Our Christmas Artists’ Open House starts tomorrow!

It does not seem that long ago that we were setting up the studio ready for our first ever Artists’ Open House in May, and yet, here we are at the end of the year with Christmas Artists Open Houses starting at Studio Loo tomorrow!

amalia

We have a wonderful selection of artists and designers joining us this year, with an awesome selection of prints, jewellery, homewares, ceramics, lightboxes and much more. For a full run down of those joining us this November and December, take a look at our special preview page here – and keep your eyes open for our featured interviews with each of our guest artists and designers coming up over the next two weeks. apple prints

Plus, we will have some fantastic cakes, cupcakes and seasonal iced cookies on offer too from the fantastic and delicious Simple Pleasures Cupcakery.

simple pleasures cupcakery

We can’t wait. We probably won’t crack open the Bing and Nat CD just yet, but it certainly is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And by shopping at an Artists’ Open House, you can be assured of a handmade, locally crafted one too.

(images by claire potter)

Zero Waste Week – Silo Brighton…

Continuing our look at zero waste for zero waste week, today we are featuring one of our favourite places in Brighton. Silo, which opened in the North Laine area of the city earlier this year is heralded as a ‘pre-industrial food system’ which, as well as producing beautiful and delicious food, also produces zero waste.

Now, for a restaurant to declare that its is ‘zero waste’ is a huge achievement, but as founder of Silo, Doug McMaster points out – if you design and create ‘backwards’ – ie with the bin in mind, you can begin to eliminate waste before it has been produced, rather than dealing with it at the end. This is effective and clever.

Silo demonstrate that by working with producers directly, you can choose items that have been produced locally, in reusable / returnable vessels that continue to be in the loop once the contents have been used at the restaurant.

silo brighton 2

But reducing the packaging that you use is one thing. The largest, and most pressing waste produced from a restaurant is the food waste itself. Scraps, peelings, left overs – where does all this go? At Silo, they have Big Bertha – a composting machine that sits just inside the entrance to the side of the restaurant and converts everything into compost and liquid feed in an astonishingly short amount of time.

The 50-60kg of compost it produces overnight is distributed back to the growers that they get their raw goods from – literally closing the loop. As you enter the restaurant, one shelf is filled with boxes from the Espresso Mushroom Company, happily sprouting their brown and pink oyster mushrooms from the mix of recycled compost and locally sourced coffee grounds in the cool shade.

silo brighton 3

But it is not just the food that is zero waste at Silo – the pastries that greet you are served on multicoloured discs of plastic – melted plastic bags that have found a new use and the interior itself is a delight of the industrial aesthetic with reclaimed wood seating and reclaimed flooring used as tables.

There is a distinct honesty to everything at Silo. The kitchen is open at one end, the flour is milled in another corner of the open plan space (although not when service is on as it is pretty noisy) and the jugs of water are filled with the visible offcuts of herbs from the kitchen. You drink the water from jam jars and lovely ceramic mugs, obviously.

silo brighton 1

Many people have baulked at the idea of a zero waste restaurant, confining it to the very ‘green orientated creatives’ that live in Brighton, but whilst Silo wears a lot of it’s ethics on it’s sleeve (and rightly so), it also does it rather quietly. There is no massive signage declaring how it is holier than thou. Ask one of the staff and they will enthusiastically explain the systems – even Big Bertha – but there is no ramming of information down your throats, even though this is the system that many more restaurants could be (and should be) employing.

Go to Silo for the delicious food – and realise how zero waste in the food industry is possible.

(images by claire potter design and silo)

*** EVENT *** our next Urban Foraging Walk in Brighton is up…

cherry plum foragingFancy a bit of guided foraging in Brighton? join us on our next Urban Foraging walk in Brighton on Sunday 6th September – check out our Eventbrite page for more details here…

Monday Musings – glyphosate and radical transparency…

It is becoming ever clearer that we really do not know what is actually in the things we use, wear or eat. Not a day appears to go by without a product, formula or chemical being revealed as being ‘possibly detrimental to human health’ (note the possible, and the limitations on ‘human’). We live in a world of complicated concoctions with often untraceable foundations. But, for many, ignorance is bliss. What you don’t know won’t harm you. Well, quite possibly it will.

dandelions

Glyphosate has long been outlawed by organic gardeners for the fierceness and obliterating chemical qualities it has on everything it comes into contact with, but a report issued this week from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organisation (WHO), has categorised the chemical as a ‘probable carcinogen’.

