Time was you could furnish an entire house with what others dumped in a skip. The gentrification boom may be long gone, but for some, skip stuff is still such stuff as dreams are made on. Sophia Chauchard-Stuart reports. Photographs by Philip Sinden
Carola van Dyke

The bedroom of 's Victorian terrace in south London is a blue Gothic fairy tale created entirely from odds and ends: scrap metal pieces reworked into ornate candlesticks, a wall hanging made from scrap wood with hundreds of chewed-down coloured pencils, and drapes that fall softly from the ceiling. "The beauty of finding objects that other people have thrown away is that you can either do them up completely or break them down and make them into things you'd never think of doing with bought materials,'' says van Dyke, who trained as an illustrator in the Netherlands. Perhaps her most extraodrinary creations are handbags made out of metal offcuts inlaid with cork, decorated with necklaces, mismatching earrings and bits of old mirrors, all crowned with a Barbie doll from her childhood collection. Stephen Masterson As the daylight fades outside the spare, airy east London studio of the avant garde artist Stephen Masterson, the light glowing inside a series of boxes on the white walls glows brighter. The effect is eerie but serene. Inset with wax panels imprinted with effigies of insects, the boxes are made from drawers and odd bits of wood the artist has collected from skips. Once he stopped to lo ok inside a skip at the back of King's Cross station and found some 2"x4" planks. "Before I knew, it a police car had drawn up and I was hauled off to the police station.'' Strictly speaking, plundering a skip can be considered as theft. "I actually spent a night in the cells before they let me out. The funniest thing was, they told me if no one claimed the bits of wood after three months, I could go and collect them from the police station." Paul Neesham "I'm often found completely hidden inside a skip," says Paul Neesham, prop designer for a theatre company called Spunkflakes. "The only problem is I often carry the stuff I find home on my bike. This morning I found a great bag of toys dumped in a skip off the Old Kent Road. I don't know how I'l l incorporate them in my work yet but everything I find is later used, even if I can't picture how at the time." For Spunkflakes's latest show, Neesham designed two-foot tall headdresses made almost entirely from skip material. Discarded bicycle helmets provided the base, which he built up with driftwood and plywood and bits of old fabric twisted and stuck on to chicken-wire frames. He is currently making three hat stands consisting of ornate crowns made of wood, wire, red velvet scraps and fake fur. Ne esham also makes greetings cards and boxes which open up to reveal a small doll repainted and dressed, with a message in beads or lentils. Jeanette Marie Pillman "There's lots of building work going on in west London at the moment," says Jeanette Marie Pillman, "and I keep finding stuff to use. I found a large packing case about four-foot tall near Shepherd's Bush market a few months ago. It took quite a fewof u s to lift it into the car but I was determined to take it home." Pillman, a decorative furniture designer, has turned this uninspiring reject into a fine-looking wardrobe, adding doors made out of discarded wood panels inlaid with fabric and chickenwire found in skips, with a piece of driftwood for a handle. The frames for the lampshades (pictured above) are made of chicken wire swathed in floaty chiffon in muted shades or translucent muslin. The legs of a tiny footstool, made from bits of skip wood, a re apparently decorated with gold paint. "It's actually the inside of cigarette packets," Pillman smiles. "My mother saves them up and sends them to me." In her workroom, there is a canopy made of muslin, draped over two gold poles to hang over a bed. Th e materials for it were shop-bought, surely. "No," she laughs, "that's made from two broom handles I found sticking out of a skip one day, I promise."