Circular Podcast with Jay Blades - Katie Treggiden Skip to content

Circular Podcast with Jay Blades

Welcome to Season 2 of Circular with Katie Treggiden. We’re kicking things off with Jay Blades, a modern furniture restorer, upcycler and eco designer who is passionate about sustainability and community. In this episode we discuss his history with furniture restoration, the importance of investing in the next generation of creators, why helping people you may never meet truly matters and lots more. Jay Blades is now best known for presenting the BBC’s Money for Nothing, The Repair Shop and most recently Jay and Dom’s Home Fix.

I’ve known Jay for a long time, so it was lovely to catch up with him for a proper conversation about a subject that is so close to both of our hearts. We discuss:- His earliest memory of repairing things. – His former non-profit Out of the Dark and teaching young people to repair and restore old furniture. – The reason future proofing is so important. – The end of his marriage, his experience with homelessness and how he came back from it all.

Below is a transcript of our conversation. Find the full episode available to listen on Spotify here.

Katie Treggiden 

I’m Katie Treggiden, and this is circular, a podcast exploring the intersections of craft, design and sustainability. Join me as I talk for the Thinkers, Doers and Makers of the circular economy. These are the people who are challenging the linear take, make waste model of production and consumption and working towards something better. In this series, we’re talking about repair.

Jay Blades 

One of the things that I love about restoration is it brings so many elements of people who have been put on, let’s say, the scrapheap. If you’re going to the educational system its kind of set out where if you don’t get the A* plus or you don’t get the grades, you really going to amount to nothing is kind of what they’re saying to you. If you get the A* you’re going college and go to university, have 2.5 kids and your happily ever after you’ve got a brilliant job. Whereas the way that I look at things, I look at sustainability as a whole. And some people look at it as Oh, you’ve got to separate your plastics from your paper and your glass and this and that. Sustainability includes people and these young people need to have something put into them that allows them to see themselves as sustainable, and a valued member within our society.

Katie Treggiden 

Jay Blades is a modern furniture restorer, upcycle and eco designer who’s passionate about sustainability and the environment. The ethos behind his own furniture brand JM CO is the source of vintage and beautifully crafted pieces of furniture and home accessories, and restore or reimagine them into works of contemporary design. And of course, he is now best known for presenting the BBC’s Money for Nothing, The Repair Shop, and most recently Jay and Dom’s Home Fix. I’ve known Jay for a long time. So it was lovely to catch up for a proper conversation about a subject that is so close to both of our hearts. So Jay, thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate it. It’s always a joy. I would like to start right at the beginning, if I may and ask you a little bit about your childhood, and how mending and repair showed up in your early life, if indeed they did at all.

Jay Blades 

Well, first of all, thank you for having me, cor Blimey, I’m working with a legend. I’m speaking to someone I’ve known for a number of years. And I’ve truly admired and has supported me right from the get go from when we started Out the Dark and stuff. So yeah. Anytime you call and ask me to do something, I’m there, no problem. But my childhood, the earliest memories of repairing, I think I grew up in a council estate in Hackney. And basically, we didn’t have much money and what used to happen, you just have to make do a mend. And one of the things that was really apparent for me growing up is that you can do it. You can repair stuff, you can make, I remember being given a frame by someone I think it was an unlce, or it was an older brother. Yeah, everybody’s your brother and your uncle in a council estate, everybody can tell you off. And basically, I remember getting a frame and said, Oh, you’ve got a bike now. And I’m like, there’s no handlebars, there’s no seat, there’s no wheels, there’s no chain, hold on, there’s no pedals, it was just the frame. And I think over a series of months started getting bits and bobs from different places, and then putting it all together. And I think I had the most oddest bike on the council estate because it just looked weird. So my earliest memories, I would say of any form of repair and was making my own bike. But then also we used to get a guy used to come around to the council estate and he had this big stone. And it’s the sharpen your scissors and your knifes and I remember my mum given me a set of knives and there was just a load of kids queuing up there. They’re just like, okay, like, we’re getting these knives sharpened, in this day and age and health and safety, they’d have said, No, you can’t do that. But I remember all of us kids jsut standing and chatting to each other and we give this guy some money I think it was like 20 pence, and he’ll sharpen all the knives for you. That’s really cool.

Katie Treggiden 

Amazing, I think it’s interesting you said about that idea that mending and repair sort of gives you a sense of agency, you know, a sense that actually well, I can sort this out myself or at least I can learn how to and that’s really important.

Jay Blades 

Yes for me growing up it was all about that kind of view at hand me downs, so you’d wear clothes that belonged to someone else. That was the original form of recycling, let’s say. And then you had people just giving you food not necessarily that you was poor it was just that it was a way of them saying well all I have to offer you this food. They couldn’t give you presents when in fact, but this this whole notion of making something I remember that I had this. I’m writing a book and sorry to plug it but a book comes out later on this year and

Katie Treggiden 

Plug away What’s it called?

