Sustainability is the theme at Here & Now for September, which coincides with a beautiful and fascinating pop-up musical instrument shop at Colonnade House by a unique Worthing business.
Here & Now spoke to Andrew at Salvage Sounds about their family-run “alternative luthier” business, specialising in the creation of non-conventional stringed instruments using re-purposed parts and upcycled materials.
The Salvage Sounds ethos is about creativity, uniqueness, upscaling and fun.
I’m now the proud possessor two of these instruments myself; a two string Canjo and the Tex Mex, a three-string guitar made from a Texan car registration plate, which can be plugged into a guitar amp at whatever volume your neighbours can support. Then last month, I picked up a two string “Tinjo” (made from a presentation tin) as a gift for a friend, so I’m fully bought in.
Andrew can take an old cigar box, empty coffee tins, the registration plate of a long-scrapped vehicle or a wooden pencil case, then design and craft quirky but fully functioning musical art pieces in their own right. “For some, it’s wall art first and musical instrument second,” says Andrew, “but it is funny that everybody seems to mention how they have hung it somewhere they can easily pick it up and start playing. Accessibility is what it is all about: accessible instruments at an accessible price point. Getting people playing music and involved with the pieces is always more important to me than profit.”
Each instrument is deliberately simplified, with fewer strings than their standard equivalents. This means, not just that fun becomes more accessible to all ages and abilities, but when more experienced players pick them up, they have to play them in a new and exciting, stripped-down way. The production process is similarly stripped-down.
“There are no workshops or heavy-duty machinery involved in the manufacture of the instruments. Save for the use of a basic electric drill, each is made almost entirely using only simple hand tools: saws, files, hammer and chisel… and lots of sandpaper.”
So Andrew, why Worthing? Does being in Worthing bring any advantages?
Like many, I moved to Worthing in adult life as an outsider, with no particular preconception of the area, and immediately felt at home. In the last few years things have really kicked on a level with so many good things happening like the Creative Hub at Colonnade House or the amazing facilities at Durrington Northbrook MET campus and Here & Now mag – for its celebration of Worthing culture and life in the town.
Somebody once told me that they wanted to move to Worthing when it was described to them as “like Brighton in the 70s”! That isn’t to suggest Worthing is considered behind the times or dated – but is a comment to the vibe, pace and space.
I like the analogy of a cool younger sibling – stepping out from the shadows and developing its own identity, while sharing certain characteristics and influences still. I think that in the town being in ways something of a calmer, less intense version of its more famous coastal compatriot – a business like Salvage Sounds has a better chance of being noticed, standing out from the noise and creative saturation.
I have to say, being in Worthing was particularly advantageous when Coast Café used to put out their empty cans which was reused for our best-selling instrument – the 2-string “Canjo”! Sadly they have switched to sacks now.
How do you connect into business locally?
Our creations have reached eight or nine different nations across the world that we know of, but nothing brings greater pleasure than doing business locally and connecting with the community. Our strategy is based around an annual one week pop-up shop at Colonnade House (our third is coming up from 3-8 Sep), when instruments on display are sold and new orders taken. We’ve collaborated a couple of times with Northbrook MET (most recently S’Kool Fest 2019) and I’m looking forward to being involved in Green Dreams this year.
In terms of networking structures for creative businesses, there’s no shortage of options. Barry Williams at the West End Gallery (who also has a focus on recycled materials in his work) runs a monthly Artists’ Breakfast, and there are groups like Beyond Brighton or Freedom Works. For us the events put on by the Creative Hub team at Colonnade House have been excellent. I even met our new primary supplier of coffee cans at one event, for use in our Canjo bestseller!
There’s a rise of the businesses, people setting up something in addition to their full time job. Do you have any advice for people looking to turn their love of something into a business?
5-9 plus overtime!
It does need to be something you love and feel absolutely passionate about. Keep that in mind and remember the real reasons for doing what you do, rather than becoming pre-occupied with return on investment. Thinking of the business as a hobby first and business second can get you through tough times; you might gladly pay good money to feel as happy and challenged as you do.
A very understanding family also helps!
How has starting this business changed your outlook?
We find we now look at the world differently and often catch ourselves scouring the edges of pavements for discarded nuts, bolts, screws and bottle-caps that might be incorporated into one of our creations, or looking in the window of every charity shop for wooden boxes that may have the chance to become reborn as a ukulele!
By Mike Pailthorpe
Visit the exhibition at Colonnade House from 3-8 September.
Check out Insta @salvagesounds or .