When setting up our micro-business, Little Loquat, we wanted to create our work using materials that we could readily find around us, materials that are free - or almost - and that in some way represent the re-using philosophy.
In the beginning I dabbled with bags and soft toys made from recycled fabrics and my husband knew only that he was keen to teach himself how to whittle… a year on and our ideas and makings have changed and developed and although I still use remnant/recycled fabrics for our miniature toy tipi covers, we find ourselves now both focused on using wood.
There is something so satisfying about working with a material that is all around you. If we’re travelling we can collect small pieces of wood as we walk our dogs down lanes and across fields, and we love discovering interesting gems of driftwood along beaches. When we’re in Portugal, wood is abundant, living as we do surrounded by forest and with plenty of olive and fruit trees to be pruned. Taking a piece of seemingly insignificant branch and turning it into something useful or beautiful is endlessly satisfying. Right now as I type I have three slices of untouched wood next to me and yet I can see the unique natural pendants they are going to become. It makes me happy to think of them being loved and worn by somebody in the world and that they have come directly from the earth.
I think this is what I feel about micro-enterprises… That it’s important for them to carry a message, no matter how small, and for them to feel authentic and honest, in keeping with the permaculture lifestyle. I have admired people making furniture and home décor items from discarded pallets, pieces of art using sea glass and end-of-line tiles, cloth dolls re-using a customer’s baby clothes; there are endless ideas! But thinking first about how much space you have and how a material can work for you, is first important.
We love to work with wood, but we have no electricity and not a lot of space when we’re in our campervan or on a narrowboat so we need to work with our chosen material in a way that is maneuverable. Therefore we use hand tools and make small things; it works for us. And if crafts aren’t your thing then there are messages to be conveyed by creating an altogether different micro-business. Virginia Harman of Lovelight Chocolate makes delicious raw chocolates from her kitchen and distributes them to festivals and local health establishments. Alissa Pemberton is busy nurturing a community-supported herbalism project, Forest & Folk Botanicals, so there are many opportunities and in time I will be exploring projects and businesses such as these further, to give you more tips on how you might develop a micro-business that isn’t necessarily craft-based.
For us, the focus is always small. We don’t need much and want to take little from the earth and sometimes only have little time, so we concentrate on creating only what we feel at any given moment with what we have around us in that moment, choosing not to be pulled into one particular thing but instead giving ourselves over to a more organic and natural process. Right now I am slowly working on some hand-painted pendants inspired by the Alentejo landscape where I live and my husband is busy carving more practical home items. Our ideas are constantly evolving but our love of using wood as our primary material seems to be sticking and so we allow it to take shape. We’ve decided we’ll take each step as it comes and stay focused on remaining authentic and spreading our own little message, finding our feet as we go and hoping that others will connect with our journey along the way.
When thinking about your own micro-business my advice would be to look around and see what materials are abundant or readily available in your life, think about what you enjoy working with, what you love to see, or what message is really important to you and consider how much time and space you have to develop an idea. We all have a voice so start small and allow yourself time to explore your true path and then have fun following where it takes you!
Alice Griffin currently lives between a free-ranging campervan and an olive grove in Portugal and is working hard to create an authentic small business she can run from anywhere. Follow her adventures at:
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