Jay Blades 

It’s called Making it and it’s my autobiographyJay Blades 

The 13th of May.  And then I spoke to my mum because I said to my mum, now, what I was writing this book, and then I’ve got like an editor who’s working with me to do it. And it was like, there was this thing in all of the Caribbean kitchens that I never knew what it was  and he goes you’ve got to ask your mum about that and I said yeah I am. And what it was, is in Caribbean houses, you had this orange peel, so imagine peeling an orange, but doing it all as one. So it just, you just got this whole strand of an orange peel. And it used to hang up in the kitchen. And every house, my aunties, my uncles, any house, I went to everybody had one of these. And I was just like, I never knew what it was. And I grew up in the era where kids were seen and not heard. So you didn’t really ask too many questions, and then got to the ripe old age of 50. Awesome, Mum, why is that orange peel that was there?  You remember that? Yes what is that, I’d never asked you. And she said, Well, basically, when you had an upset stomach, or anybody had an upset stomach, because it was dry, you cut a piece, you put it in some boiling water, you drink it and it settles your stomach. I was like, Wow. So there was remedies there was like medicine that you necessarily couldn’t afford. You can make it yourself there was also just this whole, like, okay, you need a sofa. So you might get a hand me down and as you don’t have the opportunity to go to an upholsterer or pay for more fabric, you throw over it, you just put a throw over it and it became very, yeah, it will happen it will do that will do. Even when the settee, I I remember the chair, the springs or something went in, and we just got a bit of board bump. Just put it on there. That was it. Yeah. Sorted,

Katie Treggiden 

Amazing, when’s it out?

Jay Blades 

No, definitely. And it’s interesting to grow up in that era and seeing how relevant it is to design now. It’s just like, wow,  that upbringing I’ve had to me is brilliant. And I think was it your mum calling him a bodger, bodgers are quite skilled, they used to be in the woods. They were the ones that brought all of the timber down from the woods after they’ve made it into something and sell it in the market. They will make the legs and what have you,

Katie Treggiden 

Yeah, my mum always calls my stepdad a bodger, which I think she means as an insult, but I I think he’s incredible because he can just, we’ve got this key in our bathroom door that used to, you know, it’s like an old fashioned lock, and the keys fall out all the time. So he just attached a plug chain, from the key to the door handle. So now when it falls out, it’s just, you know, those little moments. Particularly, you know, if it was me, I’d just buy a new lock for the door, but I think that generation have that just that sort of engineering brain to see a problem and solve it with whatever they had around them. And I think, yeah, inspiring for those of us who are interested in design, right?

Katie Treggiden 

I think it’s a compliment, but I don’t think it was meant in that way.  You mentioned Out of the Dark and this was a charity that you set up in High Wycombe, to train disadvantaged young people in furniture restoration. And you set that up with your wife at the time, Jade, tell me a little bit about how that initiative came about and sort of what its purpose was?

Jay Blades 

Well, basically, Out of the Dark came about, I was running a charity called, well me and Jade, my ex wife, as a matter of fact, Jade says hello to you as well, because she knows I was doing this today. But we was running a charity called Street Dreams, which is basically about getting young people away from crime. So it was a fresh approach to sell problems. The council, police, social services Fire Service come to us and say we’ve got a hot spot area where young people are committing crime and we need you to go in there and sort it out. Funding started drying up and we needed to continue working with those young people because one of the things that we operated when we started running all these charities, it was a case of working ourselves out of a job, which basically means that you work with a group of young people who are disengaged, then they become engaged and where do they go with all that energy, then we employ them and then they start to become the new youth leaders. So as we want to continue working with these young people, Jade came up with the wonderful idea of restoring old furniture because there was a desk that we had been donated via I think it was BT gave us a desk and they said oh, you can farm it on to the young people that you work with. And they used to give us laptops and what have you as well. And this young person had been given this desk but he wanted to decorate it. So he brought it to my back garden and we worked on it together. And Jade was in the kitchen she’s looking out for the window and she’s like, that’s a project idea. So she comes running out telling me and this young guy, I’ve got a brilliant project, it’s a brilliant project, and it’s all based around this desk. And the young person looked quite shocked. He was this is my desk. This project I think is brilliant. And yeah, I can see the young person is getting what I said Jade can he take the desk home? Oh, yeah, no problem he can take it home, but it’s the idea based around that you teaching young people how to do furniture. And I’m like, Okay, cool. So it came about along the lines of Jade just explaining what she saw through the kitchen window, and then came up with a project idea of teaching young people how to revamp and restore old furniture. But with doing that, you need a teacher and I’m just, I was just DIY guy, I didn’t really know much I was on building sites and whatever. And so I knew nothing about restoration. And what we then decided to do was, go to the community and ask for their support. Luckily, we was based in High Wycombe at the time, which used to be the furniture capital. So when I went round to Neighbourhood Watch Schemes, WI groups, Age Concern, when we went around to all of these different retirees or the older generation, we was inundated with people offering to come and teach us how to crochet, how to cane, how to do this or that,, it was like, unbelievable. So alongside the young people being taught, I was getting taught how to do these crafts, it was quite magical. Our oldest teacher was a guy called Ken, he was based in our retirement home in Beconsfield. And we used to take these chairs, and basically I had a job, we had a job coming to Out of the Dark,  this lady had eight Victorian oak chairs, she wanted reclaiming, we didn’t know how to do it, we took the job on because one of our mentors said, accept any job, and then figure out how you’re going to do after.  So we took the job on and then we had to find someone that can do this work and luckily we found Ken. So we used to take these chairs to the retirement home and they had a little shed for him. He wasn’t allowed to come to us because of health and safety. But we was allowed to come to him. And it was probably the most magical lesson, education, I’ve had in how to a cane or reclaim a chair. And Ken would tell us stories or watch us doing the work. And if you’ve got it wrong,  he’ll give you a little smack with a piece of cane or and he would say right you’ve got that wrong? And it was just like, oh, okay, well. Yeah, it’s quite funny.

