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 jewellery maker Kat from Tula and the Whale, I found out about Kat's work when she was the featured maker over on Folksy. Here she tells us about her business and about the waste materials that she uses in her work.
Tell me about yourself and the work that you do.
Hello I’m Kat, I live in South Devon and I’m really into colourful things, nature and craft. I juggle my time between being a mum, walking our dog and my business - Tula and the Whale.
The main ethos behind Tula and the Whale is to reuse unwanted material from the fashion industry and turn it into colourful jewellery that people love to wear. I predominantly use leather offcuts but am starting to work with sustainably produced cork leather to create vibrant and textured vegan-friendly accessories. In the future I would like to incorporate other materials into my business such as vintage tins. I am a fan of geometric patterns and colourful contrasts, I think my jewellery reflects this.
How or why did you get started?
I have always been creative! I inherited my artistic streak from my mum and as a child could often be found making a mess on the kitchen table with her. At school I loved art, particularly sculpture, and I did various college courses, but my favourite was an HND in photography, where I spent a lot of time experimenting in the dark room.
A few years later, I had a great job working in a haberdashery. Being surrounded by craft and inspirational people reignited my creative spark. I learnt a lot of new skills, but also very valuable information about tools. I got lost in piles of wool, ric rac and other delights. Fortunately I was given leather scraps from the cobblers opposite my work and purchased a leather needle, all of these things combined sent me off on the path that I am on now.
Making jewellery from leather came during the early years of parent hood and needing a creative outlet for myself. As I grew in ability and confidence, the requests became more frequent. I dreamed that one day I would be able to make a business with my creations, and finally I made it happen, it’s early days still but I have so many ideas for the future.
What is your favourite thing about the materials that you work with?
Leather is a lovely material to work with, it’s supple, natural and flexible. One of the biggest benefits is that it is very lightweight, even with the larger statement earrings! No more droopy lobes. In fact it’s sometimes difficult to notice whether you have any earrings in.
The nature of working with offcuts is that most pieces I create are limited edition. I receive donations of the scraps that are too small for other leather workers. This makes the creative process interesting and changeable. Once a particular off-cut runs out, I can’t go and order more of the same, making a lot of the colour combinations unique. I also use leather paints and gold leaf to put even the dullest pieces of leather to use.
As I don’t buy new leather directly from suppliers, I’m not always sure of the origin of my materials and I could be using some faux leather without knowing it. The important thing to me is to be repurposing waste materials. An exception to this is my vegan range, which is created from cork leather sustainably grown in Portugal. The cork oak tree has incredible properties and the process of harvesting the bark is actually beneficial to the planet. A harvested cork oak tree absorbs three to five times more CO2 from the environment. It’s a win win situation!
Where can we find you on the internet/buy your work?
I currently sell Tula and the Whale jewellery in a handful of shops mostly in the west country. I also sell through Folksy which has worked really well
for me and I was delighted to recently be featured maker.
Instagram is a great tool for small businesses. It has enabled me to connect with other creative makers and my customers. Building up a support network has been invaluable.
New things are on the horizon and one that I am very excited about is being stocked with Paczero - a new, green way of shopping, launching soon, so keep your eyes peeled.
Photographs by @tula.and.the.whale