Resident Spotlight: Viv Wilcock
We visited Viv Wilcock, who builds handmade, custom bass guitars in Hackney Downs Studios.
When did you start your career in making bass guitars?
VW: Well, I had been a designer and an art director for 40 years and I always thought that when I reached a certain age I would have a different relationship with work. So a few years ago I went part-time and became an apprentice to a luthier (a guitar maker). I spent a year with the guy learning, and I've spent the past year setting up my studio and designing and making my own Bass guitars... So I’ve been doing this for just over 2 years.
You mentioned before that you were an art director?
VW: I spent the last few years working in fashion. I worked on Karen Millen for 7 seasons working with David Bailey, Glen Luchford and many other great photographers, and those were happy times. Recently I have worked on a brand for Next which will launch AW17.
So you weren’t really a maker/craftsmen until you started the apprenticeship?
VW: No, well I wasn’t really. About 20 years ago I built a car. It took me 2 years to make and I loved it. I really enjoyed working with my hands and the task of solving mechanical problems; problems and an end result you can see and touch. I wanted to do, and make, something that lasts - not like stuff I've done in the past that come and go. I like the idea of putting something out in the world which will last and be used and treasured for a long time.
When I started up the car I built I have to say I shed a tear - it was like bringing something to life.
VW: I played bass for about 40 years. I was given a book about east London makers and thought what could I do? I have a collection of bass’ at home and thought 'I wonder if I could make one of those'. My wife thought it was a marvellous idea! I got a place at a college who ran a luthier course, there are only a couple of colleges in London that do it… and it terrified me I have to say! The thought of classes of students in their late teens and early-twenties... So I found someone who makes and fixes guitars and encouraged him to take me on.
What attracted you to Hackney Downs Studios?
VW: I had struggled to find spaces that allowed me to make noise - making these basses can sometimes produce noise. I had been to a lot places, sharing spaces, and because of the dust and noise produced it can sometimes be hard to find somewhere where you’re not shown the door!
However, Hackney Downs had a couple of spaces, and accepted what I did, and luckily gave me somewhere which I could sound proof and carry out crafting bass guitars.
Do you share your space with anyone?
VW: No, but I would love to. My career involved working in teams and I miss company and having people around to bounce ideas off. I have a space I can rent either on a short term or long term basis. I'm not around all week so whoever comes in can have some time to themselves and time with company. The studios set up for all sorts of wood working, but I'm flexible.
Tell us a bit about your studio.
VW: It’s a place where I can be comfortable making noise. It’s great that it is somewhere I can make my own - I love the freedom it gives me.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
VW: First cup of tea and then layout my tools for the day, my days are quite intense I’ll start fairly early and work straight through without breaks until about 5:30.
What’s your personal soundtrack?
VW: 8 ball by Underworld