Katie Treggiden 

And how did the young people you were working with react to sort of seeing these pieces of furniture that had been written off? You know, kind of put in a box of broken and unwanted? How did the young people react to kind of seeing them brought back to life given a new life being transformed?

Jay Blades 

The young people, for me how they reacted was very, very urban, I would say, when I first got in contact with them, and they came from loads, and we got referrals from all over from social services, police, schools, self referrals, you name it we was getting them. But the initial cohort when I was explained to them what we’re intending on doing, I couldn’t tell them that we’re going to teach them how to restore and revamp old furniture, really, and surely that would not turn them on. But what turned them on was the case of I’m going to show you how to make money from nothing. And that was that hold on, put it that, that’s impossible. We can’t do it. And I said, Well, you see that chair that someone’s throwing away. Yeah, I was kicking that chair around the other day it’s rubbish. So we’re going to turn that into a desirable object where we can see, well, I can see there’s £150 sitting there. And then they’re engaged. They’re like, whoa, hold on, you’re going to turn that chair that I throw against the wall into £150. And then when they see the transformation, and one of the things with that thought which was quite beautiful, the young people saw the transformation from start to end. So they would see a broken piece of furniture, then they would learn the skills and how to repair it and bring it up today. Then they would learn about the fabric different fabric designers and the textures and the kind of techniques that they utilise. They learn about magazines and they learn about bloggers like yourself, who were very influential in them putting your product into the right market publications. And furniture stores such as Hills, from they learn that they learn about business but the transformation you could see the light bulbs constantly switching on in their head it was like “bleep, bleep, bleep” and even when we had the opportunity of there was a photographer and I’m trying to remember,  Kate Davis, that’s her name and she came down and taught some of our young people to take pictures. She was a photographer at Hills and now she’s going solo but she taught our young people the composition, the lighting, this and that. And it was just the all of our young people do just switched on. Some of them liked photography more, some of them warmed more to restoration and some of them loved HR, so dealing with that side of business. So it switched them on in more ways than one.

Katie Treggiden 

And what did they go off and do? Are there young people that you’re sort of still in touch with who’ve gone on to work and repair and restoration? Or was it more just kind of learning a skill set that they could apply elsewhere in life

Jay Blades 

I would say, of the 100% that we deal with those, 50% have gone into restoration, or gone into furthering their education. So learned upholstery,  gone into project management, furniture, interior designing and stuff like that. A lot of them have just gone on to normal jobs. And I think with the kind of group of young people we used to have them just getting out of bed was a bonus, then not smoking or doing some low level crime is a winner. I remember when I was speaking to Sean Sutcliffe, and he came down to visit us at Out of the Dark, he was asking these young people, well, who’s that designer? Who made that chair made this and who did that? And Sean said to me, Jay, hold on a minute these guys know nothing about the design. I said, Sean, this is not your average group of young people you’re dealing with these young people, some of them are here because the police have told them, these young people do crime, these people are smoking, their parents can’t even get them motivated, for them to actually be speaking to you is a bonus. So all of that will come later, what we have to do is get them engaged to then be able to say you can achieve something, you can achieve anything you want. Just because someone at the educational authorities said that because you’ve got no qualifications, you are nothing. That isn’t the case. So that’s what I was explained to Sean.

Jay Blades 

You think there’s a metaphor, and don’t let me put words in your mouth, tell me if I’m wrong. But there’s a metaphor between kind of taking this furniture that’s been written off and restoring it, and the young people who perhaps have been written off by schools or by police and kind of giving them the skills to prove themselves.

Jay Blades 

Yeah. I agree with you 110%. I don’t agree with them proven themselves, I agree with them proving themselves to themselves. It’s like one of the things that I love about restoration is it brings so many elements for people who have been put on, let’s say, the scrapheap. If you go into the educational system, it’s kind of set out where if you don’t get the A*+ or you don’t get the grades you really can amount to nothing is kind of what they’re saying to you, if you get the A* you’re going to college and go to university, have 2.5 kids and your happily ever after you’ve got a brilliant job. Whereas the way that I look at things, I look at sustainability as a whole. And some people look at it as Oh, you’ve got to separate your plastics, from your paper in your glass in the centre. Sustainability includes people, and these young people need to have something put into them, that allows them to see themselves as sustainable, and a valued member within our society. So that’s what it was all about. It was saying, see that piece of chair that’s over there. And it’s knackered, it’s rubbish, most people just kick it, we’re going to turn that into something desirable. And to try and explain to the young people that there is a direct connection between that desirable item that was rubbish and now it’s desirable, it’s exactly the same as you.  I’m going to give you all of the skills that you’re going to put in your rucksack, that when you go to a job interview, or you go somewhere, you’re going to feel proud of what you’ve achieved. And what you’ve achieved is the unachievable because most people are totally not gonna amount to anything, but you’re able to restore something, restore it, bring it back to life, or redesign it, or even take a beautiful picture, which allows it to be sold or communicate with somebody in media, that means we’re going to get a piece in a magazine that is just as important as restoring.

