Introducing you to this week’s Featured Makers, Ivy Upcycling and Priormade Ltd. Both of these independent businesses are passionate about sustainability, community and handmade products, so we wanted to get to know them better!
Pedddle: Where did you first become interested in the skills it takes to produce your products, and how did you learn them?
Ivy Upcycling: In 2019 I was starting to recover from a condition that meant I had to give up my stressful full time career. I’d made the decision that I needed to make a big change to the way I lived my life, which needed to be gentler and kinder in every way. In my downtime I started to explore some of the creative things I’d always wanted to do, one of which was upcycling furniture. I’d started following a lady called Sue in my local town of Northwich, who made her own environmentally friendly paint and ran craft courses in her workshop. Once I was mobile enough I decided to go along; at the time this was a big step for me as I had relied heavily on the support of my husband and been unable to go our for quite some time. At first I went to a demonstration, then I progressed to a decoupage workshop and finally took the plunge to try upcycling a small bookcase I had. Sue was lovely and was so patient and helpful giving me the support I needed to physically complete the piece and improve my confidence. I was in a very low place when I started working with Sue and her encouragement and kindness were key to helping me on my little business journey and giving me the confidence to be creative.
Things grew from there, and an opportunity came up when someone I used to work with said she was launching a small craft market in the village where we used to live. I talked to my Dad, who for years had been making lovely wood turned items and asked if he thought we could put a few things together to have a stall. I did some number crunching for insurance, the cost of the stall and how much we thought we might be able to sell things for, and decided to give it a go. This gave me something to aim for without too much stress and I pottered away making a few things and coming up with ideas for Dad to make things too out of recycled wood and fabrics that I had at home. We had a brilliant day at the market and I got lots of lovely feedback from customers who loved what we were doing. I then spent the next few months doing a handful of low cost small local markets, taking a mixture of my home décor and gifts and my upcycled furniture. I met some lovely people and I loved the connection I got with this creative community. The joy that this new life gave me was wonderful after a tough couple of years, it felt like I was doing something that did good and resonated with customers. I really wanted to show people that living a gentler kinder way of life helps you and the planet and can really make you smile. This is still a key aim of my business.
Dad and I love working together and we are constantly learning. He loves me coming up with new challenges and ideas. Working with my Dad has definitely been one of the highlights of running my business. Having something which helps us spend time together and working creatively on things makes me so happy and I am grateful for that opportunity every day.
I have always loved making things, since I was a child. I also loved instructions so every birthday and Christmas all I wanted was a ‘craft kit’. I’d spend hours drawing and making things. After leaving school I trained as a hairdresser; colouring and cutting peoples hair was for me, exactly like creating sculptures. I then went to Art College/University and studied Art and Visual Culture. I was fascinated with materials and form, and each project I worked on explored every single corner, drawer, book, machine and material of each department. From woodwork, ceramics, film, photography, print and metal work – for me it was all about discovering materials and processes rather than sticking to one ‘practice’. In my second and mainly third year I began making large sculptures. After University I worked as an art technician in schools and galleries, as a creative youth worker and predominantly creating props for events, theatre and film. I was working with wood a lot and in 2011, when I was diagnosed and had successful treatment for Leukaemia, I had to have recovery time so I began making smaller pieces to take to markets! All of these skills wrapped up together feeds into everything that Priormade is and does.
Pedddle: How do you weave sustainability and the environment into your work?
Ivy Upcycling: These things are completely at the centre of what we do. We are always coming up with ways of using rescued wood and are often driven creatively by the resources we have in our wood store. I always try to talk to my customers about how their support helps the world waste less and how buying sustainably made products doesn’t necessarily mean higher cost or lower standards. You can still buy a quality handmade product at a reasonable price and support the planet. The buzz that both me and my Dad get out of creating something lovely out of a tatty piece of wood or tired piece of furniture is just brilliant, such a satisfying part of being creative.
