Sustainable wooden jewellery and homewares – meet Priormade
Beck Prior is Creative Director of Priormade. Using recycled materials and sustainable sourcing, she creates contemporary jewellery and homewares in bold colours and geometric shapes. She believes in responsible design that doesn’t compromise quality. We were lucky enough to chat to her about her sustainable wooden jewellery, brightly coloured vessels and what it’s like running a sustainable design business.
Hi Beck, can you tell us a bit about yourself? What inspired you to set up Priormade?
Hello! Priormade officially began in 2012 and is a play on my surname ‘Prior’ and also that all the materials I use have a recycled and previous life. I am a prop maker which is a very wasteful industry. I began making products using small wooden off-cuts left over from a chess board.
I am really drawn to minimalist design and products that have sleek lines, angles and bold shapes. I enjoy creating this contemporary style using sustainable and recycled materials; an unusual and almost juxtaposed paring. It is common for people to think that recycled materials will compromise, devalue or decrease the quality of the product. I think designers should take responsibility of the materials they are using and help to change this attitude.
It’s clear that sustainability is important to you. How do you apply that to your work?
I make sure I use either recycled, sustainable or low impact materials. The wood is either recycled or FSC wood. The Birch Plywood I use is always an FSC mix (containing birch wood from well managed forests and recycled fibres). Birch is seen as a sustainable resource as it grows in abundance and plywood makes use of all available material from the tree (rather than just the ‘good’ bits). Every single piece of my packaging is made using recycled card stock (leaflets, business cards, gift boxes, postal boxes and tapes). I use local printers and packaging companies whenever possible and research their company ethos before purchasing.
In my other prop making and public art work I am now stricter with the materials and processes I use. It is a difficult industry to change but I feel very passionately about it. If there is a more sustainable material or method to achieve a client’s brief, I will always use it and avoid any new plastic.
Does working in a more sustainable way present any challenges? What have the benefits been?
There has been a huge increase in people choosing to purchase responsibly made items. It’s so awesome! However, some people are still used to buying products cheaply, online and internationally and therefore can be shocked at the price of most hand and sustainably made products. Running a business is exhausting and completely absorbing at the best of times and you have to be extra committed if you want your brand to be sustainable. Recycled packaging, business cards, bags, boxes and locally sourced elements are more expensive. It’s really hard not to take shortcuts when money is tight and to meet peoples price expectations. In my opinion it is really important to do everything we can. Anything that has a negative effect on our environment were designed before they were manufactured; therefore, the responsibility lies with the designer. We need to act from the very beginning, not leave the choice to the consumer.
What reaction do you get when you explain that the pieces you create are made from recycled materials?
People love it. It’s horrible trying to be a sales person when I’m at trade shows and markets, but I really enjoy telling people about the history of the materials. What’s great is that every time I make the leap and approach people, they are really happy to have been told! I think knowing the history creates a deeper connection to owner and object. The object becomes more cared for and cherished.
We love the unique sources of wood that you’ve used in your jewellery. Do you have any favourites?
Yes I do! I have a piece of wood that used to be a ship hatch of an 18th century ship! It’s a piece of IPE wood that is beautifully warm in colour. It has the most beautiful grain and polishes really nicely. When I work with it and wear my earrings, I always think about where in the world it has visited and the stories it could tell of those adventures in the sea.
You also run workshops with community groups and young people. What do these involve?
I like to share skills and empower groups of all ages to create larger and more technical pieces of work. With the decrease of art provision in schools, many people are unaware of art outside of painting, drawing and craft. All Priormade workshops/projects will encourage the learning of useful skills and increase the understanding of the many creative careers that young people can peruse. For example: learning how to make animation puppets; creating large scale community art pieces to address a social issue in the area; learning how to design logos and hand printing t-shirts.
What should we expect to see from you in the future?
I’ve recently employed people to regularly help me make my products. This gives me more time to design new things and take on more community work! It’s all very exiting and very scary!
To see more of Beck’s work, check out her Instagram: www.instagram.com/priormade