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Meet Sam Gosling

Meet Skater, furniture maker and Dickies Maker Sam Gosling

STORIES | 19.08.2021

They broke the mould when they made Sam Gosling. There are very few people with the grit, nerve and creativity capable of living such a unique and interesting life. Based in Buckinghamshire, Sam is primarily a furniture maker and skateboarder. He is the king of recycling and repurposing, incorporating it into every aspect of his life, from building DIY skateparks to his own house. Not many people can say that these days! 

Sam was instrumental in the creation and development of the legendary DIY skate spot, The Ballroom. We sat down with him to catch up on what’s been going on in his fascinating life. Read on to find out more. 

Hi Sam, thanks for taking the time to chat to us. First things first, please can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi, my name is Sam Gosling I’m a furniture maker and skateboarder. so I’m currently based out of a small workshop in the Buckinghamshire countryside, originally I'm from a small sailing town in Essex.

While I was still living in Essex I used to work on boats and there was a small skate community. We would meet at the local train station and skate curbs for hours. There was a small metal park built in the town but as most of the early 2000 parks that were being built they didn't consider the space and it was a hash of steep flat banks and impossible to skate rails. We had also built a few scrappy mini ramps in parents back gardens that didn't last more than one summer, being built from rotten ply we had found. 

By the time I left for university I was pretty much the only skateboarder in my town. I came to high Wycombe to study contemporary furniture design at Bucks new Uni. Turns out there was a brand new concrete park being built under the railway arches in high Wycombe when I moved. Once I received my first student loan I went and bought a brand new setup and soon ran into other local skaters all coming together to skate the fresh concrete. It was here I met a lot of the guys I still skate with today. Uni was a great experience and the people I met have become lifelong friends and work colleagues. 

I wrote my dissertation about the trend at the time of eco-friendly furniture and basically came to the conclusion that the companies claiming it weren't doing the best job, the most environmentally friendly way to live is to find whatever you can on the side of a road or a skip, fix and repurpose it to work for you. It featured Burnside park that was basically built from trash and the storm drain communities living in the tunnels below Las Vegas. 

This way of thinking has become a real passion of mine and is a great mindset to have to think that everything around you can be used to your benefit. That resulted in me hoarding materials like old cars. One of those cars in my MK1 VW Caddy that I’ve been restoring for the past few years. I guess I just have a passion for bringing things back from the dead. 

Throughout Uni I worked at the local pub as a glass collector and then graduated to bar man. After I actually graduated Uni I ended up working 6 days a week in the pub. Around a year of day drinking, hazy evenings and a perpetual hang over It came to a point where I had to move on. 

I got a job at a small furniture restoration workshop. I learnt a lot in terms of traditional fine finishing and the history of the craft, unfortunately it didn't inspire me. I soon got a job at a larger furniture factory and began working on bigger projects, both domestic and commercial. Again after a few years I was left feeling uninspired. This time I decided to have a go at working for myself and it's been a journey. Over the past couple of years I've learnt a lot and been able to build a network of clients and suppliers that have become friends. Being selective over the projects I take on means I'm always working on things I'm interested in and it helps push my creativity.  

Sam in front of his MK1 VW Caddy wearing our Eisenhower Jacket

What are some of your favourite projects that you’ve been involved in?

I've been lucky enough to be involved in some great projects the past couple of years. Working closely with creatives and brands such as Nike, Red bull, HUF, Volcom, Slam City Skates and Vans. This year we did the full renovation of the Enfield Slam City Skates store and seeing the transformation from a dingy carpeted stock room to the plywood and raw concrete high end store was very satisfying. 

The Vans family have been incredible, and working together we've brought their ideas to reality. I’ve worked with them on store fits and displays as well as events. Building the bump to bar that was at NASS festival was real fun. As Well as producing the fake pub facade and the skateable bar I was able to man the bar at the event. Seeing people skating what you've built is a highlight of the job.

The Ballroom DIY is legendary. Can you tell us a bit more about it?

The ballroom was found derelict by one of the guys. It was a huge room full of broken 80s office cubicles, broken glass strewn inside, carpet tiles over the entire floor. It was built in the 1940s as a place to feed and entertain the workers of the Molins factory complex which covered the entire site. For decades they made cigarettes and cigarette machines. At some point The site was mostly bulldozed and only 2 buildings remained. The ballroom and a modern office block. The ballroom was converted from a grand hall into the office cubicles, but was left derelict when the money ran out. 

When we discovered the building and lifted the first carpet tiles we knew the potential of the building had to be realised. That meant opening the space back up and taking the carpet tiles up to reveal the original parquet flooring. What a mammoth task that was. We were skating between the skeletons of the stud walls between the hours of clearing. Starting with the one grind box that we already had from a few years earlier, it found its home at the ballroom. It would become the Molins ledge when we found the old factory sign and it fit the top perfectly. It was meant to be. 

Clearing the space photo by Alistair Freeman @countcoldsag

 

As time went on we would add more obstacles. We managed to get in touch with the landowners pretty early and got to explain what was going on in the building and our intentions and they basically just gave us free reign which was pretty unbelievable. They had put in planning for the land and they first said the building would last a couple of months, then maybe a year, so we just built what we could and enjoyed it knowing it could disappear at any point. They didn't really want anything to do with the building and if people they knew were occupying the building it was better than it just being left to whoever. Essentially, we were guardians of the building. 

The first 6 months passed, then the 1st year, 2, 3 years later and we were still building. I was working at the furniture factory and they would fill a skip almost every week with offcuts so me taking materials was doing them a favour. There are materials everywhere. Just gotta keep your eyes peeled. We would still need to purchase materials, especially the final top layer of the ramps, so often we would all put some money into a pot to afford them. This is how the Ballroom was such a smooth skate, everything we built was integrated seamlessly with the floor. Working in the skate event world also gave us a great opportunity to use ramps that were left over after events and destined for the skip. These obstacles would be chopped and made to fit within the ballroom layout. 

