While taking care of the business side of the creative process, we also prioritise sustainability. At Artisanry Co., we pride ourselves in working along the ethical lines of decent work and economic growth, gender equality, and responsible production and consumption.
Our social impact goals are at the heart of what we do when showcasing small and independent UK-based makers. We recently spoke to two makers in our community. Mags, who makes unique and bespoke pieces of furniture, and Rachel who produces hand thrown pottery pieces.
Meet the makers
Mags began her artistic explorations in knitting and crocheting but has since evolved into working natural wood. This passion ignited By Mags who shares “I take joy in revealing the beauty of old furniture, to do as my dad did. I re-use, re-purpose, re-paint and breathe new life into old furniture that others would discard.”
Rachel, the potter behind Rachel in the Dales Pottery, makes hand thrown pottery stoneware pottery. What makes her pieces really unique is how she glazes them. Rachel creates handmade glazes made from local, natural materials that she forages in the Yorkshire Dales.
Both makers spoke to us about how sustainability is at the heart of their art.
How do you incorporate sustainable practices into your work?
“Sustainability is a rather essential byproduct of my work and is something of a seamless fit into what I do. I was brought up in a home where my father would repair, reuse and reconstitute virtually everything.
None of my pieces are new, none of them are bought from the shelf. They’re second hand, they’re repaired, they’re from charity shops, old garages and sheds, they’re even from skips.
Many times we’ve been driving down the road, past a skip and I see wood sticking out of it. All harsh, worn wood, floorboards, panelling, even rusted old bits of metal. It can all be cleaned, polished and brought back to life.
The only new pieces I ever incorporate are locks and backboards and, of course, the paints and waxes I use. My pieces aren’t supposed to look new, so I will use and reuse old at any opportunity.”
“Sustainability is a topic that I’m very passionate about! One of the (many) things that I love about the pottery process is how little waste there is. Clay can be recycled over and over again, and one big step I’ve made this year is learning the process of reclaiming clay and resurrecting an old pugmill! I’ve saved all of my old bags so that my recycled clay can go back into them.
Anyone who receives my pottery will see a bit of a hodgepodge of packaging used, from recycled boxes to polystyrene or potato starch peanuts to compostable packing paper and tape. There is a method in the madness!
Any NEW packaging materials I buy are sustainably sourced and biodegradable. Everything else is reused from what I’ve received over the years. I feel that this is important. I’m creating more waste by just throwing it away… The packaging may not appear as ‘polished’, but I feel that that sacrifice is worth the effort of reusing and recycling. Waste not! My business cards are also made from a waste product… T-shirt snippets to help reduce waste in the fashion industry.”
How does sustainability impact your creative process?
“I wouldn’t dream of buying furniture from a department store. Flatpacks, soulless assembly line kit furniture, dull, plastic-covered chipboard or MDF is a non-starter. I don’t want that.
I want pieces with a soul to them, with bumps and scrapes, wobbly feet or broken legs, it’s what inactively seek out. Even old nails. If they’re good, I never throw them, they’re left to rust and reused whenever needed. So it doesn’t impact me, I positively thrive on it.
“When teaching myself about glazing, I approached it with a desire to incorporate our local Dales landscape into my pottery. I came across a book on natural glaze making by Miranda Forrest, which was hugely influential in my own glaze journey.
My ethos was to use what you have; experiment and see what works. And so in line with that, my role in working sustainably within the landscape of the Dales has shaped my work.
Many of my plant ash glazes I make using species that are invasive or problematic to farmers. My foraging makes only a small dent in controlling their growth, but… every little bit counts! And it helps reduce the need of some to control these species by using harmful chemicals.
The National Trust at Malham Tarn Estate have also granted me permission to forage for all the nettles, thistles, docks and rushes I could wish for! These plants make some of my favourite glazes…and foraging these invasive-types also helps to preserve the Estate’s SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) internationally important hay meadows.
Burning is an essential part of my glaze-making process. And whilst burning itself isn’t brilliant for the environment, I have to do it so little and for such a short time that my environmental impact is very small; definitely much smaller than using chemically processed glazes that come packaged in plastic containers.
The organic material of the plant burns away, leaving minerals in the ash. Minerals in the right combination melt and become my glazes.”
What role do you believe sustainability plays in the artisan industry as a whole?
“For me, sustainability goes hand in hand with what I do and it is part of the re-creation process. I think, in the artisan world, this is what people are looking for. Markets are full of people who are looking for old and quirky or simply newly made from old methods.
We’re much more likely to buy a wooden bowl we’ve seen worked from an old, wooden turner, and we’re more likely to pay the extra for it than the mass-produced, machine-made pieces from the flatpack stores.
I’ve seen beautiful charms made from old coins, brooches from old wool, tables from old doors, lights from old bottles, fire extinguishers and machine parts. I have old rusted old wood and rivets, found on the banks of the Forth, a rusted axe, a spike and sheep shears from farm sales that just need to be cleaned and polished.
And when the right piece of beech wood comes along, I’ll be making unique, one-off cheese boards with them. I even have an old wooden block and tackle. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it yet, but one day it’ll be cleaned, polished and put to use.
Sustainability in the artisan world I think is an absolute essential to its very existence.”
“I think that we all have a huge responsibility to change our practices, making them both sustainable and low impact on the environment. Each of us is responsible to do what we can and to commit to continuing making those steps (every little step helps!).”
Join the Artisanry community
We’re looking for like-minded, UK-based artisans who uphold sustainable practices. Our marketing platforms give your marketing leverage so that you can focus on the creative process.
We’re offering a special marketing package to the first 50 artists and makers. The package, which is worth £200, includes the option of a bespoke video, five days of posting on our social media channels and business support. Email us at info@localhost to find out more. You can also follow us on Facebook to stay updated on our events, happenings and news.