With an ethos that values authenticity, resourcefulness and a total avoidance of waste, it’s impossible not to fall in love with the sheer strength of personality behind the wonderful and aptly named Unique Vintage Industrial. Jacqui and Graham both believe strongly in the importance of restoring and reloving pieces that would otherwise be discarded and lost forever.
With complementary skills, the Dreamer and the Maker work hard to bring striking industrial design pieces back to life. Whether that’s a sturdy industrial safe to use as a nifty storage space, or a reclaimed timber stools, their choices are always elegant and appealing. We meet Jacqui (aka the Dreamer) to discuss her background and what drives her and Graham to continuing excelling at their business.
What did you do before founding Unique Vintage Industrial?
Graham and I met in 2005. Graham’s background was in construction and mine was in design. We are now known as The Dreamer (Jacqui) & The Maker (Graham) as Graham makes my designs and dreams come true… as we say on our website ‘turning dreams into reality.’
What inspired you to set the business up?
It developed organically. We design, make and transform pieces for our home and garden. Friends and neighbours started asking us to make or source individual pieces for them and then their friends got in touch and so it began! This was before we even had a website. We started selling pieces via eBay and at an antiques emporium, then later in 2013 we launched our website and as they say, the rest is history.
What made you choose this name for the business?
We are based in North Wales and when we started, the vintage industrial style was hardly known so with our naivety, we decided to give our business a name that explained what we do. With hindsight it is possibly too long a name, it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue! Quite by accident though, it is easily found by search engines – a total fluke or should I say a happy accident.
Which designers or periods are you particularly interested in and inspired by?
We have a passion for ‘all things different’ and even though sustainability has become very fashionable nowadays, we have always hated waste and loved nothing more than creating something beautiful, tactile, versatile from what was previously of no use or unwanted and unloved. We despise reproduction inferior copycat pieces. Authenticity is, and always will be, our focus. As we say ‘you can’t fake authenticity’.
From which countries do you source the vintage pieces that you sell?
Predominantly Wales, England and Scotland, there is so much history and diversity in the UK that we have no need to travel further afield. Having said that, we are always drawn to anything ‘different’ so we buy and sell what we love. I maintain that if we buy something that doesn’t sell, it will live with us and fit in perfectly, as we love it anyway. Not exactly a good business strategy but we remain true to ourselves and are not swayed by commercial demands.
What do you do when you are not working?
When not away on some jaunt which doubles up as a sourcing trip, I walk miles and miles in the local Welsh hills with my pack of dogs. When I’m not nagging Graham, he potters around in his workshop… discovering bits and bobs he thought had disappeared into the unavoidable ‘black hole’! He also makes any excuse he can find to go mooching round salvage yards, auction houses, secondhand shops whilst always finding time for the obligatory strong coffee!
What was the first piece that you ever sold?
A large multi-faceted piece of driftwood which, with the addition of all-weather electrical lights & fittings, we converted into a large garden or patio focal-point. A fabulous, stunning, truly unique piece which sadly, I have no photos of now.
Who is your typical customer?
Those who like ‘something different’. Those who appreciate the design and build quality of our pieces. Those who have an eye for ‘quirky’. And those who would rather do without than compromise with something mass produced or a reproduction copycat of the ‘real deal’.
Is your own home an extension of your business style?
Most definitely – both inside and outside. We live in an old cottage dating to the 1870’s at the foothills of the Clwydian Range in North Wales so we are surrounded by nature and relics of the area’s rich industrial past – predominately mining, steelworks, brickworks. Also, rural schools and pubs are closing down so we are always on the lookout for what is no longer wanted or needed.
What are the most difficult and the rewarding things about running your own business?
Knowing when to stop – we are both workaholics and get so much pleasure and pride in what we do, it’s addictive. Having said that, it doesn’t feel like work, it’s our lifestyle. We wouldn’t do what we do if we didn’t love it and the fact that others get the same ‘buzz’ that we do, is the best compliment we could get.
Also, the fact that other people copy what we do, makes us feel proud – ‘plagiarism is the highest form of flattery’ after all.
Do you have any plans coming up for Unique Vintage Industrial?
We want to continue doing what we do for as long as we love doing it and as a matter of principle: rising above the onslaught of cheap, inferior quality, mass produced reproduction that is flooding the market. As we say, ‘you can’t fake authenticity.’
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