This week on Monday Makers we have a company who are really thinking differently about materials, waste, locality and just what you can do with a sack of wool… We are delighted to introduce Solidwool.
Hi there! Please tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Solidwool is myself and my husband, Justin. We are based in Buckfastleigh, in south-west England, on the edge of Dartmoor National Park. A beautiful part of the world. We are lucky to live here.
We’ve developing Solidwool since 2012, but the material and products have been on sale since the beginning of 2015.
What do you make?
We have created a totally unique material called Solidwool. The easiest way to describe it is to say it is like fibreglass, but with wool.
We took inspiration from our home of Buckfastleigh, an old woollen town. We thought, if we can find a new way of working with wool then perhaps we could bring some wool industry back to the town. And in turn, create some local jobs.
The wool we use is coarse and undervalued, typically from hill-farmed sheep. It has lost its perceived value and so for many, it is seen as a by-product of sheep farming. A waste product.
We see a beauty in this undervalued resource and have used it to create a material which capitalises on wools inherent strength and turns it into a beautiful alternative to reinforced plastic.
Currently we make our products using wool from the iconic Herdwick sheep of the Lake District. We will soon also be introducing a Dartmoor Scotch Blackface Solidwool to the range.
The wool is combined with a bio-resin in a unique process we have developed. The resin has a roughly 30-40% bio content. The great thing is that the bio-resin industry is moving forward all the time. We aim to make a 100% natural composite, one day.
We design and manufacture our own range of furniture using Solidwool material. We also work with other companies who see a use for Solidwool products in their range. So far we have worked with companies such as Finisterre, Artifact Uprising and Blok Knives along with supplying flat sheet material to interior design projects for Brewdog Soho and the new Bertha’s Pizza in Bristol.
What is your favourite piece you create, and why?
The Hembury Chair.
It was the first product we created and so will always be a special one for us. It embodies so much of the rollercoaster that goes with setting up your own business. The amazing highs and the inevitable harder times.
What inspires you?
The outside. There is so much to be gained from time spent in the great outdoors. Humans have created so many amazing inventions and made such technological advances, but you can’t beat the stripped back, beauty of the natural world to clear the mind and inspire.
What is your favourite place?
So many, no favourites, just lots of great places for many different reasons.
The sanctuary of home and that spot in our lounge in the morning sun. The raw beauty of Iceland. The mountains in Nepal. The campsite on St Agnes in the Scillies, totally exposed and facing out towards the Atlantic Ocean. The Scarlet Hotel, an amazing space with the best spa.
Ok – you are rulers of the world for the day. What one law do you bring in?
The ban of single-use plastic. Plastic is in some ways an amazing durable material that has been created, but then it is used for single use items. It’s a complete materials mismatch.
It’s awesome to see how England’s plastic bag usage has dropped 85% since the 5p charge was introduced last October. Just think where else this could be rolled out to similar effect.
What is your studio / company motto?
It’s hard to pin one motto down, we have taken inspiration from so many different things.
Tim Smit, the creator of the Eden Project once said that “beauty will be the most important word of the next 15 years”. I think there is some truth in that. We want to create a beautiful material that helps people feel connected to the wilds that it came from.
‘Work hard and be nice to people’ is definitely a good motto to live by. (this is our favourite too at the cpd studio!)
I also really like this quote from Henry van Dyke. “Use what talents you possess, the woods will be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.” It’s a good reminder that you don’t have to be an expert at something to give it a try.
Where can we see you next?
Our friends Gavin Strange and Jane Kenney have just set up an online contemporary company making and selling beautiful products. It’s called STRANGE and they will be selling Solidwool products. They are launching with a pop-up event in Bristol at the Christmas Steps Gallery from 25th – 28th August.
We will also be taking part in the DO Market again this year. Organised by Miranda West who runs the Do Book Co, it’s a small curation of like-minded brands brought together by the Do Lectures. The first one was last year and there was such a buzz. It’s in London and I recommend adding it to your diary – 26th November.
We are also moving into a new factory space over the coming months and so are thinking of organising an open day there to celebrate. If you want to come along, sign up to our mailing list at www.solidwool.com/signup.
A HUGE thank you to Solidwool – check them out and follow them on social media – a wonderful material with a deeply considered ethos. We love it.
(all images courtesy of Solidwool)