I hope you are all enjoying the ‘Inspired by Nature’ series as much as I am loving putting it together for you, I am super thankful to have interviewed some amazing folk for the series so far, and you can catch up with all previous posts here, but before you do that, please welcome artists Abigail and Max, who run the studio practice Forest + Found.
Forest + Found focus on traditional methods of craft and their work is driven by material and process. Every object they make at their London workshop is handcrafted and has a direct link to nature. Predominantly they work with wood, natural dyes and textiles to produce sculptural wooden objects and large textile pieces. Having both study art together at Chelsea in London, they began to work collaboratively and founded Forest + Found in late 2014.
Can you describe a typical day to me?
The reason we made the decision to be self-employed and pursue our practice was to give us total freedom: the freedom to wake up in the morning and not know where the day will take us. Our days can be spent in the studio making, out walking in the forest, on the allotment, reading and researching, in the city visiting exhibitions or like today, writing and responding to emails. This diversity breathes life into our work and keeps us focussed on the future.
What is it about nature that inspires you?
More than anything it is the experience of being in a landscape that takes your breath away. The sense of escape, the smell on the air and the feeling that life is returning is incredibly empowering and immediately gets us talking about new ideas and work we want to make. Our work itself isn’t directly inspired by nature; instead it is more to do with the materials we choose to work with. We relate far more to the physicality and rawness of the natural materials themselves. There is an integrity and simplicity in the materials that allows us to make work about the act of making.
Do you have a favourite season? If yes, what particularly inspires you about that season?
We absolutely love autumn and winter; that first sense of the onset of chill where the wind picks up and the leaves begin to fall. We love wrapping up and going out into the cold or hunkering down in our studio to work into the night with the wood burner fired up.
How does nature impact the way you choose to live with your family?
We are very family oriented and always have been. Both our families have always spent a lot of time outdoors walking, gardening or exploring and it is something we will always make time to do with them and with each other.
How does nature influence your work and business?
Nature initially was the reason we were able to start our business. When we graduated and wanted to begin earning a living from our arts practice we needed to be able to source raw materials cheaply to continue making work. Being able to work with Epping Forest to source wood meant we had an amazing supply of raw material for next to nothing. It was also how we made the chance discovery of working with natural dyes. We had just begun buying unprocessed cotton calico and wanted a way to achieve a subtle colour palette which natural dyes suddenly afforded us for no cost at all. We now solely work with wood tannins as a source of dye, which we get by soaking wood shavings that are produced when turning vessels on the lathe. Without this access to natural materials we would never be in the position we are today.
Do you have any examples of when you feel that nature has taught you something about yourself, or your self care.
We take it for granted that we work outdoors almost all of the time. Throughout the year we tend to do about two or three shows in which we have to spend about a week indoors each time. It is during these shows that we are reminded of the immense effect that nature has on our physical and mental wellbeing. We feel the withdrawal affects so strongly from dehydration, dry skin, irritability, and depressed mood that we can’t help but be reminded that spending time outdoors is incredibly important. It plays a really large part in boosting our immune system and keeping us healthy.
I’m interested in whether nature helps us slow down and supports a slow living lifestyle. What are your thoughts on whether working with nature helps you live in a more mindful and wholehearted way?
Nature has the power to slow the passing of time. Time is relative and the experience of time differs from one person to another. By falling into time with the cycles of nature it naturally slows that experience of time down and allows us to process life in a far more fulfilling way. It teaches us patience and allows us to prioritise and structure our days accordingly, which in turn helps us learn how to be the most productive and fulfilled in our work and personal lives.
What advice would you give to others wanting to live more in tune with nature. Where can they begin? What are your top tips?
The best place to start is by just getting out there and going on walks, either in your local park, down country roads or through winding footpaths. The direct experience of observing nature and spending time to really look and listen is so important to begin understanding the cycles of the seasons and the living organisms, both plant and animal, that we live side by side with. The next would be to grow something from seed, whether it is flowers in your garden, herbs on your windowsill or vegetables on your allotment. There is no better way to understand and gain respect for nature than caring for a tiny sprouting shoot until it is a fully fledged plant that can be picked and displayed in a vase or cooked and eaten with a meal.
To find out more about Forest + Found and to buy their work head to their site here.
All photos courtesy of Max Bainbridge and Abigail Booth