Taking a minute

Did you see this article recently? I read it on Tuesday evening and it's been a bit of a wake up call. Over the past year, I've made some questionable decisions on the personal waste front. We've been renovating a house from the ground up whilst living in it. This has meant a lot of toxic paint, chemicals and plastic. Nine skips actually, filled to the brim with landfill waste from a Victorian house. Eating dinner from styrofoam containers, coffee in plastic cups- you get the jist. 

Line Cut Supply has always been an attempt to be better at sustainability, but the business (and I) still have a long way to go. 

I don't feel the need to go into detail on here about why this is a really important topic to me. Now the majority of the big house work has slowed down & I have a minute to gather myself and my thoughts I've decided to look into ways I can be better.

If you're interested, here are some useful blogs: Litterless, Reading My Tea Leaves, The Rogue Ginger.

Three small things I'm doing this week:

  • I'm going to make some simple cotton canvas drawstring bags to take with me food shopping (instead of using those awful flimsy plastic bags). Please get in touch if you'd like one too, I have plenty of scraps
  • I'm going to use up all of my cosmetics, household cleaners and makeup. Once I've done this I'm going to try and pair down/minimise the amount of chemicals I put on me and my home
  • I'm going to remind myself daily that this is a marathon, not a sprint. There is no need to repeat the Konmari episode of 2014 and give 60-70% of my worldly possessions to Goodwill

 

 

Meet The Maker Series: Sarah Tew

I first met Sarah when I was running the Women of Steel project and pop-up in October 2016. She came in and tried on the Litton Jacket and we got chatting about work. I think it was the first time I'd ever met a female architect so I was so chuffed when she put in an order. Sarah is one of the sweetest, most thoughtful people and I'm so pleased to feature her in our Meet The Maker series.

What does your typical working day look like?


A typical day includes getting woken up by Storm (our kitten) at about 5.30am when she jumps onto my face wanting to be fed. Around 8am I leave the house and walk to work in the city of Sheffield, just next to the Crucible Theatre. I work at HLM architects which has about 70 staff in the Sheffield office. 

I work predominantly at the desk spending most of my time drawing using a CAD software, or corresponding with the design team. If I am working on a design competition I will be making concept models, photographing the site, hand sketching and liaising with the visualiser on the final renders. Competitions can be really good fun but they can be intense and the days will be a lot longer than the usual 5.30pm finish.

On Tuesdays I teach the first year architecture students at Sheffield Hallam University as an Associate Lecturer. I see my first group of students at 9.30am so I will grab a coffee at Tamper beforehand with my husband and plan adventures. 

I find teaching really rewarding and I enjoy the balance of working in practice and teaching at the same time. It's inspiring to see the students engage with the project and to see their skills develop. 

 
You’re the owner of one of our jackets. Has wearing it changed the way you work at all?


I first came across your workwear at an opening party in Yorkshire Artspace where you had a pop-up shop. I loved the entire collection but I was particularly drawn to the jacket as it reminded me of French industrial workwear which is synonymous with architectural tutors. I hadn’t come across a workwear jacket made specifically for women with generous sized pockets so I was very excited about the prospect of owning one!

The jacket hasn’t changed the way I work per se, but it's very handy to store my pens and scale rulers and it does change the way I feel just by wearing it. I instantly feel more professional and ready for any challenge that I may face.  

What are 5 things you can't live without?


Sketchbook with watercolours and paintbrushes, my Dad’s old SLR camera, and my 'Pat Butcher' leopard print coat.


What women have inspired you in your work?


The famous women who inspire me include Cornelia Parker, Beatrix Potter and, in my work, Sheilla O'Donnell (O'Donnell Tuomey Architects) and finally Ruby Wax as it's important to keep laughing!  

I’m also inspired by my mum, family and friends. Their professions include a retired nurse, architects, artists and a landscape architect. They are all independent, caring, motivated and passionate about what they do. I feel inspired every time I speak to them!


Is the architecture profession doing well in terms of gender parity and opportunities for women?


I think the profession is doing okay with regards to equal opportunities but I think there is room for improvement. Equality in the construction sector is quite topical at the moment particularly in the architectural press. A recent survey carried out by the Architects Journal highlighted that there are pay gaps between men and women particularly amongst the senior roles, which isn't great, but at the junior level the disparity evens out and there is a feeling of equality regardless of gender.