For some, this is no great surprise, but for many this has come as quite a shock, especially as retailers were quick to announce the removal of the products from their shelves. Given that glyphosate is the active ingredient in the majority of weedkillers, including Monsanto’s Roundup, it is far more common an ingredient than you may think, meaning that many gardeners and farmworkers are exposing themselves to the probable carcinogen each year.

So – will glyphosate be banned? Possibly not. There is (of course) a bit of an uproar from Monsanto (what a surprise), plus other European research groups have declared it safe for use, but this poses an interesting question. If there is some risk, is it worth it?

This same question is raised in ‘Ecological Intelligence – the coming age of radical transparency‘ by Daniel Goleman. An empowered consumer is one with the facts, so if there is risk, or a possibility of harm, that consumer may decide the risk is just not worth taking – even if the findings are disputed by others.

This is probably why the big box retailers acted so quickly and publicly when the report was issued on glypsophate. Even if there was the tiniest chance of risk, they certainly do not want to be seen to putting their customers in the firing line.

And what can we do, as the everyday consumer? Well, we can respond in the way that hits the brands the most. We switch brands and make it clear that we are not willing to take on the risk, however small. If we have a choice (and there are natural alternatives to weedkillers, like digging the blighters up), then we are in a position to affect a change. The safe and ethical brands will rise to the top and the Monsanto’s of the world will begin to sink.

Legislation is one thing, but for some, profits shout the loudest. Hit them where it hurts.

Weekend words – when life gives you cherry plums…

when life gives you cherry plums

(image and photography by claire potter)

Monday Musings – foraging – taking advantage or taking your share?

Today on Monday Musings we have a very apt discussion to wade into – foraging. Yesterday we ran one of our popular Urban Foraging walks in Brighton, leading a small group through a couple of parks and streets of the city. We pointed out what is edible, abundant, how you can use it and the folklore and traditions that surround the things we walk past every day. But one discussion that we had, was not how we should forage, but whether we should at all.

cherry plum foraging

This had arisen with the recent discussion – and argument in the Daily Mail – that foragers are stripping the New Forest bare of mushrooms. John Wright, the foraging expert linked with River Cottage (and one of our heroes) came under fire, as his paid foraging courses were blamed for the sparseness of mushrooms in the area. This accusation was quickly rubbished by Wright and River Cottage, who stated that not only do they operate within the law, but that they collect a tiny fraction of the mushrooms discovered on a walk – taking only one basket of edible mushrooms and one basket of ‘interesting’ mushrooms between the whole group. No mushroom is picked twice, and only Wright picks the mushrooms. And of course, only with permission of the landowner.applesPlus, the mushroom is only the reproductive organ of the living organism below ground, so saying that picking mushrooms is harmful, is quite honestly, rubbish. Where the argument against over picking stands is when the forest is laid bare of mushrooms – not perhaps from a conservation point of view, but it is indeed a sad sight.

So this is an interesting argument. With the increasing interest in foraging taking hold, how can we ensure that us, who teach the skill, are being responsible? 

Frankly, I believe that the people I teach to forage – those who want to reconnect with the seasons and their landscape (with respect) and supplement their weekly shop and autumn larders with nutritious and plentiful goodies are not the problem. Like Wright, I only point out items that are so common we would have to all locally down tools and pick for a week to make any kind of dent in the harvest. Hawthorns? Japanese Roses? Nettles? Do me a favour. hawthorn

We never pick items that are rare, or unusual, and if we do discover something, we look and learn.

