Editor, Buckets & Spades
Blackpool lad Mat Buckets (Matthew Pike to his ma) has done something a lot of people dream about but very few pull off. He’s managed to transform his Buckets & Spades blog from a simple digital space used to store images, into a successful and indispensable fashion, design and lifestyle resource.
After eight years in the game, he’s also managed to prove his other half wrong and win over a loyal following of readers who appreciate Mat Bucket's eye for nice stuff.
Rhythmic Clicking: To someone who hasn’t checked out Buckets & Spades, or Googled Mat Buckets, what would you say you’re all about?
Mat Buckets: I’m just a normal guy and I’d like to think that Buckets & Spades reflects that. Although, I’m also a normal guy who happens to appreciate colours and interesting visuals, despite getting a G in art.
RC: It’s been well covered on the rest of the Internet but why did you start Buckets & Spades?
Mat: There are two reasons why I started Buckets & Spades. The first is that I studied Fashion Promotion and Marketing at university and there was a journalistic element to the course. I was crap at writing so I realised that I had to do something to improve it.
RC: And the other reason?
Mat: I suggested the idea to my girlfriend and she thought I would never keep it up. That was about eight years ago. Oh, and it was also a way to store my photography. I had a crappy laptop with no memory so a blog helped me keep track of all my images.
RC: What made you make the leap from using a blog to store images to blogging as a proper career?
Mat: I was working various jobs after uni but I felt a bit stuck. It was actually my girlfriend’s dad who helped me realise that I was missing out on projects because I was tied up in a day job. He suggested that I quit what I was doing to make a real go of the blog.
RC: That’s a move most people aren’t brave enough to make…
Mat: It was really scary but I knew it was worth a shot. I didn’t really have anything to lose. I had enough money to cover myself for a year or two. I needed a push, I made the leap and I reckon it was the best advice I’ve ever had.
RC: Without jumping into your finances, how does someone make a living from blogging?
Mat: You can generate a lot of work through recommendations. I started relatively early so companies discovered me easily for those initial collaborations. If I started a blog now I reckon it’d be solid.
RC: Obviously you’re winning at making Buckets & Spades your career, but what motivates you to keep doing it on a personal level?
Mat: I just love sharing stuff. I think that’s the difference between Buckets & Spades and your run-of-the-mill fashion blog spewing out press releases. I’m sometimes labelled as a menswear blogger but there’s lots of design, lifestyle and travel content up on the website too.
RC: Would you call yourself a tastemaker?
Mat: Nobody’s called me that before. Is that a good thing?
RC: Yeah, we guess.
“I just love sharing stuff. I think that's the difference between Buckets & Spades and your run-of-the-mill fashion blog…”
Mat: It’s weird when I realise that the stuff I post, whether on the blog or on social media, can influence people into buying the same thing.
RC: Has that ever happened?
Mat: I once posted a picture of some Converse trainers to Instagram and then someone messaged me to say they’d bought the same pair because of my picture. Imagine if Converse knew that!
RC: What do you think makes Buckets & Spades stand out from the ton of other websites out there that claim to offer the same thing?
Mat: I think it’s the personal approach. I’m not scared to feature pictures of myself on the blog. It’s not just press shots. Weirdly though, that’s got me a few freelance stylist jobs.
RC: What’s an average day for you?
Mat: Mostly I’m just sat at my desk. Well, my table. I don’t have a desk.
RC: You should get a desk…
Mat: That’s an exclusive for you; Mat Buckets doesn’t have a desk. I usually wake up around six and go for a cycle or to the gym. I sit down and start work around nine. My day mostly consists of answering emails. I plan all my work on a Sunday so I work around a five-day plan. Whether that’s writing, researching or out there generating content. I’m always online though – which is not always a great thing.
“The site is full of interesting products and collaborations but it's the personal posts that I really enjoy doing."
RC: What are your go-to websites for inspiration?
RC: What inspires you in real life?
Mat: Walking is important because you never know what you’re going to come across. I try and walk down as many different streets that I’ve never walked down before. I like looking at things and figuring out why they are designed the way they are.
RC: That could be a metaphor for what Buckets & Spades is all about…
Mat: Paul Smith is also a massive inspiration. Basically he’s my role model. I’ve never met him but his whole ethos appeals to me.
RC: If you had to pick three tools that are essential to Buckets & Spades what would they be?
Mat: Obviously a computer. I always carry a notepad around with me too. Oh, and my camera. I’m using a Lumix DMC-GX7 at the moment. I won it in a competition.
RC: I’ve won a few competitions on Buckets & Spades in the past! I probably shouldn’t admit that…
Mat: That’s a downfall of blogging. A lot of brands wont let you win their competitions anymore.
RC:Yeah, how does the whole brand collaboration work? Is it hard to avoid becoming nothing more than a ‘Yes Man’ to brands? I know you’ve written about this in the past, but at what point do you have to defend your editorial integrity over collaboration with a brand?
Mat: I just make sure I think about whether the project fits with what Buckets & Spades is all about. It’s like, if a golf company asked me if I wanted a tour around their factory to discover how golf balls are made then I’d be up for it. But if they just asked if I wanted to play a round of golf I wouldn’t be as keen – it’s not that relevant.
RC: Was it harder to turn down collaborations when you started out?
Mat: Definitely. That whole ‘Yes Man’ post was something I felt really strongly about after a few years of blogging. The site is full of interesting products and collaborations but it’s the personal posts like that I really enjoy doing.
RC: Does anyone else contribute to Buckets & Spades?
Mat: My girlfriend Hollie takes a lot of the snaps and there’s Nik who is a contributing writer. I’d love him to do more because he’s a great writer, and he’s turned into a really good friend of mine.
RC: Yeah, we’re big fans of his reviews…
Mat: If you haven’t read his 99p Pret coffee review I can’t recommend that enough. Nik is a bit like our London correspondent and just a great help.
RC: You’re based in Blackpool. How much do you think your location has influenced the content on the site? The blog’s title clearly nods towards your coastal hometown.
Mat: I’m a proud that I’ve managed to make something work outside of London. It can be a little bit tricky but at the same time, Blackpool has helped give me an identity. Look at the Uniqlo campaign I did, I think I was the only blogger who isn’t based in London.
RC: Who’s the typical Buckets & Spades reader?
Mat: Surprisingly, women. There’s about a 60/40 split. Althoug, Nik started contributing is because he was a fan of the website to start with.
RC: What’s next for Mat Buckets?
Mat: I’d love work with brands on a consultation level. A lot of brands aren’t too hot on engaging with people on a normal level so it’d be great to help them out. I’m also thinking about tweaking the design of Buckets & Spades too but that’s a 2015 thing. It’d also be really cool if I was based in America, that place is so photogenic.
Look at that guy over there…[Matt points at a dapper chap crossing the road. We both stare with wonder and intrigue]