Interview with Restoration Workshop's Gary Wallis

Meet the antiques expert and star of our brand new show, Restoration Workshop. Where does Gary Wallis get his inspiration from and just how do you become an antiques and salvage dealer in the first place?

Interview with Restoration Workshop's Gary Wallis

So how did you get into all this, Gary?

Well, in a nutshell I started off in this business at a very young age. As a child I was fascinating by it but as things progressed, I started getting into records, collectables and pop memorabilia and stuff. When the Motown acts came into town I'd go out and buy all the rarest vinyl and then I'd get in touch with the people behind the scenes and get it all signed and then sold it on again. I also built my own collection, so I've been sort of building my own collections right from the start really. And now I have a bit of a collection of everything! With that you build a knowledge of various fields and it's evolved into my business really.

Is it the collecting or the history that's the main draw for you?

All of the above really! For example, as a kid I watched the film Zulu and then I looked into the history of it and I found a few artifacts and then the history of each of those. You learn the history and about the battles from each one, the regimental histories, the uniforms, and the campaigns that were going on at the time. It's similar with furniture as well - the different periods of history and the different monarchs - it all becomes part of the interest and intrigue around every item. But for me it's also about the preservation of history and making the items that are not so appreciated more appreciated in terms of modern living.

Like the WWI drum in the first episode?

That is a prime example actually. There's history behind the drum - we can date it very accurately. We know how many drummers there were in that battalion at the time, we know what campaigns they went on and that particular piece is a piece of living history and by converting it into a table it's there on display and is a wonderful talking piece and it has a function now.

What are your inspirations for salvaging these artefacts?

I think one of the skills I've acquired is that I look at things in a very different way. Certain things people will look at in a strictly commercial way, in a buy-it-then-sell-it way, that's the mainstream of my world, but, me personally, I look at elements and I've got quite a creative mind, and I can visualise how it could look. I can just look at something and know exactly what I'm going to do with it sometimes.

You must have some set of skills to do this?

Over the years there's lots of processes that I've just kind of learned through trial and error. And I'll have a go at anything! I wouldn't say I'm a master craftsman by any means, but you know, cabinet making I can do. Just by seeing how something is put together, gives you the idea of how to repeat it and you learn from the craftsmanship of people in the past. Just by dismantling a table and putting it back together again can give you a really good insight into the thought behind how it was done in the first place.

Is saving these things from the past important?

Yes. I think the appreciation of history and the processes what went on that have led us to where we are is very important to preserve that and make people aware for the future.

What are your personal favourite pieces that feature in the show?

I really enjoyed the compass table that we created from the marine salvage place. To me that was a great transformation, and actually seeing it in situ, I really enjoyed that. The garden feature we created from the helicopter rotors - I really enjoyed that one! We brought in the expertise with David up at the foundry and he put together my idea and being able to take part in the process was really uplifting. And when we saved the tables from the school. To me, they were going to be lost forever so to bring those back and create what we did to me was the icing on the cake selling them to the trade. That was a great coup for me as well.

You buy, you restore, you re-invent, and you sell. What is your favourite part of your job?

It's a combination but I have to say if I had a choice, I would spend my whole time on the hunt really. To me, finding and sourcing the stuff, you know, I find that very inspiring and I get the biggest buzz from finding something amazing. The selling is just kind of a necessity!