About Us

From Rags To Wood

Glen Beckford came to England in 1969 to join his mother and was like many Jamaican boys growing up without a father but was eager to learn a skill. So much so that he was learning tailoring based on Foley Street. In the evenings he would learn gilding on Ogle Street (off of Foley Street) but somehow that did not stop there. Glen Beckford still decided to take it one stage further. He then went on to register at Brixton College to study mechanical engineering. That became hectic as he was doing all three on certain days. Bi-weekly college was in the evenings and that began to take its toll on Glen. So decisions, decisions and Glen decided to approach his mother to tell her exactly what was going on because neither his mother nor anyone else knew that he was learning gilding in the evenings because that would have shown intent of him leaving the tailoring shop and joining the gilding shop. This of course would have brought upset into the home as the family was from a tailoring background as nobody in the family knew anything about gilding. Furthermore, not even the public knew much, if anything, about gilding which is true even up to this day as it is not a highly publicised subject.

Glen soon after handed in his notice to the tailor shop and joined the gilding shop without telling his mother this. A few months later, low and behold his mother noticed that he was heading to work later than usual. This is when it all happened, Glen had left the tailor shop and started to work for Mattei Radev at Ogle Street, which was the same travelling time and direction so everything seemed natural but this is what happened. "One evening while rushing home from work to get my books to head off to college, there I noticed a new business open on the street just around the corner from home with the writing 'Gilding and Woodcarving'. I was absolutely dumbstruck and with hesitation and courage I knocked the door and as I pushed the door open, there was the person who came to answer. There was my new boss and friends to be for life. Michael Baker and employees with solemn faces as if to say "what are you doing knocking this door?" But before they could say anything, straight away I said "I am a gilder!" At that time they were gilding a great big mirror for an antique dealer in Scotland. On the table was the gilding cushion, the gilding knife and gold leaf, but trust me, I was getting ready to run because in those days racism was highly prevalent. Nonetheless, Michael Baker looked at the others and in a very sort of diplomatic manner said "there's a cushion, knife and all the necessary there mate... lay some gold." They all had a smirk on their face with the expectation that I would make a fool of myself and be told goodbye or on your bike mate...However I was so glad to be given the chance to prove myself that within seconds of me starting to lay the gold leaf they all stood up and just looked at each other in silence as in if amazed at my capability. The boss, Michael, then queried where I was from and took me into his office to show me around and straight away he offered me the option of starting a full-time, part-time or even an evening job. At this point I was offered £24 per week instead of the £15 that I was earning at Ogle Street. I decided to work for Michael Baker, then I moved onto Woolfe Antiques located on Albany Street, then onto Paul Levi of Upbrook Studio, and following this I worked at home from my mother's kitchen table doing framing for Richard Green, John Keil and many more. My first workshop was located at 128A Stockwell Road which coincidentally was owned by the material supplier of the gilding trade, John Mylands."