All of my packaging is now sustainable with, I am proud to say, not a piece of plastic in sight. The only thing I would still like to improve are my branded stickers as the fully eco friendly ones that give good quality reproduction and colour are at the moment too expensive for me. There’s always ways we can look to improve but I’m happy that I’m almost there with packaging.
I’m also proud to have announced that this year we are supporting Rainforest Concern, a charity that works tirelessly to save and protect the massively important biodiversity of the rainforests of the world. Every sale helps me with that commitment of a regular monthly donation to this charity. Doing whatever we can to help restore our planet, putting right some of the wrongs as a humankind we have created is massively important to me. I very much believe that we can and should all play our part, whatever you can do helps and we should constantly be encouraging each other to do more. Whether that be picking up litter, eating less meat, recycling your packaging or becoming a full on plant based eco conscious campaigner, they all help and it is something I would like to talk about more with my business.
Priormade Ltd: I make sure that every choice I’m making is the best it can be, both ethically and for the environment. It’s impossible to be 100% ethical and sustainable. Unless you’ve grown that organic cotton yourself, or that tree – you can’t say that it’s journey to become your product is absolutely sustainable. However, I feel that within our parameters we choose to use the best materials, the least energy wasting processes, and design the products in a way that reduces waste as much as possible, and constantly question if we can do these things better. If you are buying components then don’t be just be driven by price – find out their commitment to the environment, ask how they manage their waste.
Your practice can be sustainable but check that your suppliers are too, and it passes down the chain. Sometimes the only place you can get components from is abroad (as they are not available here), but the same process applies – ask to see certificates and this way we can all help grow a better world.
Pedddle: What is next for you in 2021?
Ivy Upcycling: As my business is relatively young and I didn’t become fully operational until June last year, when I launched my website, I feel like we are still evolving and finding our way. I’d like to try dedicating 2 months this year in May and June to work on my furniture. It is an area I love and want to spend more time on, so watch out for some larger projects coming up this summer!
I’d also love to trim down my product list and offer limited time small runs that work well with the limits we have on materials alongside a handful of regular popular items like my Bee coasters and Bee phone stands.
Priormade Ltd: I have some brand new lamp designs that I’m working on and also some bio resin finishes as a Spring/Summer limited edition! I also have a brand new plant stand out.
Pedddle: What is your favourite thing about being a business owner?
Ivy Upcycling: I love the flexibility that having your own business gives you. It can be hard as everything is down to you, there are so many hats to wear! But ultimately it allows me to fit my work around my energy levels and other things that I love, like being in the garden or on the veg plot, spending time with my Dad and just generally allowing myself to take life slow when I need to.
Priormade Ltd: I love being able to make decisions and change quickly. I can decide our suppliers, materials and processes, and I don’t have to wait for things to be processed by a Head Office. I also love that proud feeling when people enjoy the designs I’ve made. I’ve been able to employ people too, which is a great feeling.
Pedddle: Why is shopping small and supporting the creative community so important to you?
Ivy Upcycling: This year has been such a challenge and I couldn’t have done it without the amazing creative community that is made up of fellow makers, customers and cheerleaders for small businesses. Communities like Pedddle, Folksy, Just A Card, Indie Roller and so many more, are all full of fantastic uplifting positive people who put so much love and care into what they do. This support then transfers into our own business alongside the love we put into the things we make and I think when customers connect with us we can bring that joy and positivity into their lives too. You just don’t get that kind of community feel and connection between customers and makers when you buy from big brands.
Priormade Ltd: The creative community consists of independent makers, independent shops and independent suppliers. Together we are a collection of unique independent businesses that you won’t find anywhere else. When you shop with a small, local creative business, you’re not just supporting the business owner who owns and runs it, but your purchase is invested back into your local economy.
That small business pays local wages, pays local suppliers, pays local window cleaners and local accountants. It helps your whole area. Small businesses aren’t big faceless corporations. They pay their taxes too, which means they actively support our NHS, our local community, our schools, transport services and countless others. Shopping small benefits us all.