Across the globe exist communities of makers, doers and thinkers all connected through their maverick pursuits of creativity. This summer we travelled to the south coast of England where we explored the creative mavericks of Cornwall.
In this special Maverick Streak, we connect with several inspired makers on the shores of these Great British Isles. Introducing Ali Goodman, a craftswoman who creates 'purpose driven goods for purpose-driven people’. From her workshop just outside Falmouth, Ali handcrafts hardy work-wear, outdoor accessories, rucksacks and small carry goods for explorers and creators. We dropped by her Francli studio to learn how her local community of makers and outdoors people have inspired her creative process.
WORDS BY ALI GOODMAN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY JAMES BOWDON
Why do you do what you do?
I just love making things. Throughout my career I seem to have naturally avoided anything that takes me away from working with my hands. My practice isn’t particularly ambitious and I don’t produce a high volume of stuff, but it enables me to spend time doing what I enjoy.
I’m happiest when I’m in the process of building an object for use. Asking questions, solving a problem, experimenting, taking an idea from 2D to 3D. It grips me. There’s a small window of accomplishment and peace when I’ve completed something, then it’s quickly replaced by a craving to improve for the next piece. Can something be both satisfying and insatiable? It feels a bit like that.
You work on your own, crafting, making and doing, how important is your creative independence?
Creative independence is very important to me and I’m lucky that I often get to totally indulge in it! As I’m self-employed, with a small team of contractors, I have a lot of freedom. At the same time, there are inevitable limitations and restrictions that come with being small. Particularly with time and cost. Because of this, I do have to make creative sacrifices within a project. But as with most things in life, the struggle makes it sweeter. Creative independence is fun, but creative compromise can be more rewarding.
There’s real purpose and intention behind everything you make, especially the one-off items, what’s the process behind making someone a custom backpack that matches up to them?
The brief for each custom pack starts with a short questionnaire. The answers give me an insight into who the customer is and what moves them. It also outlines their carry needs and how they’ll be using the pack. With this information, I put together a proposal of how I would tailor the Kit Rucksack to their lifestyle. Including specific design features, dimensions, colours and materials.
It’s a process totally unique to each customer. Sometimes it’s a direct and decisive brief; sometimes it’s more of an evolving conversation to find the right solution. It’s an alternative way of purchasing something, a slower and more considered process than browsing a shop. I hope that this extra thought from both maker and customer makes each piece more cherished and purposeful, and so will exist for longer.
As an independent maker, community still plays a big part in what you do, what makes Cornwall such a creative hub?
I think there are many things that makes Cornwall a creative hub. Geographically there’s a lot to inspire an artistic mind; beautiful light, rugged topography, wild moors, enchanting woodlands and of course the powerful Atlantic sea. It’s a draw for many creative thinkers and people looking for a more alternative lifestyle.
As ‘England’s horn’ it has a history of separateness and a strong sense of cultural identity. Even now it’s not that accessible, with drastic seasonal changes in both population and weather. This acts as a filter to the area, resulting in like-mindedness between the people that choose to live here all year round.
In Cornwall, you thrive with a creative and flexible outlook, especially in how you earn your income and what you do with your free time. There’s a value system that’s more about quality of life and experience than material wealth.
Can you tell us a little more about the farm where you’re based - it feels like such an interesting community of crafter and doers!
The Francli studio is based at Argal Home Farm, a small farmstead that’s growing into a centre of contemporary creative practice. There are three homes, six workspaces, allotments and an orchard. The work on the land is on-going such as planting lots of trees, building foraging hedges and rearing pigs.
The studio is in the recently renovated cattle barn, in between the Cut By Beam workshop and a yoga studio/communal space. In new buildings there’s Yallah Coffee Roastery and James Smith Design’s wood/metal workshop. The office space is shared between creative freelancers, Bonnie Mably, Lulu Ash and Sophie Farrington. There’s many more residents and visitors constantly in and out, so it’s become a vibrant and sociable home for us all.
I love working alongside talented and committed designers and makers, it keeps me inspired and has pushed me further than I would on my own. It’s been the Francli base for 3 years and it’s been vital to have a group of us going through the same highs, lows and evolutions of small business together.
'Connection' runs through everything you make, from you to the product, the product to the user and the user to their environment - what’s your relationship with nature, the outdoors and your creativity?
Nature is intrinsic to my lifestyle, with both work and play. A good dose of the outdoors is always followed by a burst of creativity - especially the sea. Whether it’s a quick dunk or a few hours of surfing, it’s my window to perspective, a source of inspiration and a quick cure for apathy. If I go for too long without that exposure, everything starts to fog over. I think we’re supposed to be outside to feel our smallness in the world and remind us to be appreciative.
What does Maverickness mean to you?
‘Maverickness’ makes me think of a high threshold. When a determined belief in something gives you the strength to ignore the crowd. It’s strong and stubborn, but also a bit cheeky and playful too.