This is the start of a regular feature looking at people who use wool, whether they are designing knitwear or coming up with ingenious new uses, like these guys.
The first in this series focuses on SolidWool, an unusual one to start off with. Think of fibre glass, but with wool. Founders Justin and Hannah Floyd have created a fantastic response to an industry in decline. Buckfastleigh was once a thriving part of the woollen industry, but two years ago the Buckfast Spinning Mill closed its doors and 100 local jobs were lost. The local carpet factory also closed, meaning the sheep farmers had no demand for the coarse fleeces of their moorland sheep, so that it is now considered almost worthless, just a by-product of sheep farming.
“a strong, beautiful and unique composite material”
Justin and Hannah thought that if they could find a new way of working with wool, perhaps they could bring those jobs back. The result is SolidWool. They describe it as “a strong, beautiful and unique composite material”. Not only does SolidWool make use of a resource going to waste, but it scores points in the environmental area too. Their methods have been fine tuned over time to have the lowest environmental impact they can, however they maintain there is always room for improvement. The coarse wool used provides a tough natural and sustainable resource. Their wool is bought from local wool merchants, and whilst breed, region and quality are assured, in their plans for the future of their business they wish to be able to trace the origin of the fleece used. This would enable them to work with farms that follow sustainable practices, in-keeping with their own values.
Now resin doesn’t strike me as environmentally friendly, and traditional resins aren’t. Bio-resin however, which is used in SolidWool, claims a 50% reduction in Carbon Footprint and Greenhouse Gas Emissions over traditional resins. Not bad.
Milan 2014’s Designersblock approached Justin and Hannah to display their product, but they were still deep in their manufacturing process. This show gave them the gift of a deadline, and whilst the process wasn’t quite perfected, they traveled to the show with pre-production prototypes of the Hembury Chair. That show seemed to be a confidence boost, “it gave us the belief to keep going”. They gathered contacts, some of which ended up helping financially so that they were able to go to Designersblock 2015 with a product they were really proud of.
On their website you can currently purchase the Hembury Chair and side table, or a lovely sheepskin rug. They have also been part of a few collaborations, including some rather nice looking sunglasses with Fan Optics.
I hope they manage to fulfil their dream of bringing the wool industry back to Buckfastleigh.
The information in this post is gathered from the SolidWool website and an interview from Fiera magazine issue 2.