At about the same time he built and equipped a smaller workshop in the garden of his Catfield home.
This wooden building was situated in a deeply rural setting on the edge of Catfield Fen, a protected area of Wetland on the edge of the Norfok Broads. The view was across pasture used for grazing Catfield Poll Hereford cattle and home to a variety of birds and other wildlife.
During the mid to late 1980's Tom began to wind down production at the Stalham Workshop. He had become more involved in photography and was working towards a photographic exhibition (1989) with an extended text entitled "Findings" - a long look at the many aspects of the Norfolk coast which in turn led him to be asked to set up the photography department at Yarmouth College where he did some teaching.
The Firebirds, all made in the Catfield workshop, started to appear in the late 1990's. They were a complete departure from anything he had previously made. When asked where they came from he said he didn't know.
On reflection he feels he must have been affected by his new working environment and his frequent visits to the coast. Always interested in what was going on around him, but not particularly concerned with species identification, this was his creative response to external stimuli. As he wrote in a semi autobiographical short story: -
"He started making non functional pieces. Strange bird forms appeared with non ceramic attachments, beaten copper and silver, rope hair, gold paint. It all seemed to come out of nowhere. Some saw it as very exciting new sculptural work and he received much praise. Surprise and delight were expressed at the late flowering of his creativity. Not only was he doing his work to the same high standards of the past, but it had taken a new turn, becoming more playful and surreal. Some who collected his work were disappointed."