We're mostly familiar with wool as a material for sweaters and socks (or perhaps for eco-friendly biobricks), but English designers Hannah and Justin Floyd of Solidwool are transforming this soft material by combining it with bio-resins, and turning locally sourced wool into sturdy, handcrafted furniture.
The Floyds' intention was to revive their hometown of Buckfastleigh, which has been traditionally known for its production of wool. Their product, Solidwool, is meant to be an alternative to injection-moulded plastics and fibreglass, by using wool as the reinforcing material, and bio-resins as the binder. They use the fleeces of a particular, local breed of sheep, the Herdwick, which were once widely used by the UK carpet industry. However, demand has declined so far that this "wiry, dark and hard" wool has been unfortunately devalued, but the duo hope to change that by finding new ways to utilize and sustain the local sheep-based economy:
This wool is something special, but along the way, something has gone wrong and its perceived value has been lost. It is currently one of the lowest value wools in the UK. Once this wool was a major part of a shepherd's income. Now the wool from one sheep sells for around 40p. But we see a beauty in this natural material and want to help see its value increase. The Herdwick flock and their shepherds are custodians of their wild landscape. We want to help them stay that way.
Working with bio-resins and wool in the past few years, the pair have come up with a composite material that they believe is a viable alternative to petrochemically based plastics found in a lot of mass-made furnishings. With a bio-based renewable content of about 30 percent, the bio-resins are diverted from the waste-streams of other manufacturing processes like wood pulping and bio-fuel production, meaning carbon emissions are halved compared to conventional resin production and no resources are diverted from agricultural crops.
Solidwool isn't just for the chairs and tables seen in their Hembury collection; it could be used for any product like eyeglasses and knife handles. According to Design Milk, the Floyds are collaborating with other companies like Blok Knives, Artifact Uprising and Fan Optics to use Solidwool in their products.
We are liking how wool is used in a surprising and new way here to create durable and eco-friendly furniture and accessories, beyond the conventional fashion. You can see more or shop around over at Solidwool.