Step Inside is a series of short films and interviews that tell the story of some of our talented members at Pop Brixton. Behind the food stalls and bars, there’s a thriving community of start-ups and independent businesses. ‘Step Inside’ is an exclusive peek behind the scenes to meet the people that make Pop Brixton and to take a look inside their units. We sat down with Eric and Tinka of Restoration Brixton to talk about their family business.
Eric and Tinka are the founders of Restoration Brixton – Eric can undertake anything that needs restoring, be that wooden furniture, upholstery, paint finishes and statues.
Where were you before you opened your studio in Pop Brixton?
Eric: Oh I’ve been doing this for 30 or 40 years, something like that. I’ve had other studios, mainly in the Notting Hill area, in the 1980’s I was in Portobello road but we moved to Brixton about 15 years ago. I’ve brought my regular clients with me. I’m from London but I prefer Brixton to any other part of London. It’s a happening place, a mixture of people and everybody is friendly and got time of day for you.
Do you have any tips for someone wanting to start their own business?
Eric: My business is based on my skills which have taken a long time to develop, just know what you what you’re doing before you commit yourself. It’s a chicken and egg thing, you develop skills as you do it, but then you’ve got to survive at the same time.
How did you start doing restoration?
Eric: I started as an Upholsterer when I was 25, working for different companies and people and I gradually developed. I like working for myself, as you get older and you’ve got more skills you don’t make so many mistakes. Everything becomes a easier, you get more confidence.
What’s your favorite thing about restoration?
Eric: I like working with my hands and I like beautiful things, I feel like I’m contributing rather than destroying. It’s creative and it’s a good idea to recycle, however you want to call it – to develop things rather than just throwing things the consumer way.
What’s your favorite kind of object to work with?
Eric: Statues. I mainly specialize in Ethnographic objects but I do lots of other things. When people from Africa were brought to the West Indies as slaves they needed to balance the ships so they cut down the mahogany trees and threw them in. It was the best mahogany, Cuban mahogany and it had taken years and years to grow. They used it to build furniture in the 18th and 19th century in England. I’ve worked on that furniture but it’s less popular nowadays.
Do you have any plans for the future?
Tinka: We were very optimistic when we first moved to Pop Brixton for the opportunity of working with the community. It was the whole reason that Pop Brixton exists. Ours is one of the seven subsidized units and we couldn’t survive without the subsidized space so for us it’s amazing. People don’t get up here to our workshop much to see what’s going on but Eric’s got 30 years of experience in fine art. He restores for people like Joss Graham, the biggest Ethnographic dealer in London who used to be an anthropologist. These things need to be shown through pictures and moving image. Eric has immersed himself in these three incredible worlds; Ethnographic, Georgian and traditional English furniture, of which there is little left, thanks goodness (I can’t stand the stuff). When you start doing Ethnographic restoration, you’re getting a much more holistic view of a culture, so it’s much more egalitarian. But Eric can and has turned his hand to all kinds of objects. We’re a little hidden here but I’ve realized we should be speaking more through social media. We don’t know how to use these ‘platforms’ like twitter but our friend (in the unit next to us) is fabulous and she’s helping us build a new website.