My personal bugbear with foraging does not sit with people (like me) who run paid for foraging courses, or write books or blogs on the subject. It does not sit with people who post their foraging forays on twitter, facebook and instagram. It certainly does not sit with the individual who picks a kilo of apples on a piece of waste ground. My bugbear sits with those few unscrupulous ‘commercial foragers’ who flaunt the 50 shades of grey areas of the law – picking wherever they can, in large quantities for resale to restaurants and gastropubs. Whenever I see ‘locally foraged’ on a menu I ask questions. Where, who, when? With permission?

Foraging is about being respectful. And the vast majority of us are just that. We respect our local areas, we respect the local biodiversity and we respect the knowledge that has been gathered over generations that we risk losing forever in the eternal glow of the supermarkets.

So will I stop foraging, or teaching people how to forage? Not on your nelly. Knowledge is power and respect comes from education, not ignorance.

*** EVENT *** Urban Foraging in Brighton – 2nd July 2015

Hooray! Only a couple of days to go until our next Urban Foraging event in Brighton and Hove! Starting at the Dyke Road Cafe, we will wind out way through the parks and streets of Brighton and Hove over two hours, identifying the fantastic things that are abundant and edible in our urban hedges. What can you use? When can you use it? How do you use it? We will cover all of this, plus the legal requirements that need to be taken into consideration when foraging…

cherry plum foraging

Join us for a bit of an educating walk, get reconnected with your urban environment and enjoy a bit of a foraged drink at the end.

A perfect way to spend a Sunday morning!  Click here to go to our Eventbrite page with all the details…

(image by claire potter design)

our latest Urban Foraging Walk is now live!

We have been pretty busy on the foraging front this year – mostly running foraging walks for other lovely people in the city, but we have had so many people ask us whether we are running any more, we are!

cherry plum foraging

Up now are full details of our Urban Foraging walk in Brighton on 2nd August… Ever wondered what you walk past each day which you could add into to your daily diet? Ever wondered what this whole urban foraging thing is about, where it has come from and what you can actually do with that random looking leaf? Well, during our 2 hour intro walk, we will help guide you through the laws and pitfalls of foraging and help you identify up to 20 things that are abundant and actually rather delicious in the city. Finishing off with a little drink at the end, this introductory foraging walk through the parks and streets of Brighton will give you a taster of what you are missing…

The walk is £10 per person (with kids free) and you can book through our Eventbrite page…

We look forward to seeing you!

(image by claire potter)

Easter gift idea – a membership to the Heritage Seed Library…

Before anyone says anything – we are huge fans of chocolate, especially the organic loveliness from Montezumas in Brighton, but we had a thought about what else we would love to give people as a gift this Easter break. With the front of the studio literally springing up before our eyes, the soil warming nicely and the seed packages mounting up, we will be giving the gift of heritage growing – with memberships to the Heritage Seed Library from Garden Organic.

We are very proud to be members, with our annual subs of £18 going towards conserving vegetable types which are not commercially available any more. Some are UK varieties, some from further afield, but the HSL ensures that these varieties are not being lost forever… Plus, as part of our membership – as well as the warm fuzzy feeling of doing something good, we also get to pick six different varieties from the library each December to grow ourselves.

From purple carrots to purple beans and even long lost fruits such as the triffid like Achocha, we have had the joy (and sometimes despair) of growing over the past ten years or so. Plus, there is nothing quite like putting a variety into the summer village show that has not been seen for a few years, if at all.

So, if you have someone that is green fingered and not a huge fan of chocolate, perhaps a membership to the Heritage Seed Library could be in order?

(images via the HSL)

Growing food on waste coffee – the Espresso Mushroom company…

We are big supporters of creating new things from waste, especially as most waste – with a bit of thought – can be redirected into creating new products. This can come in many forms, from buildings that  can be created from waste materials (like the Waste House in Brighton) through to new consumer products (such as truck tarpaulin bags from Freitag). And we predict that this pattern will escalate over the coming years as we start to realise that raw materials are either too scarce or expensive to use. It is a huge opportunity for designers to think in the circular rather than linear. But it is not just products that can be created – what about our food? This is exactly what the Espresso Mushroom Company are doing…

Hot Pink Oyster Mushroom Kitchen Garden Espresso Mushroom Company

Founded in Brighton, the Espresso Mushroom Company grow, and create kits allowing you to grow mushrooms from a substrate based on reclaimed coffee grounds which are gathered by bike from local cafes.

