What 5 skills are essential to your job?
At skinflint we salvage and restore a vast array of original, and often unique, vintage lights for prop hire and retail. With so many lights sometimes consisting of hundreds of components, it is key to keep our workspaces tidy and well managed – organisation is absolutely essential! Attention to detail and patience are also important as each light needs to be meticulously dismantled piece by piece in order to restore it to modern UK LIA (Lighting Industry Association) standards. In addition, you have to have drive and passion to work in such a delicate yet fast-paced environment working with high-profile clients and productions.
So in a nutshell the 5 essential skills for my job are: organisation, patience, attention to detail, drive and passion.
How did you get into the industry?
When I graduated from Falmouth University I knew I wanted a career which involved making things and being practical with my hands. I also knew I needed to be in a workplace which shared the same circular creative ethos as me in regards to restoring, recycling and reusing. So when skinflint was advertising for a product development engineer just down the road from where I live I knew I had to jump at the opportunity.
What relevant qualifications do you have?
I have a degree in Sustainable Product Design which is ideal with the type of vintage lighting that we salvage. The lights all date from the 1920s-1970s and were built using high-quality raw materials designed to last (before planned obsolescence). My knowledge of sustainability and design aids me in identifying what components can be reused or converted, and which need to be recycled and replaced, to ensure each light meets modern-day technological standards and can be used for the next 100 years to come.
What does a typical working day look like?
No day is ever the same at skinflint! Some days I may be working with local Cornish specialists based within 10km of our Cornish studios to help soda-blast a large run of degraded lights, such as our Reclaimed German Cargo ship lights. Other days I might be dismantling, reviewing and rebuilding unique one-off show stopping pieces like our Russian 1960s surgical lamp to learn its origins and history. By the time they are ready for dispatch, I intimately know each light, which is why I’m involved in securely packing them to ensure they arrive safely to projects and on production sets.
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
The most enjoyable part of my job is being so hands-on with these pieces of history – it is truly magical to be so involved with a light which was sometimes created over a century ago! The only real downside is that I really fall in love with certain products and it is sometimes sad to pack them and see them leave the warehouse! Which is why I actually really love the prop hire side of our business because after the production is finished, the lights are then returned to us with a new chapter to their story. We also recently launched our Full Circle buy-back scheme which allows clients to trade in their skinflint lights in exchange for credit towards their next purchase, so even lights that get purchased can make their way back to the workshop and I still have hope of seeing some of my favourites again.
What has been the most challenging project of your career so far?
There isn’t ever really a ‘normal’ day in the workshop so we always have different challenges to overcome. One of the largest projects we supplied to this year was a large American production which required various bespoke modifications, including a powder-coating on the external shades to fit the art director’s brief. With over 50 of our Eastern Bloc factory lights specified for this project, we also had to take the time to convert our fittings to accept UL rated lamp holders and cable in order for the lights to function safely in the United States. Though this project was challenging, we can’t wait to see the finished film and to see all of our team’s hard work come to fruition.
What did you want to be growing up?
I always knew I wanted to make things; to do something practical with my hands. I’m really pleased to say that I’ve achieved that goal at skinflint.
What is your favourite film and why?
My favourite film changes all the time but the most recent one that I can think of is ‘The Shape of Water’ (2017, Guillermo Del Toro). Though the film is set in the 1960s, the main character’s apartment echoes the 1920s to connote her love for old romantic films. The attention to detail and the choice of props blend beautifully with the melange of different eras. It is really no surprise the film won Best Production Design at the Oscars in 2018.
If you could work with any Production Designer or Director, who would it be?
There are far too many to choose from! However one of our lovely clients is Sandro Picarozzi – we’ve supplied many vintage lights to a variety of productions for Sandro and I’ve been amazed by different ways he has used our lights for both modern and period sets. He’s also just a really lovely chap who respects the history of our lights as much as we do. We’re also big fans of Sex Education for both the progressive storylines and retro styling, so we’d love to work with Sam Harley, Miri Katz and all of the fab team there. Some of our retro Czech opaline pendants would be very at home in Dr. Jean Milburn’s house!
What is the most unusual location you have worked on?
We’ve salvaged lights from all corners of the globe but the one that always sticks in my mind is our Naval Osaka Tokushu wall lights. Though they were found on a 1960s Japanese decommission cargo ship… the ship itself wasn’t found in Japan but in India! After some extensive research, we actually found out that many decommissioned Japanese ships were sent to world’s ship breaking yards in India and Bangladesh. It is fascinating to wonder how many destinations these naval wall lights had visited before arriving in our Cornish warehouse for restoration.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Keep making things, keep using your hands… and pick up woodwork a bit earlier. Your future-self will thank you!
Who would you want to play you in a film of your life?
Helena Bonham-Carter. She exudes creative madness and I relate to that. I’m also a big fan of animation films, so if an animated film of my life was ever made she could also be the voice actress for my character!