When we moved here, I didn’t know I would meet so many creative people. Slowly we are discovering more and more artists dotted all around us, and a recent visit to the local farm shop proved more interesting than usual. We discovered that in a small workshop out back, one of our neighbours is busy crafting these beautiful frames out of reclaimed wood, and not just any wood but planks salvaged from the restoration of Hastings pier. As well as borrowing Phil’s lovely reclaimed pier wood frames for some pictures for you, I asked if I could have a snoop around his workshop, see where he works, grill him on life as a carpenter and meet the not so friendly neighbouring residents.The beautiful wood is marked and has the scars of the nails that held down the planks for many years. Just imagine who walked, danced and revelled on these planks throughout the history of the pier. Since it opened in on 5th August 1872, Hastings pier has played host to concerts and plays, bingo and games, the most exciting maybe it’s becoming a prominent centre of live music in the 1960s and 1970s. Famous names including The Rolling Stones, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, The Hollies, The Clash and even The Sex Pistols all played there.
The horrific fire that almost destroyed the pier in 2010 has eventually led to it being properly restored this year, and Phil is lucky enough to have a small collection of the wood to make these beautiful frames. If you hop on over to Phil’s site Vine Refashioned you could snap up one of these beauties before they are gone. My problem is I love them all. The pier has been a presence in my seaside life since I was a child, is it wrong of me to want one in each size? They are all so unique! But enough about me, lets get to the interview.
When did you first realise you wanted to work with wood?
I always loved making bits and bobs out of wood from a young age, but knew I wanted to pursue it as a career when I bought a bed that fell apart within the first week. I then decided to build one myself using proper jointing methods as I new this would last and I still have that bed today.
Where did you learn your skill?
I have learnt a lot from my Dad as he is a carpenter and has done a lot in his time. I have also learnt a lot by trial and error which is a great way to learn.
What are your favourite pieces to work on?
I love making the frames. The wood is in quite a state when I start out and it feels good to restore and create something new from it. But I would have to say my favourite pieces to create are beds as they take me back to the reason I started. I also love making bespoke furniture as it puts all my skills to the test, and it’s enjoyable to bring someone else’s vision to life.
What do you enjoy most about working with your hands?
I’ve never been one for siting about, and I love seeing a vision that’s in my head come to life, plus I know that I have made this lovely piece of furniture and that feels great.
Being your own boss is tough, as I know! How do you stay motivated?
Its not as easy as people think is it! It is very tough as I am by myself, I deal with everything from the finance to dealing with customers, getting the wood and then making the furniture. What keeps me motivated is seeing the finished product, especially if its a custom ordered bespoke piece.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I am working on something that I am very excited about, it is a French style bed which will have some lovely curves on the head and foot board as well as some nice detailing. I am going to try and keep that rustic look as best I can as I have not seen one done in a rustic style before.
What do you like to do on the rare days that you are not in the workshop?
When I am not in the workshop I am usually with my partner going for nice country walk, hitting the dry slope for a bit of snowboarding or of course thinking about the next project!
How would you describe your design style?
I would say my style is solid rustic with a well weathered look. Every piece of wood has a different texture, which to me tells its own story.
If you weren’t a carpenter what would you be?!
I am very lucky to be able to do something that I love. If I had to give it all up tomorrow, the only other thing that I would like to do is be a snowboarding instructor or something related to the sport.
Thanks Phil! Ah, yes, those neighbours I mentioned earlier. Here they are and quite scary even though they are only two and a half feet tall. Especially when they break into your workshop when you least expect it! Farm life eh? Just think, Joe Strummer, Jimi Hendrix or Mick Jagger could have stood on the piece of wood that any one of these frames are made from, I love that.
To own a piece of history, visit Phil’s site here. Do any of you have strange animals lurking around your workspace? (a badger just ran past our office window!)