MADE BY MEMBERS • November 2021
Stuart Abbott is the Yorkshire-born aircraft engineer lighting up your social media feed with his bespoke creations. Before he gets too famous, The Club nabs him for a chat at his garage to discuss the art of the side hustle, breathing life into materials destined for scrap and what he’s learned from running the show…
How did you get into this line of work?
I’ve always had spanners and hammers in my hands; I was tinkering away on my first car (a Mini Cooper) when I was 12. Then I was in the RAF for ten years, which got me clued up on the aviation side of things. After I left the RAF in 2008, I went into civil aviation and worked as an engineer for a few commercial airlines. Stu-Art Aviation Furniture became my thing on the side.
What was the first piece of aviation furniture you upcycled?
At first I just wanted to build my own campervan. I bought a set of old aircraft seats to deck it out with, but then plans changed (goodbye, campervan) and so I turned one into an office chair. It ended up being far too big for my desk so I put it on eBay, where it remained for 28 minutes until someone messaged me to buy it. The next day, I had requests asking me to make another one. And the rest, as they say, is history!
Sparks fly: Stuart turning trash into treasure for one lucky customer. Shot by Lorne Campbell / Guzelian
Tell us about your workshop
It all started in my garage. I had no electricity, a couple of lamps for light and an extension cable, plus I still had my Mini, which I had to push out of the way to have enough room to work. Now I’m in my fourth workshop and have a massive space with a cockpit made out of a 737 as my office! I’ve got a sign I like in here, too: ‘Build it, and they will come’. I look at that all the time and remind myself to keep pushing and pushing.
Superb new furniture addition - ex British Airways A321 cabin seat office chair. Looking good next to my Boeing 737 nose wheel table. Really excellent conversion. Thanks @Stu_artaviation pic.twitter.com/c4dImpF1Pk— Craig Blundred (@craigblundred) June 12, 2021
What’s your most cherished creation?
A boardroom table I crafted for the luxury British watch company, Bremont. They approached me to create a standout piece for their new offices in Henley. I wanted to incorporate all the brands that they partner with (including British Airways), so that’s why the legs are painted in British Airways’ iconic Landor livery blue. That first table now lives in the company’s ‘Hawking room’, which is full of Stephen Hawking artefacts, including one of his old desks. Every time I think about it. I get a lump in my throat. It was made from nothing, from scrap, and now it’s in that room.
How much of a perfectionist are you?
A massive one. I made sure that table was perfect in every single way. I nervously took it all the way to Henley because, to me, this was such a big, big deal. And they loved that first table so much that they then asked me to follow up with a bigger, 20-seater table made out of an aircraft wing – with eight days to do it in! That’s one of the most satisfying things I’ve done, because they could’ve asked anybody in the world and they asked me, and I smashed it.
Do you have a favourite aircraft?
I love creating pieces using Boeings. Everything inside them is really over-engineered, which is perfect because it makes the parts so much easier to work with. For instance, Boeings have twice as many rivets as they actually need, which is great for me as it gives me more to play with, and gives me room to make much better, more aesthetically pleasing products.
Stuart at work, shot by Lorne Campbell / Guzelian
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
The trickiest part is shipping, no question. I take so much pride in making sure that nothing leaves my workshop unless it’s perfect. When I ship something, I have to hand it over to another company and I lose all control. If I could sort out my own delivery company and ship everything myself, I would!
What’s the most rewarding thing about running your own business?
It sounds clichéd, but all of it. When I deliver a piece of work, or when a customer sees it for the first time, it’s great to see their reaction. I get such a buzz and a kick to know that something that was destined for scrap is now bringing joy and a smile to someone’s face, and I like that I’m recycling and restoring and being a part of that environmentally conscious movement.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to a budding entrepreneur?
Don’t give up. Ever.
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