Essex, UK - This week's Hats off to Women feature comes from a well established reclaimed timber business located fifteen minutes east of the M25 in Upminster, Essex. Janine Davies-Tutt from Ashwell Recycled Timber Products helped with her father's scrap metal business whilst still at school and has been working in the trade since then.
Ashwell Timber began by selling tropical hardwood sleepers and now supplies many major UK projects with reclaimed timber. Janine is passionate about saving wood from landfill. Her partner of 20 years, Deb, has recently joined Ashwell Timber, and helps with sales and marketing. Deb was a police officer and then studied international social welfare and social policy, but decided now was the time for both of them to put all their energy into Ashwell Timber and really focus on what makes the business tick.
Can you explain what first made you interested in using salvaged and reclaimed materials?
Janine: I helped out in Dad's family business in scrap metal. Our contract with British rail really sparked my interest in sleepers and tropical hardwood. We were one of a handful of businesses selling sleepers before they become trendy and sold them to TV shows in the 1990's like Charlie's Garden Army and Changing Rooms.
What sort of salvaged items are you most enthusiastic about?
Janine: I was fascinated by sleepers, how they are not all the same, some softwood creosoted, some hardwood. The fact they are from trees that are so old and have travelled across the world from exotic rainforests. I love the red jarrah timber and in the early days we came across a business making furniture out of tropical hardwood and thought it was an excellent way of putting all this amazing timber to good use. We really expanded into big tropical timbers when we were asked to supply 300m Baulk Timbers, painted red and white, for edging roadworks and scaffolding. We cleared 30-40 loads of baulk timber from the London City Airport development, saving them from landfill. The rest, as they say, is history. Nowadays we only sell around ten percent sleepers. A lot of our timber is old pilings, jetty posts, and lock gates.
Has being a woman working with salvaged materials made life easier or more difficult?
Janine: That's a tricky question. Sometimes people are caught off guard, because they don't expect us to know as much about the timber trade. People can be surprised when I show up on site visits, but it's fine as long as you're smiley and friendly!
Highlights or down side of working with or using reclaimed/salvage?
Janine: Highlights are seeing what can be created out of reclaimed timber. From decking and cladding for the tunnel at the Eden project to supplying a client with a quantity of Greenheart timber reclaimed from a disused Rainham Jetty. He used it to build a house in the Caribbean. Greenheart is indigenousness to the area and now protected. It was very cool to see the timber going back to whence it came. Also, knowing that what we're doing is friendly to the environment. Downsides are dealing with people who think that just because the timber is 'second hand' it should be cheap. Our products come from resources that aren't limitless.
Would you recommend any study courses or training or do you think hands-on-experience is the best way to learn?
Janine: You couldn't go on a any course to learn all there is to know about pieces of trees, hundreds of years old, that have been formed into all sorts of shapes and sizes, and used for centuries on railways, docks, canals and piers. It's definitely a case of getting experience.
How do you feel about the eco-friendly reuse side of salvage with the idea of making the planet a greener place?
Janine: That's why we're here. If we weren't all rescuing this stuff it would be ending up in landfill which would be a terrible thing.
Why do you think women in particular love reuse, reclaiming and architectural salvage?
Deb: Women quite often think very creatively about how salvaged materials can be used. This sounds a bit stereotypical but I do think that women have make-do-and-mend attitude which can be born out of a nurturing tendency to look after things. Personally I like it because it's sustainable and it feels as though we are protecting the planet for our children's futures.
How do you feel about upcycling with reclaimed and antique?
Deb: At Ashwell Timber we love upcycling. Why wouldn't you want to upcycle? I think a piece of furniture or a structure is more desirable if you know that the materials it is made from have a history. It makes you feel good. I love putting my glass of wine down on our garden table knowing that piece of timber has been around for hundreds of years and has a big story to tell.
What is the reclaimed project you currently working on?
Deb: We have been building a riverside walkway from reclaimed tropical hardwood for a client in Henley. A collection of three enclosures that we worked on at London Zoo has just been opened by the Queen. We have recently helped put together a structure at London's Science Museum, made from a newly felled oak tree. The tree came from a wood that needed some clearing so still very sustainable. It will form a new interactive magnet exhibition for children. We have loads of other exciting things in the pipeline too. We're hoping to exhibit at Salvo Fair, where we will be able to chat to people about the services and products we can offer.
Janine and Deb Davies-Tutt, Ashwell Recycled Timber Products, Wick Place Farm, Brentwood Road, Bulphan, Upminster, Essex, RM14 3TL
Tel: 01375 892576.
The Salvo Fair will be held on 18-19 June at Fawley Hill in Henley-on-Thames with Trade Day on Friday 17th June. If you would like to be involved in 'Hats off to Women' answer the same questions and send us your story and photos to Salvo
Ashwells Reclaimed Timber Ltd
Ashwell Recycled Timber Products
Salvo Fair 2016
Story Type: Feature
Date Modified: July 12, 2016, 02:34 PM