The death of a pet can be a source of sadness for many, but for Scottish husband and wife duo Ross and Kristen Hunter, it was also a source of inspiration. When their beloved lab Tess passed away, Kristen struggled to find a frame she liked in which to mount a photo of her as a gift to Ross. After much searching, Kristen purchased a low-quality beech wood frame, and the couple began to wonder: How could we make something better ourselves? One visit to a local salvage yard later and they had an idea in place. The pair began to experiment with a disused whisky barrel they purchased at the yard, eventually settling on a distinctly Scottish design for a frame—and so their business was born.
Kristen and Ross’s handcrafted frames, created in their workshop in the outskirts of Edinburgh, Scotland, are now for sale at UncommonGoods, where we treasure such ingenuity as theirs. Read on for word from Ross and Kristen on the importance of family, what a day looks like in their workshop, and more, including a Finding Nemo quote.
When did you know you wanted to be artists?
From a young age both of us have had a passion for design and engineering which led us to pursue them in university with Kristen receiving her BFA in Interiors followed by her MFA in Sculpture and Ross gaining his degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Product Design. Ever since we met we have spent our free time building and creating things together. We love to talk about how we would restore a historic building, reinvent a product, or even turn a ruin in to a modern home! We come up with amazing concepts together and the thrill of making them a reality is what drives us.
What is the most exciting thing about creating your own business?
It has been an amazing journey, from the concept, which came about due to the loss of our beloved black lab, Tess, to designing and testing our concept through local markets and pop up shops. We decided to take a huge leap while we were on paternity leave and put all our energy into creating a product and business around that product. It has been challenging having a young family and new business; however, we have risen to every challenge and are excited about what the future holds for [us]. We have together created a product that people love which has a history and a story. It’s a true conversation piece. We enjoy being our own bosses, which allows us the flexibility to work from our home and enjoy more time with our family.
What does your typical day in the workshop look like?
When we set up [our business] just over a year ago we had no idea that today we would have a team of five people in the workshop helping us create our frames. Ross is in charge of the workshop crew where each day we set about the task of drying and monitoring the casks and, once they reach the ideal state, creating the frames. Ross has created a whole range of bespoke jigs and processes in order to ensure each frame is amazing when it leaves our workshop. As you might imagine, working with disused whisky casks has its own set of challenges as each piece is one of a kind. We have set up stations for each of the unique processes that are needed in order to create the frames, from our custom drying rooms to doweling and gluing each frame in our unique self-welded clamps! Then along to the finishing room where we laser cut each piece of hand woven Harris Tweed, assemble the frames, and number each to correlate with our frame origin archive. It’s a very busy and exciting place to be!
Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
We have a photograph of our family with our late dog Tess who inspired us to start [our business] in the workshop. Our love for our family really drives us to do our best every day and to treat our customers as part of that family as they become part of [our] story.
Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think they would say?
We think that kindergartners would be fascinated my how one object could be used to create another. At that age they are very good at repurposing objects with a great imagination so we would look forward to brainstorming with them!
What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
We are pretty big kids around here so: “When life gets you down do you know what you’ve gotta do? Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim.”