For our second interview of 2016, we had the chance to ask some questions to Alan Wood, founder of Rat and Pallet, a furniture design workshop in Brighton UK that bring innovative and creative solutions to everyday interior design briefs using industrial and reclaimed materials in unusual and unique ways. If you think you deserve to be featured in the next interview, please, drop us an email.
Tell us a little more about you? Who you are? Where are you from?
I'm Woody and I run 'Rat and Pallet', an industrial style, furniture workshop near Brighton on the South Coast of England.
Why do you craft?
My misses wanted to Ebay my tools to make more room in the garage - and as we all know, the love between a man and his power tools is a love that dare not speak it's name. I needed an excuse to keep them, so I started making furniture for the house and also rebuilt our kitchen. Once I'd exhausted that avenue I started selling furniture online. As long as I can keep making money from crafting, I get to keep my tools and workshop - that's the deal.
How did you learn?
My Dad was a builder so I grew up around cement mixers and half built houses. I went on to study architectural interior design at university. My careers path took me full circle via interior design, computer games, yacht skippering, teaching, and finally back to furniture design and interiors - so I picked up a fair amount of practical and creative skills along the way.
Since when are you working with pallets? Why do you choose to work with wooden pallets?
I started working with scaffolding and railway sleepers originally, but every builders' merchant I visited had hundreds of pallets destined for landfill. I hate seeing waste, and being a bit of an environmentalist, I began picking up a few pallets and started making things with them. It's free material and the offcuts go on my wood burner - no waste. Whats not to like about that?
What are your can’t-live-without essentials?
Yorkshire tea, BBC radio 4 and my pallet breaker.
How would you describe your style? Are there any crafters/artists/designers that you particularly look up to?
My style - Industrial Style with a Steam Punk twist! I'm more influenced by industrial landscapes and buildings than other designers - factories, electrical exchanges, hospitals, railways, boat yards etc. Having said that, seeing Ron Arrads 'Rover Chair' for the first time when I was younger was definitely an epiphanic moment.
How is your workspace, how do you make it inspiring?
Messy and busy. I converted my garage to a workshop last year and have very recently introduced Wi-fi, so I can stream radio podcasts while I work - although I still have no heating in there yet!
What sorts of things are inspiring you right now? Where do you look for inspiration?
I'm lucky enough to have a broad customer base, and I'm constantly being challenged. My current commission is for a Gin Festival. The customer wanted 16 industrial style pop-up mini-bars and 20 tables made from scaffold and pallet wood that could also be folded flat and easily transported (!) They commissioned several prototypes before settling on the final designs. I look for inspiration all over, but online I'd certainly recommend Pinterest.
When do you feel the most creative?
Funnily enough the best lightbulb moments come when I'm doing other things like running, writing or playing with my kids. I don't own a TV either, which helps prevents the brain going soggy!
We live in such a mass-produced, buy-it-now society. Why should people continue to make things by hand?
Because it's about so much more than the end product. Western society is slowly, slowly waking up to the delights of making rather than consuming. The environmental and mental health benefits merely scratch the surface of the beneficial effects and at the end of the day, no matter how crap your creation, you get to say - 'I made that!'
What is your favorite medium to work in (other than pallets)?
Scaffolding is probably my favourite medium after pallets, although recently I've been messing around with galvansied conduit and electrical fixtures and fittings.
What are your tips for people who'd like to start crafting?
Throw out your TV, dive in and go crazy.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Apart from cake I'll occasionally splash out on a totally overpriced power tool.. then wonder how I ever managed without it.
What is your favorite thing to do (other than crafting)?
I love writing. I self published a book recently under a pseudonym, satirising political correctness - 'Kill all Men' It got me banned from Facebook for a while and Amazon wouldn't let me promote it because it was.. well, politically incorrect :/.. so I guess I'll have to stick with crafting for now.
What do you recommend that most people do regarding cleaning pallets and prepping them to become something else?
Even though some pallets - particular Euro pallets - are a b*tch to break apart, it's worth doing in the long run as they can be properly dried, cleaned, sanded and prep'd. Once that's done, you can put them back together in any way you choose and make anything with them. Admittedly, you do end up with a lot of split wood, but throw it on the wood pile and nothing goes to waste!
We found you through Facebook where you are very active and through ETSY where you sell your pallet creations. Is that a full-time job and are you able to earn a decent living out of your recycled pallet works?
Absolutely, it's my full time job now and I'm making a comfortable living. I announced my plans at my local pub over a year ago, much to the amusement of my drinking buddies. Two of them occasionally work for me now and one is talking seriously about giving up his day job to go full time.
If someone want to start its own job in the pallet world, do you have any advice for him?
Don't do what I did and madly collect every free pallet going, because once you start looking, you'll find them everywhere and fill up your back yard very quickly! Plan your project and collect the appropriate amount (and type) of pallet. There's bit of a knack to breaking pallets apart properly but it's a very cathartic exercise.. particularly if you've just had a bad day at work!
Anything else you would like to tell to pallet community?
Until I started building pallet furniture, I didn't realise there even was a 'community', let alone how massive it was. Pallets are the end of line cast offs from the global haulage business - a ubiquitous free resource. Learn to swing a crow bar and a hammer in the right way and you have free, cool environmentally friendly furniture for the rest of your happy days!
Thanks Alan for this interview :)