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Meet the Maker; Wild Strings, Made by Kelly O & These Two Hands

Meet the Maker

Meet three sustainable brands who hold their ethical practices at the heart of their business.

Wild Strings by Eleanor, grey jumper with 'snowflake' embroidered design

With Christmas and New Year looming, we’ve been thinking a lot about sustainability, progress and moving forward into 2021 after the mayhem of this year. We have therefore chosen three sustainable brands to feature in this week’s Meet the Maker, who each hold their ethical practices at the heart of their business: Wild Strings by Eleanor, Made by Kelly O & These Two Hands.

Read our Q&A below to find out more…

Pedddle: Tell us more about why you first started your business and it’s core aims.

Wild Strings by Eleanor: I created Wild Strings with a desire to change fashion habits and promote sustainability in everyone’s wardrobe, after spending a short time working in fast fashion.

Everything at Wild Strings is made-to-order by me – promoting a slower attitude to fashion with every style! Sustainability and longevity are at the heart of the brand, which is why I focus on using second-hand materials to create clothing and art.

I’m truly passionate about putting the positive back into fashion and am inspired by the unloved and unwanted, so I create made-to-order fashion & accessories, for those who want to do good while looking good; breathing new life into pre-loved fabrics as I go.

I create clothing and face masks as well as fabric art, and this Christmas I’ve made fabric decorations with offcuts too (pictured below).

Made by Kelly O: I started working with plastic bags after I became interested in finding ways to re-use waste products at University, where I explored using plastic bottles to create thermal mass in architecture.

I started off experimenting with the material I could make and its durability for different types of bags – I made several courier bags which I used for many years.

Now I focus on a core range of products, and I’m still developing these to find the best uses of this unique material. The upcycling process I use involves fusing together several layers of plastic bags with heat and pressure to create a lightweight, waterproof, far more durable fabric. I then use this to make zip bags, wallets, tote bags and laptop sleeves. Everything is made entirely by me and is unique – due to the process there’s no way for me to exactly duplicate any item, so each one is a unique piece.

The goal behind my business is to stop plastic bags from becoming pollution in our landfills and waterways. I pick up bags from the street whenever I see them as I can’t just walk by knowing that I could stop that bag from hurting an animal as it moves towards our waterways. Being able to add value back into the plastic bags is a bonus, and provides a new long term life for the material.

All of my items are named after animals to draw attention to the harm that is caused to them by human pollution. It’s also a way of recognising the good we can do by upcycling waste, as each item purchased can help save these animals.

These Two Hands: I started These Two Hands after suffering a difficult birth which nearly left me paralysed and receiving art therapy to help me recover. I started making things and printing and people wanted to buy what I’d made. I had also met several other small makers whose work I wanted to share with more people, so I decided to launch These Two Hands as a place to promote handmade products and working with natural, sustainable materials.

My main aim is to connect people with the things around them in their home and with nature. Making and nature are the two best forms of therapy, I think, and I also think we feel happier when we connect to the things around us and the stories of the people that made them. The passion and love of the maker comes through in every design. Each one is unique.

The inspiration of nature and nature-influenced designs helps bring the outdoors inside and having that connection to nature in our homes also makes us happier. The nature focus of the business has grown over the 3 years since I launched and now is at the heart of everything I choose for the collection. I work with the seasons and their colours and I only work with small independent makers who use locally sourced, sustainable materials. I want the things in my collection to be things that last a lifetime. 

Pedddle: 2021 is nearly here! What are your plans for the new year?

Wild Strings by Eleanor: When designing my products, sustainability is always at the front of my mind. Wild Strings’ core range is all made from second-hand materials – from old curtains to re-purposed jeans! My product range will stay the same as we ring in 2021, but I am excited to shake up my website and make shopping upcycled even easier in the new year.

Made by Kelly O: I’m working on some new ideas for lined clutch bags – something that you could carry with style, but that also carries a sustainable statement.

I’d also like to try and widen my reach with regards to collecting plastic bags. I rely on donations (as well as those bags I pick up off the street!), and I always get a good reaction when people realise they can sustainably dispose of their plastic bag collections. I’d like to find ways to encourage more people to donate bags as they are not even recyclable in many cities, so there’s no sustainable way to dispose of them. I’ve tried using a PO Box, but didn’t get enough use out of it to justify having it, so I’m coming up with new ideas and setting up collection points with participating retailers. In the meantime if anyone has bags they want to donate, just get in touch with me via my website or instagram! (or @madebykellyo on Instagram and Facebook).

