A year or so ago I had a bit of an environmental awakening. It's not like I was unaware of the plight that the planet is facing with climate change but watching David Attenborough's Climate Change The Facts documentary was a pivot point for me. It was a once-you've-seen-it-you-can't-unsee-it experience. No turning back. I was forever changed and for a while I cried. Often.
This last year I've had weird unexplained shoulder pain. I thought it was too much yoga after my intense teacher training... but maybe it was because I suddenly felt a huge weight of responsibility. As a maker of 'things' I went from feeling proud and celebratory having grown a business where I send my art all around the world to feeling like 'oh shit, I send my work all over the world'. I went from feeling proud of my unique range of nature inspired lighting to thinking 'oh NO I make a product that uses plastic!' I began obsessing about all the ways my business wasn't sustainable and I felt a bit down. It was a kind of grief and I felt I couldn't be a voice for the environment until I had it ALL figured out and was the perfect example of a perfectly sustainable business!
(Did I ever mention I have perfectionist tendencies??? )
So there has been much rumination and reflection these last months. There have been times where I have considered giving up making my lamps altogether - I could just concentrate on treasures and wallpaper (deliciously biodegradable and sustainable..that's another blogpost) and release myself from plastic guilt. I have been searching for a biodegradable laminating pouch for years but the reason people laminate things is because they don't want them to degrade. Obviously I want the lamps I make for you to last a long time but I do want the un-recyclable scraps that are left over from my making process to decompose, quickly and without any toxic residue.
So the whole thing derailed me somewhat and I haven't been as excited about making lamps. To try and get some clarity on all of this I did an online course called Sell Without Shame with Megan Auman, jeweller and brilliant advocate for artists and makers. The material sounded so appropriate and I thought I'd use the time to work through my issues. Megan has helped me SO much. One of the things we had to do early on in the course was determine and articulate the value in our art and it was wonderful to review the value people express in my lamps.
'My cow parsley lamp is one of my most treasured possessions because not only is it staggeringly pretty with the light spilling from the paper cuts but the brilliantly observed details remind me of everything I love about meadows, the exuberance, the fragility and the wonder of nature's minutiae'.
'The lamp brings me to a quite place after a long day. The simple nature designs are stunning.'
'It makes any room I put it in warm and inviting'.
'An evening spent with a lamp from Hannah makes every evening feel like spring'.
A customer bought one for her elderly chair ridden mother once and told me that she asks her everyday to switch on the lamp so she can sit in her chair and enjoy its glow. Aw.
My customers are SO lovely and they often take the time to say what they love about what I have made them and that means so much to me.
The most useful exercise for me was determine what our art was a rejection of. I HATE cheap plastic one time use crap not fit for purpose, like bin bags so thin that they split before you can fill them! Like sweets that come in an inciting to children hard plastic case that will be instantly discarded. Like cheap factory made lighting shipped to some big store in a container and sold cheaply answering the needs of a fashion or short lived trend. I hate pile 'em up sell 'em cheap products. I HATE built in obsolescence. The list goes on...
I am none of that.
I LOVE art, creative expression, things made with love and care and consideration. Things that people will cherish and treasure because they hold happy memories and stories. Things with timeless beauty that can keep shining long after a trend has passed by. Things that are purchased with consideration...perhaps even saved up for so that they can be valued. Things that can be cared for and mended if they get broken. Things that have SOUL.
It was good to find a world of difference between the dreaded single use plastic and what I am doing, rather than demonising the plastic full stop.
I came to understand through all of this that sustainability is NOT just about materials. It's about love as well.
If I stop making my lamps I also stop people from having a thing that brings them joy, warmth, peace, calm, beauty and cosiness. If I stop making my lamps I won't be able to be an example of a small artisan business making it in the world. If I stop making my lamps it doesn't mean that those huge factories will stop making theirs. It just means that the world will be a little bit darker.
So I am not going to stop!
BUT I am going to make some changes. I want to try and make my lamps with zero, or as little as possible plastic manufacturing waste so some shapes, like the ovals and wall lamps will be being discontinued soon.
I will still be making cylindrical lamps in the small and the tall and I'm going to design more lamps in the large, wider size too (like the photo above). So I wanted to give you an opportunity to buy ovals and wall lamps before I stop making them. My current supplies might last until Christmas. When this last batch of paper is gone I will be making my changes.
I have also been thinking about all the other ways my business is sustainable....
I offer a free of charge lifelong* replacement of lamps parts - should a popper pop off or a cable go 'poof' I can sort that out and keep your lamp shining for many years to come!
All lamps made to order in small batches - this means less waste. We only make lamps that have a home to go to (and a few extra on the shelves in case anyone pops in)
Lamps are made in our studio by us. We live locally so we don't have a commute. We walk to work everyday.
I'm always looking for the best way to make things. There are some greener laminating products being developed but they are not there yet but I am on the lookout .When they are ready I will snap them up. Let me know if you hear of anything,
The plastic components inside the lamp are made by a local company.
The lamp paper is made in the UK.
Care and consideration goes into packaging e.g lamps fit snugly into the boxes so we don't have to use extra packaging. We use paper tape and cardboard bubble wrap if we need to.
Promotional material is printed locally on recycled paper.
The business regularly donates to conservation charities such as the Trees for Cities, Woodland Trust, Plantlife and Tinderwood Trust our local forest school which is teaching future generations how to love and respect nature.
I am currently working with someone to carbon offset the running of the business.
And all the lamps made with lots of love :)
I feel excited again. I have got lots of ideas for new designs and ideas for how to make them with less trimming and no plastic waste. This small change will make a big impact over time and that's what counts I think. All of us making lots of small changes over time.
It's not ALL up to me is it. We are shouldering this burden together. x
This is such a great post! I have been thinking about the environmental impact of the stuff I buy for a long time now, and try wherever possible to buy from sustainable/ethical/local businesses. Sometimes I feel like “what’s the point in buying anything – it all has an impact!” but then again we have to eat..!! I like the phrase “no one can do everything, but everyone can do something” and I think this is so true when it comes to the environment, and playing your part. It’s nice to know that a small business is thinking so much about this. Thanks for leading by example and continuing to make lovely things xLydia
Hi HannahPamela Redpath
As usual, a beautiful message.
I am in my sitting room just now looking at two of your lamps. It is dark outside, the curtains are drawn back so that I can see down my garden and the only light is from two catkin lights. I am at peace.
Oh Hannah, what a beautiful post from a beautiful soul! I am soooo happy you are going to continue making your lamps, they bring such joy to so many (myself included many times over!) and one of the best aspects for me is that they are so durable and strong – true treasures to cherish for a lifetime and beyond! They may contain plastic but will ensure that they can be used for a very long time and the love you put into making them literally shines through! xxLyn Ryan