Katie Treggiden 

Yeah, and I think that’s a really important point that’s often missed in the environmental movement. You know, that’s why I love the triple bottom line model, which is people planet and profit. You know, of course, you’ve got to make profit if your profit making business, you know, the planet, but I think people are increasingly coming around to but there’s also the people, you know, we can’t have environmentalism at the cost of people, we kind of have those things, I think, a really intersectional actually, I think they’re really related

Jay Blades 

Definitely 110%. I think that I’ve never heard of that one before. But I’m going to take that because that’s really good. And you always come out with these just that profound ways of seeing,

Katie Treggiden 

It wasn’t me that came up with

Jay Blades 

But your knowledge. You have all of this and you just have it at your fingertips. But yeah, people are very, very important. Profit is important. But sometimes, I would say, no, I think people and planet are very important to me, especially when it comes to community work because I worked in the community sector, and really, there is no profit in working within the community, the community, you’re doing it for the love. And you’re kind of doing it for people you’re never going to see so I have this kind of way of functioning. Now that I’m here on this planet to influence people I’m never going to meet. And that means that I have to leave a legacy, create something that can be taken over by someone else, or redesigned by someone else. And then they would say, well, I kind of got that idea from that person, but this is what I’ve done with that idea. And that, to me, is what future proofing is all about, let’s make sure that the future is bright for people who are not here yet because if we continue the way that we’re continuing in this planet, we’re not going to leave them a pretty problem. It’s going to be quite messy.

Katie Treggiden 

Yeah, absolutely. So after Out of the Dark, there was a bit of a perfect storm, in which your marriage broke down,Out of the Dark lost funding, and you became homeless for a little while. Are you happen to talk about kind of that period of your life and how you moved on from it?

Jay Blades 

Absolutely happy. I think the the thing that I had, for a number of years, I was running Street Dreams with Jade, my ex wife and then running Out of the Dark, were very successful. But then I messed up, and basically didn’t have the kind of what’s the word I’m looking for. I didn’t have our relationship at the forefront of my kind of existence. So when I fell down, I had to leave. I left the family home, because basically, I was being naughty. I had, I cheated and that wasn’t great. And it was a case of right. I’m in this space, my brain was just in a space where it was totally messed up. And I remember getting in the car and I remember driving and before I turned the ignition, I remember thinking to myself, I was istting in the car, must have been about, it felt like a day, but it was only for like five minutes. And I remember saying to myself, hello, you are so important to the community, you’ve helped so many people mow you’re so strong for so many different people if you turn around and you ask someone for help, what would they think of you? You can’t ask the people who you’ve helped for help? Because they will look at you like hold on a minute you’re the one that’s always strong for us, but how can I help you if you’ve helped me and it was a really weird conversation I was having myself in the car. And it just totally messed up. So I’ll take you back a little bit. What happened? I cheated on my relationship with Jade. So Jade didn’t want to continue Out of ther Dark with myself, Jade dealt with all of the finances the whole shabang, I dealt with the young people the practical running of Out of the Dark. So Out of the Dark started going downhill because of that, because there was one side that wasn’t functioning, then it had to come to a complete halt. We had a number of young people that was working for us that I had to make sure that they had received the redundancy money and all that kind of good stuff. And I remember saying to a young person, once all of this is sorted, I’m going to go missing for a few days because this is a lot for me to take on. And I got in the car and I had that little conversation with myself that who could I ask for help. And like he called no one. So I got in a car and I drove and I didn’t even know where I was driving to all I know is I left my phone, I left everything in the house and I just got in the car and drove and it was only when I got to I think I was in the M4 or M5, the car side flashing, there was a red light petrol was coming on. And I pulled into this petrol station, put some petrol in and then I saw a like a retail part that had like a Dixon’s and some other bits and there was a McDonald’s there. Remember getting a double cheeseburger, and I sat in this car, and I just went to sleep after I ate it. And I woke up the next day, people were hustling and bustling. And I remember sitting in that car park and I was looking at all these people going by their day to day activities. And it was almost as if I was an observer  I couldn’t see what I should be doing the next day. Like I couldn’t, I couldn’t function. It was like my body was numb. Everything was like dead. I was like a zombie. I don’t know what zombies like by cannot. That is what you know, it’s just like, The Walking Dead. that’s why I felt like I was just sitting in the car. I think it was only, I sat in a car for almost about a week. And I remember getting out and apologies it gets a bit crude, but you’ll get get the gist of this. I sat in his car for a week I hadn’t washed and cleaned or anything in the same clothes. And I remember getting out and going to the toilet because I used to go to toilet in McDonald’s. And I remember looking around like, what was that? And my smell had become a presence. It was like I turned around I was like, you know when you feel someone beside you can like if someone’s walking too close to you, you can feel them you just know that. You’re a bit close mate. You want to back up? I turned around thinking there was someone there. It was my body odour and it had such a stench.