I am hopeful that things will continue to improve across the sector in relation to pay but we also need to see more women at a senior level. Many women drop out of the workplace post Part I when they have children as the work hours can be long and difficult to do on a part time basis. The profession should do more to actively encourage women to stay in the profession. I don't know what the solution is, but simple things like encouraging everyone to finish on time could be one solution, but this can be difficult as working long hours and doing all nighters is installed into architects from University onwards.

I'm lucky that where I work there is a healthy life/work balance and there are senior female architects who also have families which is really positive to see. But this shouldn't be unusual, it should be the norm.

If you could buy any building in the world what would it be & what would you use it for?


Since I studied for my diploma in architecture I've often thought that there are many opportunities to develop the industrial buildings along the River Tees in Middlesbrough. Growing up nearby I would regularly take a small diesel train to Darlington which went through all of the steel, chemical and ancillary works and I found the journey really interesting. I admire the industrial buildings for their scale, and their functional yet dynamic forms. For some people they see the industry as dirty carbon emitting eyesores but, for me, the scale and drama of the processes have always fascinated me. I would propose that the disused industrial buildings and sites were turned into a landscape park, with the slag heaps used as ski slopes and the giant conveyor belts as indoor ski jumps. It would be a park which celebrated the industrial works similar to the successful Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord  in Germany. 

If that wasn't possible I would buy Battersea Power Station and turn it into a giant chocolate factory adventure park inspired by the original Gene Wilder 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'. 

What building/piece of work are you most proud of?


I think one of the pieces of work I am most proud of is a competition proposal for a new energy centre for Sheffield University. I had just joined HLM and they gave me full autonomy to design the centre within a matter of weeks. I was delighted when I found out that we had won the competition and hopefully it will be built in the next couple of years!

Thank you so much to Sarah for taking the time to answer our questions. 
 

Inspirational Women

I’ve been thinking a bit about who inspires me recently – the women who I look up to, who I’ve admired in some way or another over the years. #MakeLikeAWoman is all about shining a light on the work of the people that we find inspirational, so here is a list of my top five inspirational women, past and present:

Elizabeth Pape

Have you heard of Elizabeth Suzann? No? Go and check them out. They were set up relatively recently by Elizabeth Pape and are blazing a path through the fashion industry with an impressive and inspiring approach to production. Beautiful clothes, made under the same roof as the design and pattern making. They give me hope that it can be done (in a financially viable way, no less). If I lived in Nashville I would 100% be applying for a job as a seamstress there. They treat their staff exceptionally well, offering them yoga classes and retreats and they always look like they are having the most fun! Of course, their clothes are beautiful too. Elizabeth Pape (like me) doesn’t come from a fashion background, which I find intensely reassuring.

Jenny Gordy

It wouldn’t be fair to talk about my inspirations without mentioning Jenny Gordy of Wiksten. If I’m honest, reading her beauty uniform on ‘A Cup of Jo’ blog was a bit of a pivotal moment for me. Here was this beautiful, funny, smart woman sewing for a living – my handmade idol appeared before me. Jenny’s writings make you feel like she’s an old friend and she creates the most beautiful knitting and sewing patterns, all with a scandinavian edge to them. I really admire her and absolutely love her style.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has a really refreshing, practical approach to feminism that I wholeheartedly subscribe to. Her essay We Should All Be Feminists, adapted from her 2013 TEDx talk, was distributed to every 16-year-old high-school student in Sweden. One of the reasons I admire Chimamanda is that she presents a completely logical, eloquent and accessible perspective on feminism. I particularly like this quote:

“The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.”

In addition to her fantastically refreshing views on feminism, Chimamanda is an accomplished writer. ‘Half Of A Yellow Sun’, her most famous novel, is also brilliant. I would love to have dinner with her, I bet she has the best stories!

Brené Brown

I came across Brené Brown’s at the perfect time. I had just started Line Cut Supply and was feeling intensely vulnerable. In my quest to understand these uncomfortable feelings I stumbled across Brené’s work. Brené is a researcher and has spent the past 13 years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. We don’t talk a lot about shame as a society, which is odd because it’s such a destructive emotion. I always come back to her talks on vulnerability, shame and courage when I feel unsure or low on self confidence.