Building in progress

 

The last few years the ballroom had everything you'd wanna skate. From a 6 inch curb to an 8ft quarter pipe you could wallbash or wallride into a flatbank. 3 ft mini ramp, euro gap, Hubba, 2 hips, 6 meter long manny pad, cheese wedge, wally bar, driveway, flat bar, it had everything. Even getting some crazy skateable sculptures after a photoshoot. 

Over the 6+ years the ballroom was a place where the local skate community would meet a few evenings a week and almost every weekend. It was also a place that brought many people together from the wider skate community. Meeting many new groups from further across the UK, the ballroom became a stop on road trips and weekend ventures for crews further afield. It was fulfilling sharing what we built with so many. Many great memories too many to pick from. It was just a pleasure to build a skatepark with my friends in an incredible building. It was impossible to not spend every minute looking for materials, planning and building the new obstacles and just thinking about skating. Many day sessions blended into evening BBQs with everybody having a good time. 

legendary sessions and tricks went down at The Ballroom photo by Alistair Freeman @countcoldsag.

 

We had the ballroom far longer than we ever thought and during that time we had our fair share of setbacks with vandalism. Targeted vandalism that started with broken windows, and graffiti. These attacks would come in waves over the years, some worse than others. We would come in some weekends and the whole park would have been turned upside down. If it wasn't screwed down it would be at the other end of the park. One time we had 20+ bags of concrete we had been storing for the outdoor area cut open and thrown across the ramps and then they emptied all our drinking water bottles on top. We all know what happens when you mix concrete and water together. One morning we came in and found the mirror ball smashed to bits on the top of the grind box. We knew that these kids just wanted to destroy what we had built. We've had the place set alight and the ramps and floor burnt. All we could do was rebuild. And that's what we did. It felt at times that this stuff was happening every weekend. This would be the eventual demise of the ballroom. The Vandalism overtook and repair and rebuild were becoming too costly in time and money. It was cars full of dudes that would come down in the early hours of the morning with crowbars, sledge hammers and power tools and dismantle the ramps. It was bewildering that people were doing it. I guess the joy we got from skateboarding was on parr with the enjoyment they got for destroying it. 

The community started to fall apart with weekend skate sessions turning into sweeping sessions. Seeing what you built destroyed every weekend really does take the wind out of your sails. As the presence of skateboarders diminished there was yet further vandalism and the building became a wreck. The landowners had been getting calls from police with regards to the new activity and they had to put a stop to anybody coming onto the site and that's when they came in with a digger and smashed the ramps to bits and screwed metal sheeting up the full height of the windows. And that was that. We had a good run. RIP ballroom.

RIP Ballroom

Skate DIY projects usually foster a strong sense of community. Have you got any advice for anyone wanting to get into DIY?

My advice for anybody wanting to get into building a DIY is just go get it! If you find a space that has potential it's up to you to make it happen. There's so many amazing DIY parks and you just gotta remember they all started as a disused space. A corner of an overgrown car park, a space under a bridge full of rubble, a broken derelict building. If you can see the potential you can make it happen. They had no purpose and you can build your dream park there. It's not gonna be easy but it will be worth it. If you build it, they will come. Undoubtedly the skate community will flourish anywhere a DIY is built.  

You’ve done a great job of ensuring that skating is a big part of your day job. Have you found synergies or similarities between skating and carpentry? 

It's great that I'm able to work in the skateboarding industry as a furniture maker, being able to get paid doing something I enjoy. I count myself very lucky. It is not always easy, but the rewards are worth it! I guess with skateboarding you fully rely on yourself to learn and land a trick, as with woodworking, it's totally in your hands to learn and refine the skills you need to produce high quality work. You're only gonna get a nice tre flip if you keep at it practising every day and I see this in my woodwork. After each project I'm still learning, as long as you see progression that's satisfaction enough. 

Not many people can say that they’ve built their own house these days. Can you tell us about that?

My tiny house was a side project for the past 7 years. It started as a storage unit and the plan was to have a small workshop/studio. It was a creative space that we ended up renting between friends. We began to spend more time there and things just started getting built. As with all my projects a lot of the stuff was found and repurposed. 

The large double glazed window and patio doors were found up against a skip. The majority of the wood was offcuts and skip found too. We were all living either at home or renting a room in a crap house and the studio was a place for us all to get away and socialise in the evenings. I just didn’t ever wanna go home.

 A few years ago I decided to invest some money to insulate and plasterboard the cold wooden box. Fit plumbing and build a kitchen. This made living there a lot more comfortable. It was only last year that I installed a shower! Before that I would shower at my friends’ houses but often outside under a bucket with holes in it. It's been a natural progression. 

The workshop next door also came up for rent and I managed to get it so now my workshop is connected with a side entrance so I can be at work in 30 seconds. The studio is now a comfortable living space for me and Bruno with a mezzanine floor to sleep where you can lay under the stars. I’ve also got a small conservatory where I grow a lot of plants and a BBQ sun deck between the buildings where you can look across the valley to the woods.

 What’s next?

I've been toying with building a van for myself for a few years now and I think now is the time. I bought a flatbed truck during lockdown and have been slowly working on it. I would love to find a quiet corner of the woods and build a rope bridge off the roof of my van into a treehouse above a mini ramp or something like that anyway. I've been given a job opportunity to go and work on some very interesting projects back in Essex. Setting up a new wood shop and building overlanders with an old friend. I'm keeping my options open and seeing where things go. I will still be working with my clients and have some cool projects in the pipeline so excited for what's to come. 


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