Today, we had the chance to ask some questions to Becky Marshall, Designer & DIY'er & blogger from Chicago, Illinois. Becky is making all kind of beautiful pieces from recycled wooden pallets; you can follow the work of Becky on its website: Flipping The Flip. 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 Becky, a do-er of copious things and I live in Chicago, Illinois. I’m married to a fantastic and very forgiving guy, Mike, and we have one giant four-legged fur baby Finn. I worked professionally in theater for many a year doing props and designing scenery then went to grad school for Interior Architecture, worked for several architects, and am currently working in the TV/Film industry as a set designer. My most recent show is The Exorcist for Fox. I also have a spiffy blog going called Flipping the Flip.
Why do you craft?
I’ve never done any different, really. I was always a quirky crafty creative kid from the get-go and never grew out of it. It’s a part of who I am.
How did you learn to do wood crafts?
If I’m going to be truly honest, and this will date me somewhat: it was a wood shop class in fourth grade. (Don’t try to figure it out.) I loved it, had so much fun, and still have the first thing I created hanging on my wall.
How long have you been working with pallets?
Not very long actually. Mainly because I hadn’t had a place for a workshop until three years ago when we purchased our house. Now that we have a basement, I’ve built a workbench and am growing my tool collection, so the need for inexpensive wood began arising.
Why did you choose to work with pallets instead of purchased wood?
There were several reasons that prompted pallet wood use: I discovered a pallet rehabber nearby, he puts loads of wood out daily, it’s free, and for the aesthetics of the wood. He gets an amazing variety of wood ranging from pine, oak, mahogany, birch, as well as other types. But really, the draw of free and already aesthetically pleasing do the trick for me.
What are your can’t-live-without essentials?
My cordless screw gun. If I didn’t have a husband and a dog, I’d probably curl up with that at night. Gorilla glue is a constant hero in my life. My miter saw is ranking right up there. But of course Mike and Finn take the top two slots.
Are there any brands that are your favorites?
I can be mighty brand loyal once I find the right thing for the right use. My screw gun is DeWalt and has been for oodles years, decades at this point. My palm sander is also a DeWalt which I adore. Bosch has been my favorite for a jigsaw though my glorious, best-one-ever was stolen a few years ago and I’ve been heartbroken since.
How would you describe your crafting style?
I tend toward modern, minimal in general, so as such, most things I create are cleaner lined. I’m a fan of Mid-Century Modern and the 1970’s aesthetic so those genres get tossed in the mix. I’m finding a certain amount of loud, crazy, big and fun, eclectic in a sense creep in too.
Are there any crafters/artists/designers that you particularly look up to?
I studied art history, interior design, and architecture for countless years so my list is probably far too lengthy to go on about. In brief, though, Antoni Gaudi is my favorite architect and a couple designers I want to grow up to be are Abigail Ahern and Antonio Ballatore.
Where do you do your wood crafts? How would you describe your workspace?
Most of the magic happens in the basement of our house. The space is on the small side and it’s not the most ideal but I can get an amazing amount of stuff done down there. I built two workbenches for a total length of nine feet; one is portion is raised higher while the other portion lower for the miter saw. I’ve documented the whole (ongoing) process over on my blog.
How did you make your work space more functional and/or inspiring?
To have an actual workspace is inspiring in itself to me! I’m constantly improving and tweaking the space, sometimes on a daily basis. Add some storage here, add some organization there; it’s a never-ending process. At one point I mixed my own black chalkboard paint and painted the entire wall behind the workbench.
What types of things inspire you?
I’m one of those people who finds inspiration in anything and everything. I say “one of those” as I find when people say that, it sounds haughty but it’s true. A corner of something can influence an entire project for me. The key is to keep an open mind, open eye, and let the creativity wander.
Where do you look for inspiration for a new woodcraft?
Generally it stems from a need. Other times, it springs from the wood itself but more often than not, it’s out of a need.
When do you feel the most creative?
It’s an ebb and flow kind of thing for sure, and it does pop out of nowhere at weird or awkward times, but after having a thorough sit-and-think session I’m usually pretty riled to get at a project.
We live in such a mass-produced, buy-it-now society. Why should people continue to make things by hand?
Well I could go on about this forever. It’s terribly satisfying to make something with your own two hands. That and making things by hand allows one to think, use all parts of their brains, to get up and move around, to slow down, to appreciate the world around them.
What is your favorite medium to work in (other than pallets)?
Paint is surely one of my favorites, whether it be painting the house or using craft paint on a project. Or truly, if it involves a power tool, count me in.
What are your tips for people who'd like to start crafting?
Get to it! What are you waiting for! My biggest tip is that there are no such things as mistakes; a mistake is a lesson and a chance to try again. Start small, don’t expect perfection, and it’s ok to let the project lead you instead of the reverse.
What are your most important safety tips when woodworking?
Safety is key. Eye protection, ear protection, gloves are the very basics. Read and heed directions. If you’re unsure about a tool or technique, study up, go slow, and work smart.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Interesting question. My homemade chocolate cream pie? I can’t say I feel too guilty about inhaling that, though I probably should. I guess I try not to feel guilty as we only go around once.
What are some of your other hobbies or favorite things to do (other than crafting)?
My main hobby, which is more than a hobby, is un-flipping, or maybe re-flipping, our flipped house. Or to be clearer, we purchased our house from a flipper who not only had horrifying taste, he also did things poorly, quickly, or cheaply, or a combination of all three, so it has become my duty to undo it all, redo it correctly. That whole story is what I’m documenting over on my blog, Flipping the Flip.
What are some of your best tips for breaking down, prepping, and cleaning pallets before you build with them?
I have never done this so I cannot proffer any good tips, unfortunately. The pallet rehabber I visit has already broken down and chopped up the pallets; the pieces I grab are his leftover bits or pieces he lets me take from his mill.
Have you designed any special tools or jigs for wood crafts?
Oh sure, of course. When money is tight or the right gizmo does not exist or I’m feeling too lazy to run out and get it, doing so is a necessity.
What are some wood working skills you really want to learn?
My next goal is to learn some basic router business as I recently purchased a palm router, despite not being terribly interested in a router. I’m more of a per-project skill learner but I do make a concerted effort to keep up the learning. I never shy away from a project if it requires a new tool or learning something.
What is the one project you’re the proudest of so far?
Pallet-wise it’s a toss up between my pallet wood pantry floor and my pallet wood vertical blinds.
What else would you like to share with the pallet community?
Please do come visit my blog, Flipping the Flip, at humboldtartdept.blogspot.com. Aside from 1001Pallets, I can be found roaming Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram here: @humboldtartdept. Got some of my crafty goodies for sale over on Etsy, humboldtartdept as well. And hey, thanks for having me!
Editor’s Note: Thank you for your time and for sharing your story with us, and with our fellow Crafters. Your work is beautiful and inspiring to all of us, and we truly look forward to more from you in the future! Keep those gorgeous pieces coming!
Thanks Becky for this interview :)
To find more on Becky: