Monday, 4 February 2013

Ever get that 'washed-up' feeling?

I ask in advance that readers excuse the depressive rant I'm about to launch into but sometimes it's good to get things off your chest

A lot of you may already know that I'm a self employed carpet fitter and I have been in and out of the trade for many years. This time of year is always quiet for me but this year it is ultra, super quiet and work is extremely scarce.

I always find January and February extremely depressing. I have very little work and what really gets me down is having to watch my lovely wife work so hard just trying to make ends meet while I have to wait for the phone to start ringing again.

As usual during this time of the year I habitually scan the job vacancies to see if there is anything available to enable me to make the switch to 'employment' but alas it seems at the grand age of 48 I'm all washed up and there is absolutely nothing that I would be suitable for. Scan any job vacancies in the North East and unless you have a background in engineering or nursing you're pretty much screwed ..... unless you want a career in door to door selling or making cold calls to unfortunate home owners to try and sell them something they really don't need.

My wife has always stated that I am unemployable; I don't suffer fools gladly and I really detest the thought of living my life 'by the clock'.... At 16 I left school and started work alongside my Father in the pottery industry as a ceramic mould maker ... I lasted 6 months. One Friday afternoon I stood in line at the clocking on/off machine and looked at the queue of miserable, sad faced people, some of which had been at that same factory all their working life, watching the clock tick by until it reached 5pm so they could clock off...... At that point I clocked off early (to gasps of dismay) and decided that factory work wasn't for me.

I remember my Father begging me to go back but I just couldn't .... I hated every long, tedious, mind-numbing second of being there. Luckily soon after that I found employment (and the only 'employed' position I ever truly loved) working for a resin figurine manufacturer in Stoke-on-Trent. From the moment I walked into the factory/studio I wanted that job desperately. ... and a  few days later I got the phone call that started the best period of my working life. I was trained by the sculptor in the process of making silicone rubber moulds for the amazingly detailed pieces he produced and after a year or so I became very good friends him. Looking back I think he's the only boss I've ever had a real respect for. His work was amazing (wildlife figurines and human studies) and it was a great honour to be given the responsibility of getting one of his original sculptures (usually made from clay or wax) and to be left to (in some cases cut the original sculpture to pieces) to produce a master mould and then to get the piece into production.

'Little owl ' Sculpted by myself around '94

At this time I realised that I had a talent for sculpture myself. I had always been artistic but it was Mike Simpson (my sculptor boss) who urged me to try and later trained me to sculpt.

Sadly due to the flood of cheap imports into the UK the company was sold off and the workforce was made redundant. I moved to Scotland having been offered a similar role for a company based in Perthshire but alas this didn't work out as having worked for the best I became extremely dispondent with their idea of quality (or poor quality as I viewed it).

Since then I've been in and out of the flooring industry...I have a good reputation for my work and I do enjoy it although at the moment work is extremely scarce and it's really getting me down. In the past I also dipped my toe into the wargame  scenery market but at the moment I really do feel completely washed up.... I'm sure this mood will pass, it usually does once the work starts coming in again.

Anyway, here's a few examples of my colourful sculpting past:

From my wildlife days.....

To Giftware....

Fox Cub


  And finally a few of my wargame sculpts... These are now owned by Battlescape in Australia (20mm and 15mm scales) and Scale Creep in the US (6mm range)

20mm Church ruin

15mm Ruin

20mm Bridge


Selection of 6mm (plus a couple of 3mm scale now owned by Picoaror in the US)

6mm Farmhouses and barn


  1. Steve, you do beautiful work, and I'm sorry to hear you're finding things tough lately. As a freelancer who moves from film project to film project (and who's been struggling a lot lately) I know how depressing it can be not having work, while those around you are busy as ever. Hang in there.

    And if you ever feel like turning your very talented hands to some 6mm ancients terrain/ architecture, well there are those who would be grateful...



  2. Steve,
    First, I'm in the USA, and have no idea how things are done in the UK. When I lived in Utah some years ago, I got with a theatrical agent, and worked as an extra in TV and movies. Generally, we got one or two days of work a month, we were on set 10-12 hours and we were paid $50 a day plus catered meals. Extras normally are human background, standing around, walking by, that sort of thing. I've no idea how much filming might go on in Durham, or how unionized it might be, but it might be worth looking into. Gals being more likely to stay at home and be available for this sort of thing while guys had a full time job, there was a shortage of guys.

    Just a thought. Best of luck!
    David Edgington

  3. Your sculpting is excellent, Steve. Maybe your down time is really an opportunity do do some more free lance work in that area?


  4. Steve - interesting story mate, you and I are really not that different in some ways, certainly trying settle into jobs was always an issue I had and I walked out on some well paid ones too, just got to the point of having enough, coat on and out the door! I even remember once driving to work getting out the car and up to door, not being able to face it and turning round and driving home again, others could just stick it out, but I couldn't. I guess its just in our make up.

    Anyway, I was going to say that you have a real skill there, and those 6mm buildings are very good, some of the 6mm buildings out there are not that good, those of yours have bags of period character.

    Keep those spirits up mate, I hope the phone starts ringing for you very soon.


    1. Cheers Lee. If I ever sculpt any more 6mm buildings I'll let you know mate.


  5. At 61 I often wait for the phone to ring, or the online equivalent to do substitute teaching. It's a poor economy and lack of imagination by employers rather than you being 'washed up.' Your sculpting is very nice, much more talent than I could hope to possess. Keep looking, keep talking to folk in your area and be flexible while knowing what you 'can' do. It might make sense, if your work has an annual closed season, to try your hand at sculpting or whatever as a side job that you can turn to when things are tight.

    Do like those bridges.

  6. Thank you Pancerni. My trade definitely has it's peaks and troughs (January and February being the major trough) and it has crossed my mind over the past few weeks to perhaps seriously start making plans to re-start my sculpting and scratch-building. Obviously it's too late this year as work should (fingers well and truly crossed!) pick up towards the end of this month.
    I think at towards the end of the year I should perhaps start putting these plans into action to cover the quiet spell this time in '14.
    Thanks for your kind words. Much appreciated.

    All the best,



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