Jay Blades 

Sorry I shouldn’t laugh

Jay Blades 

You should laugh, you should laugh because now that I’m thinking about, it really shocked me out. I because I turned around and thought someone was there. It was the smell of me. And I was oh, that’s quite bad. So I remember I had some money in my pocket. And there was a hotel up the road.. I said, right, I’m going to go and get washed up because I need to, if my smell has got its own postcode, I need to get rid of that, it’s not good. So then, I drove to this hotel, I went to a shop, got some shampoo, shower gel stuff, and then took myself to this hotel. And I remember that the police, Jade had reported me missing, and the police were on lookout for me, but it was the only time my number plate had come up on the radar. So as it came up on the radio, they knew to send the police to where I was just to make sure I was okay. And at the same time of the police during that Jade contacted Gerald who’s a businessman in Wolverhampton, who has now become like my brother and my kind of guardian angel that looks after me. So he came and got me and I was sitting in his car and all this time I had my shower gel, but I still didn’t have a bath, I hadn’t had a wash yet. The police came, he came, it happened so quick. It was like, oh, man, oh, I got to be interviewed by the police and Gerald came and it’s come in the car I want to speak to you. Okay, but I’ve got this  shower gel I want to take a shower. I booked this room at this hotel.  Sat in his car chatting to him and I just started crying. First time ever I’ve ever cried in front of s man in front of s black guy. And never had anybody that, he never took the mickey out of me. So sitting in his car, and I’m crying away like proper  crying, like full on crying like a baby cried, snot crying everything. But it was unreal. And then he said to me and I’ll never forget it. I’ve got a job for you. I was like, hold on a minute. My body odours got his own postcode is sitting in the back of your car. I’m here with a shower gel, snot running out my nose, I’m crying. I know, I don’t look the best and you’ve just offered me a job. Can’t you see I’m crying. And he just couldn’t. I didn’t say to him, but I was thinking, he said yeah I think I’ve got a job for you this this project I’ve got community projects. And do you want it, you know what, let’s go. And he just drove me to these offices where there was this, he probably had about 15 people in there. He runs high end clothing shops. So these people all dressed up to the nines, all smelling beautiful, looking fabulous. Now theres stig of the dump walking in with his  postcode body odour walking in, and it’s like he’s introducing me to all these people. And I’m just like, this is extremely awkward, because I know if I can smell my odour, what are they gonna think? And yeah, it just, I’ll never forget that! But to answer your question, because that was a long way of answering it. How did I get myself back? I got myself back via the community. So Gerald, I lived with him for two weeks. And then he put me to live with his mum and his stepdad and they they gave me life again, they reborn me. So they nourished me, they loved me, they cared for me and built me back up to where I am today. And I’m still in the family’s arms. I’m still going around and having dinner every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. We have Saturday soup. So Mum, as I call her, she’s my second mum. She makes sure that I’m alright, I’m resting and I’m not working too hard. Dad is a guy that she was with and he’s the first man I’ve ever called dad. And he teaches me how to cook. And they teach me just to be a dad basically. And it’s Yeah, it’s really, really nice. So it’s a massive leap that I’ve made in explaining it. But it’s, there’s so many things that have happened to me, I can’t even believe it myself. It’s just like, really, really, really, it’s just too much.

 

Katie Treggiden 

I’m trying a few different ways of supporting the podcast this time around. So we’ll be back after a short break. And thank you so much to everybody who helped to make this season happen.

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Katie Treggiden 

Do you now feel differently about, you sort of started the story by saying you’d help so many people you didn’t feel you could ask for help. Has your perspective on that changed now?

Jay Blades 

Most definitely, my perspective on asking for help is like I’ll ask, I think the first time I asked Gerald was for £100 pound, it took me a week to ask him for a £100, to build up the courage to ask him. And then when I asked him, he said, Yeah, no problem. And he gave me the money, and he held my hand or somebody has given me the money. And I thought here we go there’s gonna be a catch. And he said, You never have to worry about asking me for money, I will support you until you’re ready to fly. And I didn’t even tell him that I was, it took me a week, but he knew it was a big deal. Yeah, and he’s been supporting me ever since he’s still in my life, as is his mum, who I classify as mum and he stepdad who I call my dad. They’re supporting me 110%. So I will always ask for help and he is someone that I’ve asked for guidance on the financial issues and just just stuff because when it when you’re not necessarily a celebrity, well they call me a celebrity. But when you’re a celebrity, there’s a lot of stuff that comes your way. And all I really want to do is be in my workshop, dancing with some paint and some fabric and just having a great time. But you’d have to make decisions on the load of other stuff and it’s kind of like really do I have to. Yeah. he helps me out with that.

