A man inspired to learn how to upcycle furniture when he was just a teenager is marking 40 years in the trade.
On School Lane in Liverpool City Centre, tucked away in the storage units of Store Away, Vincent Snowball works his magic. He said: "I find furniture that people are giving away or are taking to the tip and then I bring it back to the workshop to restore."
What many people see as an old piece of furniture, destined for the tip, upholsterers like Vincent see as a blank canvas that can be redesigned into something new. He said: "When I get a piece of furniture I strip it down to it's frame and rebuild it from there using solid timber and good quality foam for the cushioning if need be."
Vincent is looking to take on an apprentice to help him as his workshop expands.
He wants to inspire someone in the way his mentor, Tony Mendy, encouraged him to learn upholstery 40 years ago. The upholsterer from Park Lane said: "When I was 19 I was in and out of trouble and it was my probation officer who offered me a job at onward industry on Vauxhall Road. When I got there and saw [who would become] my mentor Tony Mendy upholstering furniture I thought 'I want to do that'."
He said: "Tony was also a similar age as me and seeing how well he was doing really inspired me… Without Tony's incentive I wouldn't be here."
From there Vincent went to college to learn the art of upholstery while also running his own business on the side which he has continued to do ever since.
Upholstery is the process of replacing furniture with a covering and fitting springs and cushioning to make the furniture comfortable. Jobs can be as small as a stool and as a big as upholstering the interior of a pub; which was Vincent's biggest job to date.
The process of upholstery is a long one with jobs taking anywhere from a week to months. Vincent said: "It's so satisfying finishing a job, that's my favourite part of the job is when you see the product at the end of a project."
Closely related to upholstery is upcycling furniture, which is when old furniture is given a new lease of life by replacing the old or damaged seat cover or cushioning. This is the business Vincent runs from his workshop which he is currently in the process of setting up fully.
Having lost his old workshop in West Derby during covid; Vincent found a new home in Store Away. He said: The owner Richard Lanyon was impressed by my work so he asked me do some furniture for him and offered me a space in his storage units."
Vincent takes both commissions from people, on top of the unwanted furniture he finds. With the growing popularity of upcycling furniture, as people become more environmentally conscious, Vincent is starting to expand his business.
He said: "I'm just getting started on this new venture. I use to rely on word of mouth to get customers but now I'm looking at putting out some adverts and setting up a website."
Working with organisations, like The Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre, Vincent is now looking to take on an apprentice. He said: "I'll take anyone on as an apprentice of any age as long as they want the job and want to learn the trade I'll happily teach them."
This doesn't mean Vincent hasn't had a helping hand over the years, chiefly from his granddaughter. The grandad said: "She's amazing when she works on the furniture it's like she's a natural."
Vincent is hoping to have a website and fully operating business with an apprentice within the next couple of months. In the meantime he is still taking commissioners from customers on top of working on his own projects.