I’m a trained carpenter, I started an apprenticeship when I was 16: I had to do six month’s of exams before they awarded me the apprenticeship. Once I’d done that, they signed me up for a five-year apprenticeship. I’ve been doing it now since I was 16.
Here at Emmaus Greenwich I work on the furniture that comes in as donations. This here is an old bureau, I’ve cleaned it up, because it was terrible. It takes time to restore furniture, because you have to do it in different layers. The top of this for example needs re-waxing, so first I put some pigments on it, get it as close as I can to its original colour. You can’t buy these colours so you have to try and mix them up yourself. In an average week I probably work on between a dozen and fifteen pieces of furniture. I’ve got to work quite quickly, because we have to get them out on the shop floor and out the door.
The thing I like most about the process is that by the time I’m finished with a piece, you wouldn’t recognise it. Things come in damaged, or scratched up and I fix them up. I love the transformation. Nobody is buying dark furniture at the moment for example, they’ll buy an item because it has a brand name. So the unnamed less-desirable pieces, we have to reinvent them.
I originally came to Emmaus for six weeks. I was working with a private developer and I fell out with them over my wage. He said he wasn’t going to pay me any more, so I said I’m off. But I didn’t have a CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) card, so I couldn’t work elsewhere. I had savings, but I was gambling and drinking, and all kinds of different things. I came to Emmaus Greenwich for six weeks, while I was sorting out my CSCS card and then I could get back to work. While I was here Clare (Waghorn, Community Leader at Emmaus Greenwich) put me in charge of Solidarity. That hooked me, that was it, and I’ve been here now for 12 years. It was only meant to be six weeks, but I’ve never left!