Within each of us resides a maverick spirit. This series delves deeper into those people who’s maverickness paves a way forward in business, creativity and sustainability – awakening our own inner maverick.
Inspired by a gift - a picnic blanket destined for landfill, lacking quality and durability - husband and wife team, Charlie & Laura, set out to give a household product a maverick makeover. Moorswood Field Rugs are built for a lifetime of journeys, crafted from the belief that family adventures should not be bound by the inadequacy of kit.
Words by Charlie Fanshawe | Photography by Jim Marsden
Moorswood was born out of a frustration with cheaply made products destined for the landfill, it also feels inspired by the spirit of craftsmanship, we love this ethos, but how did it all begin?
As a family, we try to spend a lot of our spare time enjoying outdoor spaces. Some time ago we were given a picnic blanket. It was a cheap polyester foam backed type thing. It blew away in the wind, fell apart within a year and had no other destination other than landfill. I didn't want another one of those. After searching to find something that suited us we decided to make our own.
What we came up with is our Dart Roll, a hardy picnic blanket made from natural fibres, wool tweed and wax cotton. We were also keen to ensure that before getting too far past the design start line we would first look at how it would all come about. By using natural fibres we ensure that our products are compostable or biodegradable, including the cotton thread. Choosing the fabrics to suit our climate; wool tweeds work brilliantly at naturally repelling moisture and dirt. They also have the added bonus of reflecting the colours of our wild spaces. Combining these with a craftsman's finishing of Oak Bark tanned leather straps from Devon is a perfect match of materials.
Moorswood has been a joining of some of my passions rolled into one. The idea of bridging the gap between traditional craftsmanship and outdoor adventures. We have taken the time to concentrate on how our materials work for us, using what's on our doorstep and finishing them to a very high standard. There's a reason some of the so-called traditional materials have been around for so long and they still have a rightful place in today's marketplace.
We love your message ‘better not bigger’ finishing everything by hand yourself and sourcing fabrics from the UK. Have you always crafted and created things before Moorswood, what’s your journey been with making and doing?
I have always been keen to highlight the quality and beauty of natural materials. My first love was working with wood, particularly greenwood, working with hand tools, and I think I'll never stray too far from an axe or a wood carving knife.
There is something wonderful in my opinion in creating something using hand tools. Certainly, power gives us speed but sometimes it can take away the finesse. When working with wood you get to feel the grain, work with it. I feel like this applies to leather work too; hides have a grain. By working and finishing your medium by hand, you can enhance the beauty of the object by following its subtle nuances. We hand finish all the leather work for Moorswood which also gives an opportunity to quality check each item. An element of craftsmanship that will travel with our products and hopefully be recognised for its attention to detail.
The Ramblers Roll is created for those moments of pause on a hike, walk or wander, how important a role is the outdoors in your daily life and how does slowing down and taking a breath help?
We don't stop often enough anymore. Here at Moorswood we believe we should be taking more time to stop and preferably outdoors.
I volunteer for my local Search and Rescue team on Dartmoor. When out training one particularly cold and wet winter's evening our team hunkered down as best we could to get out of the elements for a cuppa. We stopped and everyone chose their spot carefully, not too damp, not too cold, not in a draft; which is tricky on a usually cold and wet Dartmoor. People sat on different things, a rucksack, a map, a plastic bag! It was then that I realised we could do with our own portable solo adventure mat. I wanted to design a mat using natural fibre materials that we were currently working with and sampling. This idea was to become our Ramblers Roll.
Living on the outskirts of Dartmoor certainly gives us the opportunity to explore. However, even working from home you can sometimes feel a bit stuck in so it's vital to get out and clear your head. We are very lucky in that we can put on our boots, head out of the back door and access some stunning lowland Dartmoor countryside. A quick walk is wonderful, but there's nothing like trying to find more time to stop and appreciate why you've headed out in the first place. Instead of having your cup of tea at home, take it with you in a flask or even better take a stove. Find a spot to stop, sit, breathe and appreciate your surroundings, just don't forget the cake.
You've taken the time to go there, now take the time to be there.
There’s a lot of people out there who create, make, craft and tinker, you’ve taken that and turned it into a product/brand with purpose, what kind of advice would you have for people who want to follow their passions to do the same?
I'm not suggesting our time is spent living from day to day having endless picnics and cups of tea by the river or moors. There's graft, belt-tightening, and a huge amount of self-belief required. This is part of the process and it is essential to try and find the time to do exactly what you started it all for! We started Moorswood to build products to help us appreciate spending more time outdoors; it would be ironic if in so doing we ended up with less time. Do the graft but make the time.
Although not prolific, I have always had a sketchbook, journal or idea's diary on the go. Put down the digital device, pick up a pencil and paper. Sketching or jotting down thoughts has always helped me formulate, edit and refine ideas. Return to it often, the more frequently you put pen to paper the clearer your thoughts can become.
Choose some role models or guides of reference to spur you on and these don't need to be in the field you're working in. For me personally, I cannot recommend the DO Lectures highly enough. They are an encouragement network. They thrive on helping the best ideas come to fruition. If their live talks are unachievable, view the free ones online or buy one of the fabulous reads from the DO Book Company. For Moorswood, DO Purpose by David Hieatt and DO Disrupt by Mark Shayler where invaluable in identifying whether our idea had legs and establishing our brand.
Just make a start. No one will ever know your idea if it sits unused in your idea's diary. Bring your favourite to life, at the very least for a prototype. That way you'll know a lot sooner if it's a good idea and you can either move forward or re-design. Be brave, trust in you.
What is Maverickness to you?
I've always been an Indie kid at heart, but it's also that ability to think outside the box. I think Mavericks are inquisitive; how is this made and why is it made that way, what more can we get out of it?... It's great to design something with a purpose, and even better if you can design it with two or three different uses.
I respect and appreciate those who are trying to bring about change for the good. I hope in designing some great products it attracts people's attention, and also gives us the opportunity to talk about why we chose to make them this way; an opportunity to voice our concerns about the throwaway culture some have become all accustomed too.
My plan was to simply design a better product that I enjoy using, am proud of and that has a purposeful life. I may not have a background in product design, marketing or sales but I believe that we are achieving our passions and goals with Moorswood.
Sometimes take the path less trodden, you never know where it's going to lead.