But one of the staggering elements of this project is the sheer scale of the waste coffee grounds that are produced daily – and usually get directed straight into landfill. For instance, the Espresso Mushroom Company puts it into perpective:

‘Less than 1% of the coffee cherry harvested from the coffee tree is in an espresso coffee and over 70 million cups of coffee are drunk every day in the UK.’  That’s a lot of coffee – the grounds of which are currently wasted.

And the kits are simple – open, water, grow, harvest. (and we are planning on getting one for our new studio…)

So – fresh food created from waste. What’s not to love? Check out the main Espresso Mushroom Company website for full details of the kits available…

(images via the Espresso Mushroom Company website)

2014 recap – March – Mr Popple’s Raw chocolate…

Today on our 2014 recap we are back in the realms of the responsible edibles, with a look at the fantastic Mr Popple’s Raw chocolate…

first published 18 March 2014…

We all know that eating too much chocolate is rather bad for us. It is the essential 4pm sugar hit that we all crave, yet know that really we should eat an apple instead. But, like lots of things in this big old world, not all chocolate is made equal. Some chocolate is, (dare we say it) actually rather good for you. Raw cacao chocolate has stacks of health benefits, including natural stimulants (without the sugar crash) and loads of trace minerals and other loveliness. Mr Popple’s chocolate is not only made from beautiful raw cacao, it has the most wonderful packaging.

popples chocolate 1

This is where the term eating with your eyes really comes into its own – we spotted this beautiful chocolate first by its packaging in hiSbe Food in Brighton (our latest retail design project) and just fell in love with it.

Simple, hairy manilla style brown recycled card, the packaging of Mr Popple’s differentiates each of the delicious flavours with a single, one colour print in the centre of each bar, complete with honest mis-prints and strong logo styles.

popples chocolate 2

We do have a bit of a ‘thing’ for this type of honest and simple packaging and branding as it helps to communicate the honest nature of the brand itself with incredible clarity. A brand using raw ingredients would not really fit a packaging design that is high gloss and multicoloured. It would not work. But get it right, and it really is a powerful tool indeed.

So much so in fact, that we are going to have a bar a week as our treat, not only for the deliciousness of the chocolate itself, but to collect the packaging and drool over that as well. We are, indeed, design geeks.

(photos by claire potter)

december wish list day 16 – Montezuma’s Chocolate…

If there is one time of year when you can legitimately eat mince pies and chocolate for breakfast – and nobody can say anything at all, it is Christmas. But, the fussy ones that we are, we do not want any old chocolate – we want chocolate that is organic and has strange flavours. We would like Montezuma’s Chocolate please…

Dark with Orange & Geranium

Based in West Sussex, Montezuma’s Chocolate started with one shop in Brighton in 2000 (and I actually happened to be in town that very day – and got to sample one of the best truffles I have ever tasted). Since then, Montezuma’s Chocolate has grown – and their bars can now be found in multiple locations as well as in Waitrose and other selected stores (like hiSbe) – which is an excellent thing indeed.

Treacle Tart

With flavours ranging from the standard milk, white and dark to orange and geranium, chilli and lime and treacle tart, these are certainly chocolate bars to be savoured. But, at around £2.49 or so a bar, they will not break the bank and are the absolute perfect treat for a Christmas stocking.

Sea Dog

Which one will we be hoping for? The Sea Dog – a mix of dark chocolate, lime and sea salt. Pretty much perfect…

So, if you can’t make it to one of their shops to sample the full range of buttons, truffles and other delicacies, head to one of their other stockists and grab the bars…

(images via Montezuma’s Chocolate)

december wish list day 10 – a walnut bird from Jacob Pugh…

Today on our wish list we have chosen a lovely decoration – even though, typically, we do not go in for the whole ‘decoration’ thing. But, there are occasions when a nice thing on your desk to make your smile is exactly the thing that you need. Plus, we decorated our tree over the weekend, which has a distinctive woodland theme, so this lovely walnut bird from Jacob Pugh would be right at home.

