate and ornate right through to large statement pieces and avant garde works of art, always pushing the boundaries to see what can be achieved. Both leading professional turners and enthusiastic amateurs are members of the Company.
The Company promotes the craft of turning by running a major exhibition, known as "Wizardry in Wood", every four years. It holds turning competitions, and offers prizes and bursaries to established and aspirant turners. It supports the Register of Professional Turners, which gives details of leading turners and what they make. There is an active charity, with a significant focus on the craft: the Company has donated lathes to schools, including computer-controlled lathes for the use of disabled students. The Company also runs a lively social programme to promote friendship and good fellowship among its members and their guests.
The company motto is By Faith I Obteigne, or, in Modern English, By Faith I Obtain.