Katie Treggiden 

Yeah, it’s important to have people you can talk to about that stuff, I would imagine. So then the BBC came knocking on your door. Tell me about that call was Money for Nothing the first show?

Jay Blades 

The Money for Nothing was the first what happened was when I was Out of the Dark, The Guardian newspaper came and done a video of us. And that video went viral. There was a big one. It’s a little bit of a story. I’ll try and speed it up about The Guardian. They emailed Jade and said, Oh, we want to do this video of Out of the Dark think its really create, blah, blag and so okay, cool. So they sent this guy to come down and film it so it comes out, they said we need five days with you. Cool. Five days. Really good. capture a lot of stuff. Comes out on the first day. He’s got no camera. Okay, cool. No problem, Jade says he’s got no camera don’t worry probably second day he’s just feeling it all out. Second day comes, he’s got no camera. I said Jade what’s going on here you said they’re going to film us, there’s no camera second day. She  says don’t worry he will come on the third day he’ll bring a camera. I said you know what he might have one those little secret cameras in his tie or something? And she said, No, no, no, no, no, they’re gonna really film comes down on the third day he still has no camera. So I said to him, excuse me, mate, I thought you’re filming, like what’s going on? And he said, really confidently, What I need to film hasn’t happened. And I was like, you are unbelievably confident. So he said, I’m bringing my camera tomorrow and the next day and I will film and it will be fabulous. Like a true artist. this guy film in the next two days, and he captured some of the most brilliant stuff. It went viral on The Guardian. All of these TV companies started contacting us left right and centre. And it was insane Jade was inundated with offers for me to be on this show, that show. So to cut a long story short, Money for Nothing came along and done a pilot of The Money for Nothing Show. We also had Studio Lambert they came down and done a pilot. There was also think it was loads of people came , different pilots and wanted me to be in loads of different stuff. But then Out of the Dark folded, I came to Wolverhampton and Money for Nothing got back in contact with me to say they’ve got the go ahead to start this show would I like to be part of it. So I was an artisan, first of all, on the first two series of Money for Nothing, and then I became a presenter on series 3 and I’d done it up until I think it’s series 9 I did it until and then in between that time I’d done a show we’ve got one Filel your House for Free. And then Repair Shop came calling..

Katie Treggiden 

Now you’re presenting The Repair Shop, co-presenting Jay and Dom’s home-fix and hanging out with Mary Berry on Christmas specials.

Jay Blades 

I tell you what when that phone call came through to me agent, I was just like, I’m doing it. She just said there is a possibility of you working on Christmas special with Mary. I said I’m doing it you don’t even have to say the second name, I’m doing it. I know what it is let’s do it. That was a real joy. And to find that Mary Berry is I mean, such a fan of the Repair Shop. I mean, she was explaining episodes to me that I almost forgot about Mary really. She said yeah, we go home, I go home my husband’s got my drink there and he’s there and we sit down together and we watch,  If I’m not there, if I’m filming, it’s the next day, he never watches it without me. I was like, really Mary. She did say this. I was the first person she asked for on that Christmas special. You know, when they ask who do you want I want Jay, and you have to think  of other people,  Oh, yeah, you can pick them. But it’s quite cool. Actually, when she said that, to me, she’s a gorgeous lady. And I mean, when there are people in TV who surpass their kind of reputation. I see her as a nice person on TV, but when you meet her in real flesh, someone like her doesn’t have to be nice, because they’re really long enough. beyond that point of being nice. But she is so genuine. Yeah. Unbelievable. Me being on Mary Berry, come on. Crazy. And I’ll tell you what, I’ll give you the biggest scoop ever, I have Mary Berry’s mobile number.

Jay Blades 

Imagine that, I mean you’ve made it Jay

Jay Blades 

The guy from Hackney, he’s got Mary Berry he can just call her

Katie Treggiden 

Alongside all the TV work, you do also run Jay & Co through which you create statement furniture and I’d love to talk to you about your approach to restoration, because I think it would probably get purists a little hot under the collar. You’re not one for putting sort of classic pieces back to how they once were, you’re more likely to paint a leg or bright colour or pick a really bright, tell me about, defend yourself to the purists.

