Home InterviewsMeet the Maker Pure Brass: from a cow shed in Wales to the shelves of Harrods

Pure Brass: from a cow shed in Wales to the shelves of Harrods

by Camilla

Meet the Maker: Pure Brass

Our business started from a need to earn a living after trying (and failing!) to become farmers – evidently enthusiasm and a owning copy of The Good Life was not quite enough! So it was time to embark on a new venture…

In 1981 Tim and Judy Cramp moved their young family to Cardigan in Wales, where they bought a farm and hoped to live the Good Life as smallholders. When that didn’t quite work out as planned, they decided to transform their barns into workshops and start making a few brass products instead. Happily this went much better – so well, in fact, that their products found their way on to the shelves of world-famous stores like Harrods and Fortnum & Mason, and even on to the desks of government ministers. We caught up with Judy to find out more about Pure Brass, the family business they created that still makes brass products from their converted cow sheds in Wales… 

Can you introduce yourselves and describe what you do?
Hi, we are husband and wife, Tim and Judy Cramp from Pure Brass, and we make pure solid brass desk accessories and table top gifts.

Pure Brass, Welsh artisan, craft, Wales

After much deliberation about metals and products, we chose to make sets of brass fire irons based on an antique set we owned. These few items have evolved over the years to around 100 varied products.

How did your business start and how did it evolve to where you are now?
Our business started from a need to earn a living after trying (and failing!) to become farmers – evidently enthusiasm and a owning copy of The Good Life was not quite enough! So it was time to embark on a new venture. Having an engineering background and barns we could convert into workshops, we decided on an engineering manufacturing business, and after much deliberation about metals and products, we chose to make sets of brass fire irons based on an antique set we owned. These few items have evolved over the years to around 100 varied products.

Pure Brass, artisan craft, Wales

How did your business grow? 
After launching with the set of replica brass fire irons, our next items were an antique brass ‘rocker’ blotter and a letter opener. It was a struggle to compete with cheaper fire irons imported from the Far East – although we did sell a set to the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff – but we were getting more enquiries for the desk and home office items and requests for more products. So we gradually added more products and designs to our range and attended more prestigious trade shows, where we were able to attract orders from high-end retailers like Harrods and Fortnum & Mason.

pure brass key holder,

Tim has most of our product ideas and when something pops into his mind, he just goes out to the workshops and makes it.

What is it about brass that appeals to you? 
Brass is a wonderful, tactile metal that machines beautifully and has timeless appeal.

How do you decide what to make? 
Tim has most of our product ideas and when something pops into his mind, he just goes out to the workshops and makes it. Then we use it for a while, and sometimes it evolves. When we are completely happy, it goes into our catalogue.

white and brass candlesticks, brass candle holders

Brass is a wonderful, tactile metal that machines beautifully and has timeless appeal.

Can you talk us through how your products are made?
Our raw brass stock comes in either 3m rods of various diameter or flat plate in various widths and depths. If we’re using the flat plate, we first cut it roughly to the size required for a product and then mill it to the correct shape. If we’re using the brass rod, we insert it into one of several lathes to be machined. Some products have several component parts, whereas others, such as our Rocker Blotter, have only three brass parts. After this initial machining, all parts are then polished. Each part goes through a cleaning machine to remove any excess grease or polishing compound and is then individually lacquered. Once fully dry, the parts are assembled into products ready for packing.

Brass tools, Pure Brass

Our workshops are split into three parts: there is the machine workshop that houses all our lathes, mill, saw, grinding wheels, polishing wheels; our cleaning and engraving room; and our finishing and packing room, where products are assembled and packed.

Can you describe the Pure Brass workshop?
Our workshops are split into three parts. Firstly there is the machine workshop that houses all our lathes, mill, saw, grinding wheels, polishing wheels, etc. Secondly there is our cleaning and engraving room. As well as our cleaning machine, this houses our computer-driven engraver that enables us to personalise products to customers’ requirements. Finally we have our finishing and packing room, where products are assembled and packed.

Pure Brass, Welsh craft

Recently we were asked to make a Double Time Zone Clock and engrave a personal message for Neil Diamond, the singer.

Your desk accessories have been stocked in Harrods and can be found on the desks of royalty and government ministers. What’s the most exciting order you’ve ever had?
I do remember being extremely excited to see one of our Rocker Blotters on the desk of a government minister some years back. But probably the most exciting order was for a number of specially designed ‘oversized’ desk sets for the Middle East, and more recently we were asked to make a Double Time Zone Clock and engrave a personal message for Neil Diamond, the singer.

Pure Brass pen, solid brass pen

I was extremely excited to see one of our Rocker Blotters on the desk of a government minister some years back.

You’ve been making products since 1986. How has the UK craft scene changed over that time?
The craft scene has changed immensely. Back then, in times of good employment and very high interest rates, only a few people actually made the leap to become self employed and had the vision to sell their own products. It is now, collectively, very big business and I think there is a craft business of some kind in every town and village in the country.

pure-brass-rods

The craft scene has changed immensely since we started in 1986. Back then, in times of good employment and very high interest rates, only a few people actually made the leap to become self employed and had the vision to sell their own products. Now there is a craft business of some kind in every town and village in the country.

What would you say to someone thinking about selling their work?
Make what you enjoy making. Do your research. Find out what sells and how you can put your own mark on your chosen medium. Please also remember it’s not a quick means of making money, so make sure you can sustain yourself and/or your family.

What does craft mean to you?
Craft means great products, individually and lovingly made by a creator who cares.

desk accessories, Pure Brass

What would I say to someone thinking about selling their work? Make what you enjoy making. Do your research. Find out what sells and how you can put your own mark on your chosen medium. And remember it’s not a quick means of making money.

How will you be spending Christmas this year, and what will be at the top of your tree?
We will be spending Christmas at home, with family, so it will be busy, mad, crazy, fun and wonderful! On the top of our tree is an angel Tim made back in the 1970s when our children were very little.

Pure Brass, welsh small business

 

You can see more Pure Brass products on Folksy > 

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