Wells-based couple Sam Wheeler and Catherine Harrison started Rock Terrace as a part-time hobby – and a house clearance idea – in early 2012, while living in Aberystwyth, Wales. But it was their move to Somerset in 2015 which saw their business take off at such a speed, that they were asked to furnish backstage areas at the 2016 Glastonbury Festival.
Catherine: “Sam is a drummer and had a growing collection of broken drums that he couldn’t bring himself to throw out. It got to the stage where I was threatening to have a clear out so he decided to have a go at making something out of them instead of taking them to the tip. Having worked in the textile industry since he was a teenager, he has always known a bit about upholstery and has a great understanding of the suitability of different types of fabric for different projects.”
Catherine admits that Sam’s first piece – an armchair made out of a black drum kit and upholstered it in a bright lime green fabric – “was a bit mad” and, even though it didn’t sell, it did sow the seed for a business idea.
Catherine: “We put it up for sale in our fabric shop but it really was a bit too outrageous. Sam gradually toned it down by removing all but the main bass drum and replacing the green fabric with tan leather. At that point it sold, and he started being asked for more drum pieces. He made a few more seats, then started experimenting with other designs including clocks, wine racks, storage, tables and even lighting.”
Their move to South Horrington two-years ago enabled the couple to build a new home-based workshop and to launch their website. Now an average day sees Sam designing and making all of the stock – while listening to Foo Fighters with the couple’s dog and covered in sawdust and paint – while Catherine runs the website and social media accounts, and liaises with retailers and customers.
Catherine: “Our drum kits come from all over the place. When he first started Sam was obviously just using his own old drums, but when those ran out, he started scouring the local recycling centres, asking friends and searching eBay. Nowadays, because he’s been doing this for quite a while, people actually approach Sam with kits, broken drums, cracked cymbals, and so on, that they’re getting rid of. The majority of the fabric and leather Sam uses for upholstery comes from our shop in Wales – Wheeler Fabrics in Machynlleth. We source most of the timber (for table tops etc) from our local reclamation yards.”
The company sells online all over the UK and abroad, but the majority of its customers currently come from Somerset. Catherine has hinted at a shop in the future, but the couple is currently happy to meet customers by appointment at their workshop. So where did the name Rock Terrace come from?
Catherine: “Years ago we bought a rusty old blue and white sign that said Rock Terrace at an auction for about £2. It’s actually the name of a road in Machynlleth in Wales where our fabric shop is. We had the sign hanging up at home for ages and when the time came to name the business, we just thought it was a great fit. I have used a photo of the original sign in the header of our website. Some of the original name ideas that were being thrown around were pretty awful – Bum Drums was probably the worst!”
Rock Terrace has a core range of products: seating, tables, clocks and wine racks, which Sam adds to with new ideas. A lot of pieces are made to order, with customers able to request particular colours and fabrics.
Catherine: “These often end up being our favourite items! Just before Christmas Sam made a wine rack and floor tom drum stool. They were painted to match the customer’s decor. They were colours we’d never used together before and the result was gorgeous. And when we had our stall at Wells Market, several people asked if we could make ice buckets. Sam tried one, and it worked out very well. We have now sold a few of these and they will be added to the website this year.”
Catherine said a “huge highlight” of the Rock Terrace experience so far, was taking it to Glastonbury in 2016, where they were invited to furnish some backstage areas at the festival.
Catherine: “We lent the organisers furniture and clocks for several artist dressing rooms, and one of the artist liaison tents where press interviews took place. They chose bass drum tables, cymbal and snare drum clocks and floor tom seats. It was all a bit mad, but very exciting! We had been asked several months in advance, but the finer details were all confirmed fairly late on. The last few weeks before the festival were frantic. Sam was making stock and I was photographing and labelling everything as soon as it was finished. We loved seeing our pieces in situ backstage, even if they were caked in mud!”
They love their products – and the Glastonbury Festival – but why do Sam and Catherine love Somerset?
Catherine: “There are too many reasons to list, but top of the list would have to be the welcome we’ve received since moving down here. People here are ridiculously friendly! We also have to mention the countryside, the shopping, the beaches, the food, cider, music…..”