Almost 20 years ago, Ken Van Der Water, the founder of Buckaroo Leatherworks, designed the first ever tool belt that could be adapted to suit absolutely any trade. His invention ultimately transformed the way tradespeople carried their tools as well as improving tool belt safety and work efficiency. However taking it one step further as all innovators do, Ken always insisted that everything had to not only be made good it had to look good too and it was this trailblazing quality that set Buckaroo apart. While there was a risk in his formula, tradies loved the idea of a good-looking tool belt and eventually everyone wanted the Aussie Made black and orange Buckaroo. In reflecting on what makes us innovators, we sat down and chatted to someone who also has a unique story to tell.
\WILLIAM FEGAN, OWNER OF WILD WILLY’S WOODSHOP
The Wild Willy’s Woodshop brand is pretty unique. So tell us in your opinion, what makes you different to other trades people?
I think I have an immense interest in all aspects of the craft from timber framing to coming up with new ideas for small goods. I’ve always had a progressive outlook and don’t like to be pigeon holed even though that might not be the best business decision.
And what, if anything, inspired you to have this different outlook even when it wasn’t the best decision for your business?
I think growing up working with a mix of old salty bastards led me to a place where I knew I didn’t align with a lot of the ways these guys thought and lived their lives. I’ve always been a passionate person with a background as a touring/session drummer and a love for bmx. I’ve always gone all the way in with the things I’ve really enjoyed and I just don’t mesh with people who don’t have that same spark. The guy who goes home and sits on the couch with the TV on and a 6 pack in his hand isn’t going to get to the next level.
“For me it’s all about having an open mind and staying true to yourself and your craft. There might only be one minuscule detail in a project that says “this is wild Willy’s” and that’s up to me to decide ;)”
So how exactly does your work reflect your persona?
I have the opportunity to take the reins creatively pretty often with my projects and I know that’s a big responsibility which often humbles me. I think I’m a creative person in general and have become part of a community of creatives here in Brooklyn which has been super inspiring to bounce ideas off of each other. For me it’s all about having an open mind and staying true to yourself and your craft. There might only be one minuscule detail in a project that says “this is wild Willy’s” and that’s up to me to decide ;)
You’re becoming more and more popular within the world of social media but what’s your favourite platform to use?
Instagram has definitely been a game changer. It’s a great way to get yourself out there as well as your work. I’ve definitely made some life long friends that I’m inspired by on a daily basis in both life and work. I think it’s been successful for me cos I don’t beat around the bush with long captions and explanations of things everyone already knows. I like to keep it to what I’m doing and why.
Sometimes a tradesperson can be stereotyped as being a school dropout, or the guy who couldn’t get a job anywhere else. If you could change one thing about the trades what would it be and why?
I think I could go on and on about 3 topics here but I’ll stick to one. I’d like to see more women in the trades. I think this work is very gratifying and can be that way for life once you get into a groove. I think the culture isn’t so inviting to women and they were told these jobs weren’t for them for a long time. I’ve never agreed with any of that and I may be having a girl from a crafts program in Germany come to NYC to be my apprentice for a couple months. Who knows it could turn into an ongoing thing.
“Ask questions to make people think. Get inside their heads.”
No doubt you are a standout in how you keep creativity at the fore of your craft. We’d like to know what other communities are you a part of?
For the most part I considered myself a musician before I ever cut a piece of wood. I grew up playing with older musicians which led to my first paying gig at 20 in a bar where I used a fake ID to get in (then had my 21st birthday party there).This led to me moving to Brooklyn to pursue this journey further. Working carpentry jobs during the day and doing music almost every night led me to meeting an amazing group of people I consider family in some cases. I love to visit other workshops and studios to talk about process, the how and the why.
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