Today, in our fast-paced digital lifestyle some put price, speed and an accepted lack of quality at the forefront of their purchase consideration. However, there is a noticeably growing curve of consumers bucking this trend. Consumers with an appreciation for craft- hard work, passion and skill- creators of longevity, quality and or timeless products. Be it savouring the moment of drinking painstakingly procured coffee beans or a bespoke Savile Row suit. Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder but I believe a visit to a craftsmen in any field is one to rejoice in; to appreciate the years spent learning ones trade, the time taken to perfect the end result, the obsession. There really is nothing quite like it, that quest for perfection at every level of detail.
Craftsmen in the sports world appear few and far between; however this scarcity is easily unearthed as a myth with a relatively straightforward Google search, and specifically, across skiing, surfing and cycling within the United Kingdom- topics close to my heart. Digging deeper; there are just a handful of truly exceptional stories, of people who have a unique dedication and passion for craftsmanship and the art of making things by hand. Their creations can only be described has beautiful, and their passion only as unrelenting in pursuit of perfection.
Head to Perthshire, Scotland for example where Jamie Kunka of Lonely Mountain Skis hand-crafts custom skis from a blend of traditional and modern materials and techniques. Each ski’s core and tooling are manufactured in-house at his Birnam workshop and contains an 8-layer laminate with natural and synthetic fibres supporting a laminated hardwood core.
“For over four years now I have completely immersed myself in the craft of ski making. I love the multi faceted nature of skis: the way they flex, look, feel, and perform. As a craftsman this constant study, analysis and cyclical prototyping is what drives me.”
Kunka’s approach to ‘handcrafted’ has become a holistic approach to his life. He believes it’s very much about achieving excellence through cultivation of talent and a lot of elbow grease. It’s the magic that happens when a craftsman takes something inert like a raw material and begins to add their value. In his case, turning wood, fibres, glue, metal and plastic into something that can fly down an icy mountain. He finds this process fascinating especially when going the extra mile and further to create not only a product but a work of art.
The base of each ski is a racing sintered 7000 PTex all of which is capped in a unique hardwood veneer. The result is a pair of skis built to last a lifetime, a smoother ride on the snow than anything you can buy off the shelf. I suggest hanging them on your wall during the summer months as a shrine to craft or a prize to show off to friends and during the winter months, use them to rocket down the slopes of the French Alps.
Heading south to Porthtowan, Cornwall, James Otter of Otter Surfboards obsesses over his surfboards or as he more accurately refers to them, “works of art”. His inspiration is Tom Blake, a legendary waterman and surfboard designer of the 1930’s, and furthermore, his local surroundings.
“To me, handcrafted has a huge weight to it as a word. It is all about a deep personal connection to the object you are making. To focus on using your own two hands to manipulate tools and timber to create something unique from a piece of natural material is such a great experience.”
He believes it takes you out of yourself as you focus on the here and now of what your hands are doing to create moments of true escapism. It teaches you, as each piece of wood is different, that you need to move and react to individual characteristics within the material to get the desired outcome. It rewards you in allowing you to see what it is possible to achieve. And that hands are the human element of making; a handcrafted object is one with a human connection.
Sourcing lightweight and salt water resistant Western Red Cedar wood he hand-planes each surfboard over a birch skeleton followed by a trip to the best surfboard laminator in the country, Paul Fluin. The result is a stunning classic-car like gloss finish. His craft is a nod to the material construction methods employed by the ancient Hawaiians who first started the trend of shaping ‘wave-riding tools’.
Our final stop sees us head east, where Darron Sven Coppin of Sven Cycles creates bicycles, handcrafted in Weymouth, Dorset. Darron was taught to braze in his early years by his father, a jeweller and vintage car enthusiast- and he subsequently turned his passion and dream of hand building bicycle frames in to reality.
“Building bikes by hand gives me a connection to the materials I’m using and a feeling of satisfaction through creating something that will last for years, that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Finishing a bike always seems surreal, a reminder that I build bikes for my job; I feel lucky to do something I love every day.”
Struggling to fit in to the routine of a 9/5 job- he works most days and earns a minimum wage but wouldn’t change a thing. The craft, the love, the attention to detail and physically making something from scratch is more rewarding than any financial remuneration.
Take his English 3 speed Roadster, a typical bike that everyone rode to work… back when everyone rode to work. Choose from drum, disc or cantilever brakes, 1,2,3,8,11 or 14 speed rear hub, baskets, fixed wheel and custom paintwork polished then powder coated for strength then polished again in any colour. The result is something truly unique, hand crafted with a dedication to your pleasure.
Hand-crafted like no other. No other like hand-crafted.