Paul Firbank – aka The Rag and Bone Man – is a master of reinvention: a contemporary craftsman and modern-day ‘totter’, he takes aged aircraft engines, scrapped vintage machinery, junked rare car parts and even old golf clubs, turning them into unique, crafted, contemporary classics.
His bespoke lighting, furniture and interior accessories have been commissioned for international restaurants and hotels at home and abroad, from Singapore and Australia to private orders for New York penthouses. Not only does he transform what most people would see as scrap into heirlooms of outstanding beauty, Paul channels the character and quirks of components into chandeliers, lamps, chests, barstools, tables or even coat hangers. His own story is also one of reinvention.
Paul, who describes himself as a “bit of a black sheep”, first learnt metalwork skills as a teenager passionate about modifying his BMX bike. He went to art college “for a bit”, worked in a “horrible” factory, and became a professional tattooist before starting a welding course “which felt a bit creative” and led to work as head of a bespoke metalwork department, crafting frames for famous galleries and auction houses.
During this time he honed his skills, built up his collection of tools and time-honoured machinery and continued to collect bits of bikes and interesting pieces of scrap from grease shops and scrap yards around the east end of London, hence The Rag and Bone name. It was only when he took a space at Tent London that he realised his passion was a business.
He sold out of his unique creations in a couple of days. You might have seen him on Supersized Salvage with Grand Designs’ Kevin McCloud who described him as “the unchallenged king of the scrapheap, ruler of recycling and a gifted craftsman in metal”. “I want to celebrate the craftsmanship, engineering and history that originally went into making the pieces that I recover, to preserve their heritage and turn them into something that is not only unique but that serves a new utilitarian purpose, creating something that makes the best of it and is the best that you can make it,” says Paul.Reuse content