Mark Hill and Lola Tillett have figured out a way to turn their shared passion for old vehicles into a creative business.
When the engaged couple isn’t working for a local engineering firm, Hill, 35, and Tillett, 31, turn vintage cars into furniture, jewelry and home decor for their Durham-based company Bash and Lola.
Tillett said they hate to see old cars sit in junkyards because of their history and gravitas.
“We just don’t like throwing things away. We try to save it all,” she said.
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Bash and Lola turn the cars into bars and entertainment centers, and any other kind of furniture you can imagine. As far as jewelry, they offer necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings – for both men and women – and even keychains.
“We do a lot for guys too, which is great, because it’s kind of a unisex idea in a way, the jewelry we make,” Tillett said. “A lot of guys like the chunky rings or the darker colors.”
Despite the fact that many of these old cars were first popular decades before they were even born, , Hill and Tillett feel a strong attraction and attachment to the classics.
“We weren’t around for their heyday, when they were always on the road, but there’s something about them – their lines, their curves, the way they run, the way they sound,” Hill said. “They’re monsters. Terrible on gas – we found that out day-in and day-out. It’s almost an intoxication with old vehicles. The styling and craftsmanship was so different back-in-the-day. They almost have an art-deco kind of feel to them, the way some of the bumpers were, and the grills. They have more character.”
Originally the two tried to fix up the old cars to re-sell them. They quickly discovered that was not profitable.
“We started out and we bought a car and we were like, ‘We’re gonna fix it up and sell it!’ We did a little work to it and just had to sell it, because we had sunk so much money into it we were just at an absolute loss,” Hill said.
The Bash and Lola website – in the middle of a revamping effort – says the majority of their merchandise is sold out, but Hill said that is a result of their unique product line.
“Each one’s a snowflake, so you can’t say ‘I’ve got 35 of these bracelets,’ ” Hill said. “Each one, it’s got yellow on the left and red on the right. Well, the next one’s got blue in the middle,” he said. “So she can’t say ‘I’ve got 65 bracelets in stock.’ She has to post each one and that has just been a nightmare for us.”
A typical day for Hill and Tillett is pretty hectic, between their regular jobs and their Bash and Lola business. They go shopping for old cars after work on weekdays and on weekends, and also frequent the flea market.
Hill said they get it all done because they have a passion for what they do.
“You have to love what you do, or else you’re just going to be another rat in the race,” Hill said. “It doesn’t feel like work when you’re up until 2 a.m. and waking up at 6 just to do it over again because you’re excited. It’s unexplainable. You can’t stop smiling. It’s not like ‘Oh I gotta wake up at 6 and it’s gonna suck to cause I gotta do this again.’ It’s like ‘I can’t wait til 6 a.m. ’cause I get to go do this again.’ After a lot of coffee, that is.”
Bash and Lola
Prices range from $20 to $52 for jewelry, $900 to $3500 for furniture.