These Two Hands: I’m hoping to focus more on my nature craft workshops more next year in my new studio space – so far I have frame loom weaving, Lino printing, natural dyeing and ink making workshops planned. I opened my new studio a week before the first lockdown so it has been empty for most of the year but it’s a great space to create and I’d love it to be filled with people making things with their hands using nature next year! 
I have a few plans around making wreaths for every season too, as my wild wreath workshops and online kits have been more popular then ever this year. 

I’m working on some spring ideas now and I can’t wait – it’s going to be full of sage and forest greens, whites and new nature imprint designs. I may look at making more craft kits too as it has been amazing to be able to make things this year with people all over the country through online workshops and kits.

Pedddle: Small businesses have had a tougher time than ever in 2020. What has been the biggest challenge for your business this year, and how did you overcome it?

Wild Strings by Eleanor: 2020 has definitely been a challenging year for everyone! I think the biggest challenge I faced this year was keeping it going, and keeping a positive mindset as we muddle through this pandemic. It’s been tough at times, but I focussed on pushing my business and using all the extra free time I’ve had to learn new skills.

Made by Kelly O: As the material I work with is pretty new and unknown, many of my sales rely on people being able to see and touch it. Not having in-person markets this year has been a big blow, but I’ve taken the time to team up with organisations (like Pedddle!) and really push my social media presence. It’s hard work – and very different from making the items, but I do feel it has made a difference – I reached 1000 followers on Instagram in November and the number is still growing steadily!!

These Two Hands: All my sales used to come from in-person markets so I really panicked when the first lockdown happened, but I have adapted and grown my online sales as a result. I developed craft kits and wreath kits and focussed on personal touches. I handwrite cards with every order and I took bunches of flowers I had grown myself to people along with their orders when I delivered them locally, as an extra gift from me. I’ve also been asking customers for reviews a lot more this year which has helped to grow my online sales. I feel like I’ve built up more regular online customers and really got to know them as people this year through cards, emails and reviews which is great. One customer even sent me a handwritten thank you letter for her order, covered in pressed leaves! 

Pedddle: What is your best-selling product and why do you think this is?

Wild Strings by Eleanor: My best selling product this year has actually been cloth face masks, which is obviously a sign of the times, but it’s great to be providing people with a more sustainable alternative to disposable masks.

Other than this, my Snowflake Jumper has been a favourite this year (pictured below) – which I think is due to the fact people are in need of some Christmas sparkle! I do believe, however, that the jumper fills a gap in the market for those looking for a more sustainable alternative to the regular Christmas jummy.

Made by Kelly O: I have two best selling items – my Pelican and Cuttlefish zip bags. They are the smallest bags, but have the most versatile and everyday uses. The Pelican is the size of a coin purse, but can also fit credit or business cards – making it a great wallet if you want to travel light. The Cuttlefish is the size of a pencil case, and has been very popular recently as it can hold a variety of items.

I’ve also seen a big uptake in my Made to Order King Penguin laptop sleeves. This gives customers the chance to design their own laptop sleeve – you can pick bags from my stash or supply your own, then pick the zip colour and the inner lining colour – so its very personalised!

These Two Hands: My Wooden Flower Press has definitely been my best seller this year which makes me so happy! I think people have realised the importance of nature and connecting to the outdoors more than ever this year. People have been collecting flowers and leaves to press on their daily walks and some have made them into art to remind them of the walks and that time in nature. 

Pedddle: Do you have a favourite market (either in person or online), and if so, why would you recommend it to others?

Wild Strings by Eleanor: I actually don’t have much experience with markets as it was something I only got into at the start of the year! I had a handful of real-life events booked when the pandemic hit so they all got cancelled, however I have truly loved being a part of Pedddle’s virtual markets over the last few months – they have a great community and connection. I would definitely recommend online markets to anyone starting out in market selling – and hopefully I can get to my first in-person market sometime in the New Year!

Made by Kelly O: I love all craft and maker markets! I don’t have a particular favourite, but those that are set up by people really dedicated to making them a success are the best. You get such great vibes around in person markets and I do look forward to having that back next year (fingers crossed!).

These Two Hands: I have a few favourite markets. I love the Clevedon Sunday Market, which I only managed to do one of in real life this year, but I did all the virtual ones they ran which was a great way to stay connected to people who used to visit my stall regularly. I also love the Tobacco Factory Sunday Market in Bristol. They are both such lovely friendly markets, organised by amazing women, and I have met so many great makers through doing them. We always get to eat delicious local food on market days too – the pastries from Farro Bakery in Bristol are a Sunday market treat. The Craft & Flea events are great too as the people who come are such big fans of handcrafted and handmade and I get to chat lots about the stories behind the designs at those. I’ve loved doing the Pedddle online events that I’ve done so far and Bristol Market has a great Friday night virtual market too.