Co-founder of Quill & Pad, Ian Skellern, writer, photographer and one of the most influential people in the watchmaking industry.
1. Describe briefly your childhood.
I grew up in tropical North Queensland Australia and couldn’t imagine why anyone would ever want to live anywhere else. Beaches, ocean, reef, forests and good friends, I couldn’t want for more. So naturally, I left. I’ve now lived in Switzerland longer than I lived in Australia.
2. As a child did you have any driving ambition?
Work- wise I first wanted to be a scientist, which I eventually narrowed down to marine biologist. But I ended up becoming an electrician instead. In my early 20s, I developed a strong wish to see more of the world and ended up spending eight years travelling through Europe, Africa, Asia and South America.
3. What is your first significant memory as a child?
I was a good swimmer and very comfortable in and under water, but when I was a teenager, I became trapped at the bottom of a Jacuzzi by the filter suction. At first, I wasn’t worried as I had a good breath of air and thought it was just a matter of finding the right body position to be able to push away, however, it quickly became apparent I didn’t have the strength or leverage to break away and the surface was a tantalizing hand’s breadth away. I tried scooping bubbles down into my mouth without success, and then relaxed as the cliché as happy highlights of my life flooded my memory and I felt genuinely at peace with letting go. Even happy to do so. However, while I had given up my body hadn’t, and a burst of adrenalin gave me the force to break free. Ever since then I’ve thought that drowning was a nice was to die. Not that I’d recommend it to anyone.
4. Have you ever had another profession?
I’ve had many jobs/professions including electrician, overland expedition leader/driver, insurance salesman, camp ground manager, dish-washer, computer staff head-hunter/recruiter, handyman, watch journalist, digital/social communication consultant, and now publisher/ technical editor on Quill & Pad. And I’m hoping I’ve still got time to try a few more fields before I hang my boots up.
5. What made you decide to go in the direction you are currently in?
Five years ago, Elizabeth Doerr asked me if I’d be interested in setting up a watch blog with her. I said yes and we created Quill & Pad.
6. What’s the worst job you’ve had to do?
I like learning new things and have enthusiastically enjoyed every job I’ve done that’s continued to teach me things. And that includes cleaning toilets and washing dishes in a restaurant. When I stop learning/stop enjoying and start to get bored, I take that as a sign to do something else.
7. What’s been the hardest moment in your life so far, and how did you overcome it?
8. Who has had the strongest influence on you?
I’ve always liked reading and so soak up information and inspirations from a great many people. But I’ve no doubt my parents and family have had the strongest influence.
9. What are you most proud of?
My 23-year marriage to my wife Brigitte.
10. What advice would you give to a 20 something someone thinking of taking a similar path as you?
I wouldn’t recommend that anyone take the same path as I did, but I highly recommend that everyone actively take their own path. We are all scared of change, but change presents opportunities the status quo doesn’t. If you are thinking about making a change, do it! Yes that is scary, but your life is racing by too quickly to waste on things that don’t get you a bit excited.
11. Name three things on your bucket list.
I’ve spent most of my life ticking off my bucket list and don’t have many left. But here’s two: learn to drive a carriage with a pair of horses and to sail a yacht across an ocean.
12. Where do you think the industry is going to be in 10-year’s time.
A lot more transparent, consumers have honest information, journalists paid fairly and without brand bias, efficient international distribution designed around the way people live and travel instead of how things were 30 years ago, independents watchmakers recognized by the wider public as artistic geniuses.
Only joking, I have absolutely no idea. But I do expect the industry to be very, very, different.
To learn more about Ian Skellern Quill & Pad