Interview: Furniture upcyclers in Wales – Humblesticks

Portrait of Katy Shooter and Richard Holman
Humblesticks was established in 2013 by husband and wife team Richard Holman and Katy Shooter. Richard is a photographer and creative director of a design agency. Katy is a painter, sculptor and interior designer. Their upcycling adventure was born out of a love of rejuvenating found objects, but with only so much storage space available in their small cottage in South Wales, they decided to start selling their furniture online. I spoke to Katy Shooter about the duo’s design inspiration and their vibrant Humblesticks aesthetic.

Tell us about your creative background and how you first got into upcycling?

I did sculpture at art college and then continued to paint, exhibiting now and again. A stint window painting led to a spot of shop styling, then the odd job remodelling interiors. Interiors and fine art for me have always played along side each other and I enjoy flitting between the two. Plus, I’ve always been a sucker for flea market finds and revamping my own home. I source furniture from anywhere and everywhere – flea fairs, eBay, house clearances, friends, skips and charity shops. I’m a magpie always on the lookout.

Colourful upcycled lamp and chair by Humblesticks

How would you describe the Humblesticks style?

Quirky, bold, colourful design with a cheeky nod to mid-century style, but a definite 21st-century sensibility – and that doesn’t take itself too seriously!

Table upcycled with pink and orange geo pattern by Humblesticks

How do you decide on your colours and patterns before upcycling each piece?

It all happens quite organically. The style or shape of a piece I have in my workshop tends to dictate how colour is applied. I go through phases of loving pattern, but generally it is the furniture itself that offers up an idea. I use strong geometrics for simpler structures, for example, or softer, more subtle patterns for busier wood grains. I do tend to come back to a few favourites time and again: yellow, teal, grass green and pastel pink for colour, largely because these shades work well against all tones of woodgrain. I also love simple pattern such as triangles, raindrops, demi moons and sun rays, but nothing is set in stone.

Vintage bureau upcycled with painted blue raindrop pattern by Humblesticks

What has been your most popular product so far?

I’ve used a pattern of raindrops in a few furniture pieces which have been re-commissioned time and time again. In fact the last piece I worked on is a beautiful early 1950s G-Plan sideboard, which was given the ‘Rainy Day’ treatment and I have another one queued up to do next. Our Demijohn lamps are also very popular.

Upcycled gin bottle table lamp by Humblesticks

What do you enjoy most about the upcycling process?

I love seeing the potential in an object or piece of furniture that’s seen better days. When you’ve been upcycling for a while, you get really good at knowing how to get the best out of a shape, wood or design feature that’s been previously overlooked. It’s always exciting to be part of that transformation.

Vintage mid-century chair upholstered in blue patterned fabric

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start selling their own upcycled work?

Stick to a style of your own and don’t be swayed by what you think might sell. A clear identity across your work will create a stronger overall look to your shop or website. Know that you can’t please everyone all of the time. Be prepared to get dirty and put in the restoration work well before you start any cosmetic work where furniture is concerned. Above all, do it – the world needs more upcyclers!

Images via Humblesticks

Author: Antonia Edwards

Antonia is the founding editor of Upcyclist. Based in the UK, she is the author of two books: 'Upcyclist: Reclaimed and Remade Furniture, Lighting and Interiors' (Prestel 2015) and 'Renovate Innovate: Reclaimed and Upcycled Homes' (Prestel 2017).