Walnut Bird by Jacob Pugh

Designed and handcrafted in the UK, these lovely little birds are finished with metal leaf in gold or copper and are quite beautiful. Plus, at £38, they are not too bad at all, especially considering their hand crafted nature. We will have a flock of these lovely birds on our desks please. Not sure exactly which bird they are – yellowhammers perhaps, but anyways…

Available now at the Design Museum shop…

(image via the Design Museum)

december wish list day 8 – Brighton Gin…

We are keeping it local today on our december wish list, with a beverage that has just been launched in our very own city – Brighton Gin.

Created by five Brighton chums who all enjoy a spot of gin, this rather special tipple has literally just hit the shelves. 

We discovered Brighton Gin at the recent hiSbe Food 1st birthday party, where we were all there celebrating one year since the store that the Anslow sisters (plus Jack) had envisaged and we had designed was open. It was a marvellous night of fun – and of gin – specifically Brighton Gin, which is now being stocked at the hiSbe store in York Place Brighton.

And after double checking the Brighton Gin website today, we noticed that it will also be stocked at Quaff in Portland Road – just along the road from our new studio, which is also on Portland Road…

So – when you are stocking your drinks cabinet this year, why not think about getting something new, and if you are in our neighbourhood, something very local…

(images via Brighton Gin)

SPOTTED – picking our Christmas tree at Wilderness Wood…

We are suckers for a bit of tradition. Especially when it is a nice tradition – and really, we are heading full whack into one of the busiest times of year as far as tradition goes. We apologise in advance for using the C word in November, but hey. Christmas. Someone told me yesterday that there are only six weekends until Christmas. Six. Somehow that put the panic in a little bit, but we are safe in the knowledge that we have already bagged our tree. We went and reserved it at Wilderness Wood…wilderness wood 1

Some of you may know about our traditional trip up to the working wood, Wilderness Wood in Sussex – where every November (second weekend) we head up to get a tag, pay our £10 deposit and choose our tree in the Christmas tree plantation.

This year, was no different. We headed up on a sunny Sunday, boots at the ready, filled with excitement that was tinged with a little bit of apprehension. This was to be the first year that the wood was under new ownership after the Yarrow’s, who had founded the working wood in the 1970’s decided to retire. Would it be the same? Would the pots of tea be as huge, the cake so delicious and the atmosphere so friendly and welcoming?wilderness wood 2

Well, yes. We needn’t have worried. The barn was as packed as usual, the tea and the cake were both huge and delicious and the Christmas tree plantation was as we had expected.wilderness wood 3

With number 232 on our tag, there were lots of families and members who had reserved their trees before us, but there was still loads of selection available. Unfortunately, not the Douglas Fir that we have grown to love for its soft, fragrant, limey green needles, but still lots in the fir and spruce categories. Like the children in the plantation, we scooted up and down the hill, trying to find ‘the one’. There were a few contenders, but we eventually settled on one – a lovely Nordmann Fir – an excellent needle keeper, even when cut. Wilderness Wood has good Blue Spruces this year too, so if you are looking for one of these, ethically produced, then it is a good possibility.wilderness wood 4

Now, many of you will question whether driving to choose, then harvest a tree is perhaps the most ‘eco’ way to get a Christmas tree – and even if a real tree is perhaps the best choice. But we believe that this is not only about the tree, but the tradition of picking one – safe in the knowledge that it has been cared for in the right way. It is as ethical as possible. Plus, as we will compost the tree after, the tree becomes a biological nutrient for our own studio garden.

So. Full of tea, cake and with our tree reserved, we headed home. And we will go back in about a month and cut him down, bring him to the studio for Christmas. Ironically, we have named him Doug.

(go to the Wilderness Wood website for full details of their pick your own Christmas trees. all photos by claire potter)