Jay Blades 

I can defend, the general issue that the hardest thing to do is to defend myself to the purists. The purists have a valid statement, but one of the things I would say to the purist is, that majority of the items I obtain, were going into landfill, a lot of these items are kind of like, people don’t want them. So they are  purists who say you’ve got to leave it as it is, it’s okay, I can leave it as is anybody going to buy it? Is that going to keep the kind of sustainability going, I need this to go back into the market, I need to compete with my competitors. And for the purist, my competitors are the likes of IKEA, John Lewis, Furniture Village, and DFS, these are the guys that are doing things at a volume that basically I have to follow suit in what they’re doing. So if I kept it as a purist item, and my market is very, very small then so I need to branch out. And also, I have some form of creativity. And I think my creativity should be allowed to be on an item that I think needs it, because some of these items. Some of them are a little bit tired. And I’m not talking the purest of the purest, not talking like a classic Eames or a classic, what’s his name, I really enjoy Ernest Race, his furniture, the original upcycler. Their furniture is just to die for. But when you’re trying to reintroduce something into the modern market and make people get the notion of why something should be pure, the frame is still pure, that the essence of the design, I don’t necessarily change it. I update it with the fabric and the foam that needs to adhere to current kind of specifications. And not everybody wants to live in a house that looks like a museum. Not everybody wants that kind of style. So some people want that little bit of quirkiness, that little bit of oh that looks quite smart. I don’t know why it looks smart. But that looks that looks different. Where’d you get that from? Can I get one? No, you can’t. There’s only one in the world. And that’s what I create. And I think the purists, you can have so many, let’s say Robin day chairs that are all the same, and not everybody’s going to want a Robin day chair in their house, they might want it in a completely different colour that doesn’t suit their colour scheme. We are all individuals. And as we’re all individuals, we should be able to create our individuality with anything that we create. And that could be writing, reading, it could be painting, drawing, you can bring your own flavour to it. So I’ve met so many purists along the way, not only for me puting the fabric or painting some particular chairs, but even just doing upholstery, I put one button on a chair, the amount of upholsters that have said to me, you can’t do that, that’s not the way to do it. You’ve got to put five, three or seven. Why are you putting one, because I want to, but it’s not right. We don’t teach that in the books. I said, I’m not teaching it in a book. Never. Never. I just want to do it this way. Right? It’s not right. They shouldn’t do it that way. Just one button on a chair. No, it’s not heard of. But it’s kind of cool. I love that everybody is different and everybody has a valid opinion and everything but everyone has the right to do things their way. And that’s all I’m doing it. I’m just doing it my way.

Jay Blades 

Absolutely. I remember the first time I saw and I can’t, it was it was a designer chair. I can’t remember which designer it was. And you painted one leg red and put this really bonkers fabric on it. And I was like, What is he doing? But then my next thought was, I kind of like it I like I like the almost the audaciousness of it that this person designed this and now I’m designing the next phase of its life. So I get to pick what that looks like.

Jay Blades 

Exactly, yeah. And you can pick what it looks like. And then it goes on to live another and the beauty of it is this a lot of the designs came from a mistake. So the one painted leg it came from two different mistakes. There was a young person who Travis used to work on Out of the Dark, we used to give him a chair to paint and without fail I don’t know what it was with Travis he would paint three legs and leave one leg. So paint the whole chair and then like he’s just left this one leg. And when we got finished Jay, next one. Travis you haven’t finished this, no it’s done I need the next chair And everybody started laughing, like Travis you’ve left a leg again. Like he would always leave one leg. And then there was a time when I was in Wolverhampton, and I think it was Money for Nothing I was working on at the time. And they gave me these Ercol chairs. And I painted them. And I always paint the light colour first. And then I knew I was going to paint all of the legs black apart from one what’s going to be blue I was thinking of. But first of all, I was gonna paint all of them blue. And I remember painting this one chair leg blue on an Ercol and then the phone rang. I was on the phone, I looked at the chair and I was like, that looks beautiful. And then person on other end said what you talking about. I said I’ve got to go and put the phone down. And basically the design came to me that one leg and then all the rest black and what it does, especially with this Ercol stick back chair, it made you really look at the design, because once you highlighted one leg, it made you identify all of the different components in it, that made it an Ercol to me, I love the designs, especially the original ones that it’s like the Maccano of furniture, you can see exactly how it’s put together. And you can see why it was put together and why that joint is needed there to make that strong, but then balances the whole chair, by painting one leg it made me see the designer, work out how he puts all that stuff together. And that’s all I wanted everybody else to see. And that’s what it did. That’s how it came about.

Katie Treggiden 

That’s really smart. I like that. Right? We need to dig into The Repair Shop a little bit more. For anybody who hasn’t seen it, and I’m assuming they’re in the minority. It’s centred around the idea of members of the public bringing family heirlooms or sentimental items that are broken to the Weald and Downland Living Museum to be repaired by one of the specialists craftsman. And you’re sort of overseeing this whole thing. Now as a pitch, that doesn’t sound that engaging, and yet somehow it’s magical. What is it about that show? Do you think that has really sort of captured the hearts of the British public? What makes it so special?

Jay Blades 

I think what makes it so special is its community. It’s love. And it’s doing something for someone that you don’t know, it’s caring for people. And it’s the celebration of crafters, but it’s going back to a bygone era where we’re looking at repairing things. It’s like a lot of people now have grown up in this consumer society, which is always broken buy another one. We’ll get it next day delivery, it will come or we can just click this button and here it is. Where as everybody? All the experts we’ve got on The Repair Shop. These guys and girls, they are master craftspeople and they’re able to turn something around, which is not only an item, but is a family member that is steeped in so many memories for that person, that’s like, wow, and you’re quite right. I think when you pitch an idea, like The Repair Shop, no one’s gonna want to see anybody repairing something, really whats so exciting, I know it’s their family heirloom, but it’s quite boring. And but really, when you look at the show, has grown from being on BBC Two, and then went to BBC One on the daytime, then it’s gone up to primetime. It just shows for its popularity that people want it. We’ve got up to about 7 million people watching the show. And it’s like, that’s a lot of people that are interested in someone repairing something like really, like you’re really interested and really what they are really interested in is recycling, because that’s all we’re doing really on the show. We’re not throwing this family heirloom into a landfill site. We’re showing that you can repair it, which means it has been recycled to do something which it was born to do again, but the biggest thing is recycling doing is those memories and loving memories are just unbelievable. Unbelievable. Yeah.

