One day, a few years back, I had an email from The Guardian. They wanted to make a film about my charity Out of the Dark [see below]. But, when their guy showed up, he didn’t have a camera. ‘OK,’ I thought, ‘this is interesting.’ When, by day three, there was still no camera, I asked him what the deal was. He said: ‘Don’t worry, I haven’t missed what I know I’m going to film.’ ‘Wow,’
I thought to myself, ‘this guy’s even more confident than me!’ But the next day, he had his camera and he hit the nail on the head. That video went viral and TV companies started contacting me, including the Money For Nothing people. They asked me to restore a piece for the pilot. In that episode, I mentioned that I taught young people how to make money from nothing – and that’s how it all came about.
It’s going to sound cocky, but that first time in front of the camera felt like a normal day. I had no nerves whatsoever. The camera geezer said I was a natural, and I think that’s why, by series three, I was also a presenter for the show.
Early on, I was asked to upcycle an Ercol chair, which was when my signature style of painting just one leg in a bold colour came into its own. People sometimes stop me in the street and ask: ‘Why don’t you finish the job and paint all the legs?’ And I simply reply: ‘Because it’s cool.’
Waiting at the recycling centres can be the hardest part of the show. You can wait two weeks – and the smell is awful in the summer – for something good to come along. And even then not everyone wants to be on camera. I once had to watch as an Egg chair was thrown onto the tip! But you have to respect people’s wishes – it’s not just an object to them; that chair may have held memories that the owner didn’t want to keep.
We filmed series six and seven last autumn, and the former will be on TV soon, so keep your eyes out.
Five facts you should know about Jay:
Before he was a TV presenter, Jay ran a charity called Out of the Dark. He helped young people get out of anti-social behaviour patterns through furniture craft – giving them the skills to make a living.
He loves music. ‘Soul, jazz, reggae, classical… I love it all!’
The most rewarding day of Jay’s career (so far) was working with a girl who hadn’t smiled for years. ‘After showing her how to craft, she started smiling – her mum was over the moon.’
He’s extremely optimistic. ’You have got to look on the positive side. Always.’
His home is a neutral zone. ‘It’s 50 shades of beige! It allows me to really enjoy colour at work.’
Portrait of Jay by Jesse Wild