Remade Talks to Stuart Abbott About His Airplane Furniture
For this week’s guest blog we caught up with our retailer Stu-Art Aviation Furniture, an avid upcycler who repurposes salvaged aviation parts into contemporary furniture. We met up with Stuart before our big adventure to Grand Designs Live, busy concocting upcycling kits for his workshops and creating an amazing coffee table from a Lynx Helicopter! We quizzed Stu about what upcycling is, how he got stuck into designing aviation furniture and his hopes for his business reaching the sky!
Interview with an Aircraft Upcycler
What inspires you to upcycle? How did you get into upcycling?
I got into upcycling, purely through boredom! My wife watched far too much TV on Saturday nights, and I was an X-Factor widow, so I decided to start tinkering on my garage. As an aircraft engineer by trade, I stuck to what I knew and used aeroplane seats and upcycled them into office chairs. This started off as a bit of fun, I’ve always had projects to feed my hobby but I immediately realised that upcycling has so much potential! From then on I have not stopped reusing aircraft parts that would otherwise sit abandoned, unused and wasted.
Stuart’s workshop in the north east is packed with salvaged airplane parts and projects.
How did you get into working with aircrafts?
I worked in the RAF for 10 years and made redundant in 1998, I now work as a Civilian Aircraft Engineer. Knowing how aircraft parts are constructed and out of what materials has helped me develop my pieces. Aircrafts are built to withstand use by thousands of people all whilst flying at high speed through our skies, reinventing aviation parts means that they can be enjoyed for years to come. I want to highlight the amount of technique and time that is invested into creating aircraft, by creating my aviation furniture the skills can be celebrated!
Everyone has some form of connection with aircraft, whether you’ve jetted off on your holidays or you have worked on aircraft, it’s great that my customers can find a string connection with the furniture I make.
Stuart’s aircraft upcycling workshop
Now that you are a full time upcycler, take us through a usual day in your workshop…
I stroll down to the workshop at around 8 am, and boil the kettle. Although based up in Gateshead I am a Yorkshire lad, so a good old brew is always my first priority! With the radio blasting I get to work, I tend to start with customer orders in the morning.
Over the past year bespoke orders have been flying into the workshop I’m always amazed by what people want, I think it’s great that I can design furniture to fit a brief, suit someone’s style and create totally unique pieces. Every order I get, I see as a challenge it makes every day completely different!
I mostly work into the night to upcycle my own designs, I have a long – ever growing list of ideas, projects and designs which are always popping in my head.
There is also a salvaged mini in Stu-Art Aviation Furniture’s workshop
What would you say your most influential piece is?
Definitely my upcycled wine racks! I take aircraft trollies and transform them into wine racks, one of my biggest sellers these are a huge hit with my customers.
Upcycled Airline Trolley Wine Rack
The trollies form a similar type of function, as with all my products they tell a story, the original features, such as the Airline logos, wheels and the brake pedals means that my customers can relate to the wine rack. It’s fascinating to think where the upcycled wine rack travelled to in a previous life, and the thousands of customers this will have served.
I repaint the exterior of the trolly to remove any bumps and bruises, and inside I insert LED lights, for the wow factor! Using the original insulation features of the trolly, this can be used to keep any beers, wines and refreshments cool.
I’m also working on a few new products, involving shelving and storage, watch this space!
Before: When Stuart receives the salvaged airplane trollies, they often look a bit battered.
After: A finished airline trolley wine rack available to buy
Working in Aviation Furniture
What do you consider your biggest working achievement to be?
Building my own business! Creating Stu-Art Aviation Furniture has taken a lot of work, it isn’t your regular 9-5 job, I get up early and leave my workshop late in the evening. Even when I’m not in the workshop, I’m planning my next project, or travelling the length of the country sourcing aircraft parts and delivering furniture to my customers.
This is why it is so important to support small businesses and designers, it’s important to appreciate the devotion, passion and hard work that goes into creating our products.
Tools of the trade
The nuts and bolts of the operation
Do you have any top tips for budding upcyclers who might be reading?
Always see the potential, question what you can do transform waste material. Sometimes it just means taking a step back and looking from a different perspective, removing your logical head and thinking outside the box. Flip it on its side, turn it upside down. An upcycler doesn’t see the glass half empty or half full, they’d stick a handle on it and turn it into a mug. That’s the beauty of upcycling is seeing the best in a material and inventing a whole other use.
An upcoming upcycling project: Helicopter Coffee Table
Your First Upcycling Project
Do you remember your first upcycling project?
My two office chairs, which I upholstered in grey leather. This was the turning point where I transformed from aircraft engineer to upcycler. I made the chairs in my garage on a dreary Saturday night, with X-Factor in the background. This was a project that evolved into a hobby which is now my business! Work doesn’t feel like work, it’s great!
Airplane Chairs were the first dabble into aviation furniture for Stuart
Upcycling Thoughts & Opinions
Do you think that upcycling has reached an exciting new phase? Where do you hope upcycling will be in the future?
I would say that over the past year upcycling has exploded! From shop and restaurant fittings to household furniture the demand for unique and quirky furnishings has reached a new level! With the help of TV programmes there is a revival in buying products with a story, knowing where it has come from and who has made it. Which is great, you can now decorate your interiors by expressing your personality!
With the help of you guys (Remade in Britain) upcycling has a great future and has the potential to get even bigger, it’s about supporting smaller makers, saving the environment, reducing waste and embracing the unique!
Grand Designs Live Salvage Workshop
Do you have any exciting plans for the future? Are you looking forward to hosting your own workshops at Grand Designs Live?
I have so many plans ahead, there are far too many to list, but soon I will be working with the local council and children with learning difficulties. I’m really looking forward to this, it means that I can spread the word, challenge kids into becoming eco warriors and upcyclers! It’s important that we tackle the issue of waste and landfill, after all it is their future too!
I am really looking forward to Grand Designs Live, it’s a great opportunity for me, my business and spreading the word of upcycling! This is a great opportunity and will be a great learning experience!
Group Photo: Anna, Stuart and Michelle in Stuart’s workshop
We had an absolute ball interviewing Stuart and taking a guided tour around his busy upcycling studio, so a huge thank you for a fascinating interview, I have to say his enthusiasm for upcycling is contagious! Check out Stuart’s online store where you can commission your very own bespoke furniture or grab yourself a signature Aircraft Trolly Wine Rack!