So Sam, tell us about your work and lifestyle…
My work and my lifestyle are pretty much intertwined, having worked for myself nearly 20 years through various guises; I’m now predominantly a knife maker - following the birth of our son last year I stepped back from furniture making for a while as we'd opened up a restaurant and I was doing a lot of daddy day care... Knife making you can dip in and out of; an hour here, an hour there and eventually it all comes together. Trying to do this with high end bespoke furniture isn’t the same, I just don’t have the time or head space for it right now.
My wife and I have a little farmstead in the west of Ireland, we grow veg for ourselves and for our restaurant, I cook a bit, make cocktails… all the fun stuff, whilst jumping in the sea as much as I can. There’s a great community of like-minded souls over here so it’s nice when we’ve each been busy with various projects and there’s a swell running to share a few waves with your mates.
How and when did this jacket come to you? What was your intention for bringing it to life?
The jacket I got 6 years ago as a second hand purchase. I’d wanted one for a while but hadn’t managed it, then all of a sudden there was this little gem arriving at my door. I don’t know the story of hole number one, but I had a piece of gaffer tape over it for a long time so that I didn’t ruin it further.
Me and that jacket did everything together - it kept me warm and cosy up hills, in the woods, down the beach, kept me smart in business meetings, an extra layer in sleeping bags, handy pillow on wild camps… It’s travelled with me, it’s worked with me, it’s been on dates. I even took it to Sri Lanka (I wore it to the airport) when Niamh and I got married, in fact, thinking about it now I even had it on when our son Rowan was born. I’ve always enjoyed the Finisterre ethics and wanted to do my part to really make this jacket live its best life.
This jacket has become well-worn and full of memories. Do you have a story of a particularly memorable trip when you were really glad to have it?
One of the best tests of its warmth and cosiness was an impromptu February trip to Scotland for my 40th with Matt, Noah and the Backwash crew. I’d come back from a surprise birthday party to find Matt waiting at my door… 'What you doing this week' was his question. 'Not much. Work...blah, blah, blah', my reply. 'How about packing your bag and getting in the car and coming to Scotland? You have 20 minutes.'
Matt does not mince his words; I also know he’s a devil for sensible packing and my dreams of 2 wetsuits and numerous boards were met with a shake of the head. We were picking up Noah on the way to the ferry and already had Matt’s dog Conrad in tow.
We had a great week of chasing waves, beautiful crisp clear days, chilly earlies (very glad of my jacket then) on the reefs and stunning sunsets at a reeling river mouth. Great chats, good eating, warm fires and new friendships. The jacket stayed on pretty much the whole trip (as well as my long johns!) apart from when I had a wetsuit on. It was the perfect mid-layer under my trusty old Barbour.
What does it feel like putting it on now? Does it evoke a lot of memories?
It’s been through so much and been on so many trips; from zipping up over the hill to the sea keeping me warm chasing winter swells, to other continents, up mountains and scaling trees. It’s now in semi-retirement as my workshop coat, keeping me cosy as I potter away making knives. It does still get the odd run outside, if there’s the chance of a few waves as knives glue up or cool from the forge. It makes me very happy wearing my little red coat, we’ve had some great times together and I’m not ready to see its demise yet!
Does the jacket open up a dialogue with people you meet, does it create conversation?
People love it, always have even when it wasn’t full of repairs. I remember seeing a jacket of Fergal’s a good while ago and marvelling at all the repairs, but I think we're pretty even these days.
I like the fact that it makes people think more about repairing their own clothes, keeping them going. More and more people are asking about the Finisterre repairs scheme, so hopefully people are making more informed choices on the quality of the clothes they are buying and thinking about their future.
Clearly you believe in longevity of a product and a more circular economy. How does this thread of sustainable practice weave through your life and work. Is this something you practice holistically?
Totally; I’m all for reuse, repair, recycle. A lot of my work features materials I’ve found, be it old farm machinery, repurposing the steel when laminating and creating Damascus steel (welded and folded and welded and folded - creates a wood grain type pattern in the steel), wind felled trees or prunings from our ancient orchard at home, native hardwood off cuts from wind felled trees in the furniture I make or plastics and metals found washed up on the beaches.
I started working with salvaged and reclaimed materials before Instagram and Pinterest had arrived as that was the cheapest materials available and no one had money to spend... I find it funny that so much of this stuff is now mainstream. Hopefully it’s not just a passing trend and the actual thought behind it all stays with people - we are living in a complex age and the frustrations of a disposable society drive me crazy. We need to be more aware of our place in the world, of the consequences of our choices and actions - buying an Ikea bedroom set in a different colour scheme each year as trends come and go is just not an option.
I now work with my hands to make heirloom pieces, grow vegetables and cook good food that makes people happy. I’m pretty lucky - if part of that means wearing a jacket through all its ages and giving it the longest and most productive life possible, then so be it. Fortunately Finisterre very kindly sent a new jacket now, so at least I can look a little smart with potential clients!
Your jacket has been freshly patched and soon to be back with you. what kind of adventures do you have planned for it once it arrives back home?
The next work adventure will be another good winter bashing out steel. As for play adventures, there'll be a good bit of keeping me cosy from winter waves, the usual run-arounds at home and some exploring up north too. I’ve still not made it up to Noah’s new cafe yet, we've been threatening to head up so hopefully I can combine a good few waves and test out his cooking and coffee making skills.
Final question. If you could describe your jacket using just one word, what would it be?
Dependable – it’s been there through so much, it’s kept me warm and happy through it all. Go buy yourself one and take it on some adventures, it will serve you well and you'll understand exactly what I mean.
We don’t actually sell the Sastruga Jacket anymore. But we’ve kept the innovations that made it so popular and fed them into our updated Nimbus design - our classic signature jacket.