On a sunny day last summer, I met up with my family in the UK and headed to Mudeford Spit - a traditional spot we visit when we're down at our beach house on the South Coast. It's a charming place, famous for it's scenic views, the most expensive beach huts in the UK and a picturesque beach that you get to by taking the land train or "Noddy" train as we call it!
Once you get off the train, you're met by the brightly colored beach huts - each with unique nautical details. This is where I met Sallie - the owner and maker behind Snowdrift Design.
Her handmade houses were all lined up forming a mini village, and were attracting the attention of lots of beachgoers, including myself! Handmade from locally found driftwood, these little beauties make the perfect gift. My sister actually bought one for me with a custom red door to match my home...and I LOVE IT!
I recently reached out to Sallie to learn more about her creative process. Read on to learn more!
Where are you waving from?
I’m waving from Christchurch, Dorset in the UK.
Our family has a holiday home just outside Christchurch. Have you always lived by the seaside and what do you love most about being there?
I’ve lived within 5 miles of where we live now my entire life! Whenever we go away and I’m not within a short drive of the sea I mind. I like to know I can get to a beach for a walk quickly!
I absolutely adore your handmade houses. What inspired you to start making them?
I started making them about 5 years ago after a brutal storm on Valentine’s Day. So much wood was washed up on our local beaches I eventually had to cram a wheelbarrow into the boot of my small car and push it along the beaches! However, I’ve always been a keen beachcomber and don’t think I’ve ever come back from a walk without a pebble or piece of flotsam and jetsam.
Where do you source the wood and accessories used in your pieces?
Whenever possible I collect driftwood and use upcycled materials for my work. I keep a saw in the boot of my car in case I stumble over wood that needs to come home with me (but might not fit in the car!).
I love that each piece is unique depending on the materials you select and how they’re decorated. How did you develop your signature style?
I think your personal style develops over time. I’d always know one of my pieces despite the number I’ve made. I don’t have a website because each piece is unique and can’t be reproduced but social media is a great way to showcase your work. I also have a workshop at home and customers are welcome to call round and see what I’m working on and discuss a commission.
Do you have any advice for someone still looking for their ‘signature style’?
I think the best advice I could give to a maker is just to keep making! I’m completely passionate about what I do, I just love the whole process.
Are you working on any new projects or techniques at the moment?
I use a variety of paints, Farrow and Ball, Annie Sloane, Laura Ashley, Valspar and Dulux. Customers can tell me exactly the shade they’d like their piece to be based around and the towels on the washing lines will be coordinated to suit too. I have some commissions underway currently, some are heading to Australia and some were recently sent to New York. Thanks to social media it’s easier to get your work seen around the world and I live virtually next door to the village post office, so posting abroad is no problem.
What does it mean to you when someone falls in love with one of your houses, or anything else you make for that matter?
It’s a great feeling when customers like your work. I attended a big Christmas Fayre last weekend and the best comment I heard was from a chap talking to his wife who saw my stand and said, “This is why The Stansted Fayre is the best one because you see work that is so different that you might not discover otherwise”. He didn’t buy anything but at least he liked the work! It’s the best feeling when customers appreciate what you do. They invariably ask how long it takes to make a piece to which there’s no simple answer because while you’re waiting for paint and glue to dry you’re busy sawing and sanding other items. It’s not a quick process because I try to make everything as perfectly painted and positioned as I can.
Where can people buy your lovely products?
Customers can view my work on my Facebook page and on Instagram. I’m always happy to discuss a commission no matter how small, even a single house! In the past, I’ve re-created part of a village street with the local pub included and a cottage either side. I’ve also made pieces as birthday presents with a significant number painted onto a front door and added tiny shutters to replicate a customer’s holiday home in Spain. Almost anything is possible. Personalizing a piece to a customer’s specific requirements and enjoying their reaction is what it’s all about!
What shows have you got lined up next year?
I’m already looking forward to next year’s shows, firstly at Downton Cuckoo Fair near Salisbury, Wiltshire on 5th May. Then The Stansted Garden Show on 8th, 9th and 10th June. The Salisbury Contemporary Craft Fair is in September, dates to be announced but it’s held within the grounds of the Cathedral. Then back to Stansted for the Christmas Fayre. I also supply around 8 galleries and gift shops locally, so I think there will be plenty to keep me busy in 2018!