Katie Treggiden 

Yes I think there’s real power in the stories that an object gathers over time. You know, something that’s new doesn’t, it might be shiny and clean, but it’s got no stories yet. And I think there’s that, you know, the family stories and the memories that come out in that show are really powerful. So from a sustainability perspective, what can we learn? What can we all learn from The Repair Shop? From your work with Jay and Co, perhaps even looking back to, Out of the Dark? What are  the sustainability lessons?

Jay Blades 

I think the sustainability lessons for me and anybody I speak to, it’s all about community. And we should be looking on our doorstep first and foremost, because I know there is a global thing that we’re trying to address with regards to everybody, the overuse of plastics, and so on and so forth. I know it’s killing the planet. But locally, something like The Repair Shop, even Out of the Dark has shown me that you can come together as a local community, and you can achieve unbelievable things. You can achieve something for your your immediate community first and foremost, but then it branches out. So The Repair Shop started from an idea of the creative director, or the creative team at Ricochet, the production company does it. The young lady took her chair, her mom’s chair, when her mom passed away to an upholsterer to be reupholstered.  When she got the chair back, she fell in love with a chair, but what really clicked is the upholsterers save the fabric that mum used to sit on and framed it. And she broke down in tears. And very similar to Gerald, what she did was get a TV idea. The guy’s like, no, it’s a frame of your mum’s fabric that used to be on the chair. And she’s like, No, no, no, no, I’ve got it. This, this is it. And she came up with the repair shop. And she came up with a repair shop because of the way she felt. So that in itself started from family members community, this upholsterer doing something a little bit out of the ordinary, which he wasn’t supposed to do, but he did it because it’s a nice thing. And how it made her feel then allowed her to create a TV show, which then affects 7 million people, which then can affect even more, because it’s all about locally, what can we do. And if we can reach out to do something for someone, whether that is repairing an item, or helping someone across the road? It’s as simple as that, that it doesn’t have to be a big thing. It can start small. So sustainability, a long answer but it’s about community.

Katie Treggiden 

Yeah and I think that’s really powerful because, you know, climate change is this huge, complicated problem. And no one of us or no group of us is going to solve it on its own. So I think we all almost need to work out. What’s the little bit we can do, you know, locally within our own skill set within our own communities to kind of move towards a more circular economy. How do you feel that opinions towards repair and mending are changing?

Jay Blades 

I think they’ve almost gone back full circle to the times where I used to have that guy with the stone come around my council estate,  We have a number of they’re not related, but they’ve got similar name, there are Repair cast springing up all up and down the land where you can take your toaster or your other bits and bobs for these people to repair them. There’s men in their sheds out there doing their bit. And I think this bug of kind of like the make do and mend culture has definitely come back. The repairing has definitely come back because even if you look at the rise of upcycling DIY, especially during the first lockdown that I think B&Q sales went through the roof, because everybody’s just doing it themselves. So there is this real drive back to just making stuff and repairing and just getting it done. Let’s not buy, let’s not make those big companies even more powerful, because we keep on clicking that button and we get it in the next day. This, I can fix that shelf. No problem. I could do that. I could do that. So yeah, repairing has definitely come back.

Katie Treggiden 

And what do you think the future holds? Do you think this is a sort of trend that’s been driven by the fact we’re all spending a lot more time at home? What do you think this is a sort of genuine long term shift?

Jay Blades 

It’s a definite long term shift. This is a it’s a way of thinking. I think what the COVID has done for us, is basically got us to sit down and really check out what we’re doing to this planet. And what we’re doing to our immediate environment, which is your house first and foremost. And then outdoor environment, the way that we was clapping for nurses on the first day, the same way DIY is been going through the roof. People are really consciously thinking hold on a minute I think I might have consumed too much before. Now it’s time to just put back into my community and my house. So yeah, it’s I don’t think it’s a trend that’s gonna go away once COVID is lifted, doubt it very much. I

Katie Treggiden 

Brilliant thank you so much today that’s been absolutely. I mean, I suspect we could both sit here and talk about this stuff until the cows come home

Jay Blades 

You’re more than welcome.

Katie Treggiden 

If you enjoyed this episode, can I ask you to leave a review, and perhaps even hit subscribe? I’ll be honest, I don’t really understand how the algorithm works, but I’m told those two actions really help other people to find the podcast so that would be amazing. Thank you. You can find me on Instagram @Katietreggiden.1, you can subscribe to my email newsletter via a link in the show notes. And if you’re a designer maker, you should really join my free Facebook group Making Design Circular. See you there.  This episode was produced by Sasha Huff, so thank you to Sasha, to October Communications for marketing and moral support,  to Sugru for their sponsorship, and to you for joining me. You’ve been listening to circular with Katie Treggiden