For the series Good Folk on this blog I have sent interview questions to some really wonderful people who are either making things, running shops, or generally promoting sustainability. I think you will enjoy reading their answers as much as I have, and I hope they inspire us all with the knowledge that there are people doing good in the world!
This interview is with Claire from The Upcycled Trading Co, a new shop local to me in Folkestone. Claire upcycles furniture and has expanded her business this year to open a shop on the Old High Street. Alongside her furniture she sells paint and materials for your own projects, as well as a curated selection of some beautiful & sustainable products for your home.
How has working sustainably impacted your non-business life?
It’s almost second nature to be considering the environmental impact in just about every situation. Having said that I believe in striking a balance and finding a reasonable compromise where a perfect solution is impractical.
What are you most proud of?
My work ethic and customer service. It can be overwhelming running a business by yourself but I strongly believe in the sustainable living/interiors ethos of the business. I have some lovely and loyal customers and this encourages me to keep developing and improving on what I do.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to make The Upcycled Trading Company the go to hub for upcyclers to find all the materials they need along with support and advice. I would like to expand the line of products made by other local makers so that customers will know they can find a variety of upcycling styles and handmade products through The Upcycled Trading Company.
Can you recommend any other makers or businesses that work in an ethical or sustainable way?
Absolutely. I stock other local makers products who work with recycled materials or natural products in recyclable packaging such as Dallas Candles, Denys and Fielding, Romney Marsh Wools and Heather Orr.
Possibly the most eco-friendly paint in existence is the Cornish Milk Mineral Paint I stock. It’s manufactured in the UK, boasts zero VOC is vegan and comes in biodegradable packaging!
What is the most challenging thing about the items that you work with?
Rusty screws with rounded off heads are frustrating.
Take me on an imaginary tour of your workspace.
There are two workspaces, the shop and the studio. As you enter the shop on The Old High Street Folkestone you’ll find a selection of locally sourced handmade products such as natural skincare products, soy wax candles, 100% wool throws, macrame and crochet cushions, plant hangers and lampshades. These are displayed on and around items of upcycled furniture and there are also furniture paints, brushes, stencils and lots of other materials for upcycling your own projects. As you move towards the rear of the shop there are pieces of preloved furniture available to commission for upcycling in a style of your choice along with a gallery of past projects on the wall for a little inspiration.
Taking a short trip over to the Folkestone village of Lyminge the studio is split into two rooms. The front section is used to store projects waiting to be transformed and the rear room has rows of reclaimed scaffold board shelving to two walls keeping materials and tools organised (ish) and in the middle of the room is a table made of reclaimed scaffold board which is used to work on during workshops or when I’m working on my own projects.
Do you have a motto or quote that defines your practice?
Do you have any advice for people trying to shop more ethically?
A good start is to spend with your local independent businesses rather than automatically shopping with the big chain stores. Supporting the local economy is so important.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My day starts with a 5.30am alarm, some social media posting, checking messages and email. I usually make coffee and breakfast to take with me and pay a visit to the gym before opening the shop. Once in the shop I’ll check on any projects that may have been drying overnight and the rest of the day is a combination of greeting and serving customers, answering enquiries, ordering stock, unpacking deliveries, updating the website, quoting for commission work, sourcing for customers, some upcycling in the shop of smaller projects. Any online orders are taken to the courier drop off at the end of the day then if I’m not picking up furniture I head home, make dinner, reply to any last minute emails or messages, a little product, business or process research, enter any reminders needed in my calendar before watching a bit of TV and heading to bed around 10pm.
What’s your favourite thing to do with your free time and why?
There’s not a lot of free time at the moment so just getting together with friends and family for a day out is an achievement. Simple things like a long walk and a nice pub lunch is always fun in good company.
What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be in such a hurry, trust that all the experience you’re building now in roles that aren’t ideal will be useful in business eventually.
What would be the top thing that you would change about the way we treat the planet if you could?
Sending so many things to landfill. With a little imagination a lot of used material could be salvaged for the manufacture of new products rather than using up more scarce resources.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
If you haven’t tried upcycling for yourself yet pop in and ask me all about it or maybe take a workshop? You’ll be painting like a professional in no time!
I’ll be offering free local delivery or collection to the Folkestone area and posting via courier nationwide. Still very much operational as a retail business but mostly working from my Studio at home during lockdown.
Visit The Upcycled Trading Co website here.
Photographs by @tut_co