Barbara Hepworth

Every time I go to the Hepworth museum in Wakefield I’m struck with a real sense of awe. Barbara Hepworth was an English artist and sculptor and one of the few female artists of her generation to achieve international prominence. Her sculptures are instantly recognisable and almost sensual in nature. I imagine she was a real character. Here is a quote from her:

“At no point do I wish to be in conflict with any man or masculine thought. It doesn't enter my consciousness. Art is anonymous. It's not competitive with men. It's a complementary contribution.”

Meet The Maker Series: Fleen Doran

I first met Fleen back in 2015 at the Wardlow Mires Pottery and Food Festival.  I was drawn to her beautiful pottery and her very unique aesthetic. Some of you may already know this, but she totally inspired the Aston Apron and even fed into the design process, helping me to understand what features were required for someone constantly getting messy in front of the wheel. Fleen and I have kept in touch since and so I'm thrilled she's the first maker in our Meet the Maker series.

 

Please tell us about your work

I am a potter making two ranges of work: wood-fired salt glaze pottery and hand-thrown porcelain tableware. These two ranges are quite different but both are intended for everyday use in the kitchen and home. 

My wood-fired pots are thrown on the wheel or constructed from folded slabs of clay with stamp decoration. The joy and nature of wood-firing is that each firing is quite different, making the surface of each pot unique. For instance a pot’s position in the kiln determines the level of exposure to wood ash/salt that forms the glaze. The wood is slightly different with each firing and even the weather can influence the outcome. I love the earthy warmth of the colours which emerge from this kiln.

The porcelain is all hand-thrown on the wheel and the glaze colours (in contrast to my wood-fired range) are very reliable. Porcelain is a beautiful clay; soft white in colour, it gives the glaze a pure fresh look. These timeless elegant pots look great in either a modern or traditional kitchen.

What is your background?

I graduated with a First-Class Honours Degree in Ceramics from University of Wales Institute, Cardiff before completing a pottery apprenticeship with accomplished master potter Micki Schloessingk. 
I set up my business in 2011 making wood-fired saltglaze tableware, which I continue to produce and sell alongside my new porcelain range.  

You’ve just built a studio at the end of your garden. Tell us about it! 

It’s my dream come true! 

I am now all settled into my Forest of Dean workshop and loving potting there! It was a fun project with much help from my partner Sean. We made use of many reclaimed materials and the exterior is clad in local Douglas Fir, complete with a permaculture sedum roof.

I save a lot of time on travelling, can be far more efficient and flexible with my work, and can squeeze lots more into my days. As well as plenty of potting and corresponding with customers/buyers and keeping my online shop up to date, I do now manage to find some time for the other things I enjoy ... a bit of gardening (I grow a lot of my own food), walking in the Forest with my dog Ralphy, cooking and developing new vegetarian/vegan recipes and so on.  

You’re the owner of one of our aprons. Has wearing it changed the way you work at all?

Yes, I love my apron! I’ve had lots of lovely comments about it. It’s so nice to have a garment which is both practical and stylish. It looks great with anything and I can wear it in the workshop whilst potting or at a show to look smart and professional. Line Cut Supply is an inspiring brand, making really practical workwear for women, by women. It’s a perfect fit and I particularly love the cross strapping which goes across my back and stops the apron slipping about. It’s brilliant to be able to focus on my work, moving freely all the while knowing the apron is going to stay in the correct position regardless of if I’m throwing on the wheel or wedging clay. Furthermore, I like the elegant pleat down the front which allows the fabric to protect my legs when I’m at the wheel. I have had it for over a year now and it is really durable and washes well. Thanks Aimee!

What advice would you give to aspiring ceramicists? 

Clay is a wonderful material with so many possibilities, find what you love about it and enjoy making! Potters are a lovely bunch so don’t be afraid to seek the advice of others, I have had plenty of support along the way. 

Where do you hope to take your work in the coming years?

I am looking forward to exhibiting at various shows across the country this year. However I’m particularly excited about exhibiting my new porcelain range at the British Craft Trade Fair and hopefully linking up with new shops and galleries! I’m very proud of my new website and online shop that I recently built and will continue to keep it stocked up with all my latest pots. Please feel free to visit at: www.fleendoran.com

As for future ambitions, I would love to link up with a food producer, or cook, or food writer. I really enjoy making pots inspired by a particular meal/food or even for a particular place.

Thank you so much to Fleen for taking the time to answer our questions. You can follow Fleen on Instagram @fleendoran.