For November’s monthly maker, I caught up with one of our workshop members and founder of Blast from the Past, Alex Fletcher. Alex runs an online vintage store and also does record player repairs, but I’ll leave that to him to talk about. We caught up over a takeaway Riccardo’s coffee at our Make North Docks Hire space and chatted all about what Alex has been up to, whilst putting the world to rights. So to find out more about Blast from the past and Alex’s current project, read on!
Can you tell us what you do and a bit about Blast from the Past?
I run a record and vintage store called Blast from the Past. I used to have a physical shop, but it has just closed for the pandemic, so now I’m having to adapt. At the minute I am selling solely online and then hopefully I’ll be able to use my new project.
I specialise in record player repairs too, it’s a bit of a USP really. I have my own website for the records and record player repairs. It’s a bit of a weird one at the moment because I’ve closed my shop and everything was under the umbrella of the shop, so I have separated everything out a bit online. I also have a dedicated Depop store for vintage clothes, so I’ve been doing a lot of work on that.
Before lockdown, I put all my eggs in one basket with the shop, so I’m kind of diversifying from that. So the thing with the horsebox project is a way of me adapting and having to change really.
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Can you tell us a bit more about your horsebox project?
I’m currently converting a horsebox into a pop-up shop in the Make North Docks workshop. The idea is that I’ll be able to take it anywhere, that it will be completely mobile. I’ll be able to rock up in towns or festivals and sell the vintage clothing and records. It started off as a lockdown project. I was locked down in Wales, and I was so used to working 6/7 days a week, so I needed something to do, which is when I started off on the horsebox.
(We can’t wait to see it all finished!)
What sparked your passion for vintage?
I have always been passionate about music and have always collected records. I started off doing record player repairs about 7 years ago. But I loved collecting vintage clothes, vinyl and antiques, anything really. So I got into selling as a way of supplementing my part-time income.
I went onto the Princes Trust Programme and got help through that. With the Princes Trust, I had a great mentor, and they led me down the avenue of focusing on record player repairs and sales. They give you a small loan, and I also got a grant off South Sefton council for equipment, so I got a camera, scales and all the basic stuff. I got lots of great contacts from them too, like the clothes wholesaler that I go to now. They also set me up with a small studio space in Bootle. So that was a brilliant programme to be part of.
I knew from my last full-time job, which was in the Beatles story, that working for other people wasn’t for me. My whole family is self-employed. So for me, it’s all about doing stuff off your own back and, I’ve always been a DIY type of person.
When I came to Liverpool, I was playing in bands, which I’m still doing. The band is called Rongorongo. Actually, Make resident Graham has done some photography for us in the past. But working in music sets you up a bit for working for yourself too.
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I also used to do lots of vintage fairs. I’ve done quite a lot of stuff; I sold roasted chestnuts, toffee apples, any project that was making money. It’s the idea of doing something for yourself. It’s hard work, and it can be disheartening, but I knew I wanted to work for myself.
What has been one of your favourite projects?
It would have to be setting the shop up because that was really fun. I love decorating and being creative and making things. I made a lot of stuff out of palettes and made my own racks and painted it all. Also, I repurposed a lot of things out of wood I had found. I like being imaginative, so that was a great project.
What would your advice be for anyone who is thinking of working for themselves?
I would say have one foot in and one foot out. (unless you’re loaded!) Whatever you’re doing has to be a labour of love over wanting to be rich. I think you are a particular type of person who wants to work for yourself. You have to be self-motivated and be able to work really hard. If you don’t have the love or passion, you won’t be able to sustain it. I get excited thinking about things that I want to do and what I will do tomorrow.
What are you working on next?
So I’m pretty much working on the horsebox for now, alongside all of the online stuff. I’m also setting up a workshop in Bootle to do record player repairs.
I have been trying to get on a course for fashion couture, about learning how to make clothes from scratch. I watched a documentary about Alexander McQueen, and it was really inspiring. I’ve thought about reworking a lot of the vintage clothing that I get, I get lots of dad jeans that I could turn into shorts or bags. But I like the idea of making a piece from scratch.
But yeah, I have always got several things on the go, that’s just how I live my life.
Have you discovered anything interesting recently?
The biggest thing I’ve realised recently; especially after the pandemic; is that when it comes to working for yourself, the only person that can really help you is yourself. There are definitely lots of people who can support you, but no one can fully understand. Ken (Makes resident sign writer) told me that recently when we had a chat, he says it as it is but I like that. It’s good that there are people around like that at Make. I like the experience of some of the older people here. Like Henry* has helped me out with welding, now I’m considering learning to do welding myself.
*Make North Docks resident
Where can people find Blast from the Past?
Check out my website blastvintage.com -It’s mainly records and orders for record player repairs.
I also have a depop page for clothing @blastvintage
And you can follow us on Instagram – @blastfromthepastmusic
Want to become a Make member like Alex?
Find out more about workshop here and get in touch to join the Make community!