The Makers | Basket making in Bangladesh

Maison Bengal Ltd was set up in 2004 after its Director Sheenagh Day returned from living in Dhaka in Bangladesh.
After a number of years spent working in the aid industry, Sheenagh was constantly impressed by the traditional artisanal skills of weaving and basket making she came across in the poorest areas of Bangladesh. In a direct response, she decided to create a fair trade company on her return to the UK, thereby providing a market for some of these very marginalised communities. Using only locally grown natural materials such as jute and hogla (local sea-grass) she started to develop design ideas for a range of different baskets and bags and over a period of time, with close collaboration from her local fair trade partner organisations, built up a collection of different products for sale internationally.

"We work very closely with three fair trade organisations in the country, each one best placed to identify the most marginalised communities in their area and provide training in handicraft production. Maison Bengal works with each group separately to utilise their locally grown natural materials and develop their renowned traditional skills. This combined with our contemporary designs has allowed us to produce a comprehensive range of hand woven products. This process has taken many years of commitment and is a rewarding and constant work in progress."

Maison Bengal now works with over two thousand women throughout Bangladesh, each one in their home environment, enabling them to care for as well as financially support their families.

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The Makers | Swedish Hand Drawn Brushes

hand-drawn-brushThe beautiful brushes that we sell at reste are made by Swedish company Iris Hantverk. The company has a very interesting story to tell, one which gives 'hand made' a new meaning.

Iris Hantverk has strong ties with the visually impaired organisation in Sweden. The core of the business is the brush binding manufacturing at Sandsborgsvägen, Enskede – here five visually impaired craftsmen from different cultures make brushes according to an old Swedish tradition. The company also works with visually impaired craftsmen in Estonia who also have a history strongly connected to the visual impairments movement.


In the late 1800s a successful brush binding industry grew in Sweden. In 1870, Dr. Axel Beskov took the initiative of founding the Manilla School - a workhouse for visually impaired craftsmen in Stockholm. Initially there were nine people, most of them lived at the workhouse. The salary was 75 percent of product sales. Part of that went to pay the accommodation. Work began at 6am and didn't end until late in the evening.

In 1889 a group of visually impaired craftsmen founded a political independent organization, "De Blindas Förening", whose purpose was to encourage, the otherwise much isolated group of visually impaired artisans, to actively participate in society in different social contexts such as musical events and lectures, but primarily to work for equal rights and achieve a living wage.


In 1902 DBF decided that materials for brush binding and basket making would be purchased collectively in order to reduce prices and be sold to the visually impaired craftsmen for purchase price. In 1906 a property was bought on Majorsgatan 12, it accommodated a number of functions: office and library, brush binding factory, warehouse for raw materials, sales of raw material and a shop. These undertakings made the foundation for what Iris hantverk is today.

Iris Hantverk continues to supply individual artisans across the country with raw materials.

"We care much for the craftsmen and the survival of the brush binding manufactory. We believe that many like us appreciate the feeling and quality of a hand drawn brush made of natural materials.

Photos & story courtesy of Iris Hantverk

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The Makers | Carving a place in history

pocket knifeThe knife industry is a tradition in Solsona, Spain, that dates back to the 16th Century. In its heyday, the town had 24 workshops, together creating the Guild of Saint Eligius, named after the patron saint of knife makers.

By the beginning of the 19th Century the number had halved and it was during this period of uncertainty in 1917 that brothers, Lluís and Carles Pallarès Canal founded Pallarès. The company soon earned a reputation for manufacturing great quality, sharp knives which they sold throughout the Solsonés region and in the provinces of Barcelona and Girona.

Lluís’s children, Jesús and Juli Pallarès Moncunill took over the company during the 1960s, growing the market to the rest of Catalonia and throughout Spain.

By the mid Eighties, only two knife-making workshops remained in Solsana and just five years later there was just one. Pallarès is still in business.

Pallares pocket knife

The third generation took over the running of the company at the beginning of the century, introducing new technology to the manufacturing process and expanding sales further to the rest of the world. 

The enduring success of the company could be down to the fact that they use only the finest materials but it is more likely to be the quality of the cutting edge of their knives. Despite modern manufacturing technology, the family insists that each knife is still sharpened by hand.

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The Makers | Traditional shawls worn by Mexican cowboys


Mexchic is a design company which works in unison with master artisans in fusing elements of design with traditional Mexican hand work such as weaving, embroidery, ikat dying, beading and sculpting in natural materials such as wool, cotton, wood, leather, horn, silver and horse hair. They stringently follow the guidelines set by the World Fair Trade Organisation and part of the Slow movement which is a principle we are keen to promote at reste. 

“We pride ourselves in creating low impact, socially and ecologically responsible, hand-made, high-end products in original designs,” says Christina Hattler, founder of Mexchic.

The wool blankets supplied by Mexchic are made in the beautiful mountainous, pine-tree filled region of Central Mexico using the highest quality virgin wool.

The designs are beautiful, modern and subtle. All styles are made with natural undyed, untreated wool, in soft shades of creams and grey. Any slight imperfections you might come across in the blankets are due to the delicate hand-processing of the wool. 

The sheep are herded in the open mountain ranges, in the traditional manner with shepherd dogs, walking miles every day. The wool from these sheep is then sold to the 'taller' or studio which weaves the blankets.


These blankets are woven on vintage swiss power shuttle looms from the 1930's and the textile is traditionally used in Mexico as a 'sarape' or shawl in the colder mountainous regions and often worn by 'vaqueros' or cowboys to protect them when riding at night.

Some off the blankets are then hand embroidered in a minimal pattern of triangles and lines and the edges stitched in a contrasting thread. Mexchic works directly with 15 women in Malinalco, Mexico as part of an exciting project giving them the opportunity to earn an extra income by embroidering the blankets in their spare time in the comfort of their own homes. 

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The Makers | Fair Trade ceramics


Our range of pottery is supplied by Nkuku, a UK company that shares our philosophy, promoting and developing the traditional skills of artisans. Nkuku is socially responsible and is built on the principles of fair trade and equal opportunity, working with craftsmen and women who have astounding skills but challenging living standards and restricted opportunities.

The ceramics that we sell are hand made near Pondicherry in India as part of a fair trade project. The project was established in 1985 to provide training and secure employment for men and women both able bodied and disabled, from disadvantaged backgrounds. The scheme now employs 40 people and focuses particularly on empowering women in the work place.

All the artisans on the scheme are offered three years training, the first year is dedicated to basic skills. The artisans earn a fixed monthly salary to help ensure stability. The scheme has had a direct impact on the living standards of the artisans. Many, when they started had limited opportunities and basic living standards. The regular employment means that the artisans have enough funds to make improvements such as installing electricity and running water in their homes as well as making a few small luxury purchases such as televisions and bicycles to help with transport to work.

The process of making this type of pottery is long and consists of various stages. The artisans work with five different types of clay which come from mines in Rajasthan. This is the last area in India where this raw material is available.

The first step consists of mixing the clay with water in a tank which is then stirred for two hours. The mixture then goes through a sieve, which removes dust and ensures the clay is clear before it goes into the second tank. After one week, the clay goes to other tanks, where it stays for two days more. This first step of the process depends on the weather. If it rains it means the clay does not dry and the whole process is affected.


A master craftsman or woman then carries out the throwing of the piece, and gives the shape to the diffuser.  The diffuser has to be accurate and precise, as all the diffusers have to be the same. One craftsman is able to make around 75 pieces per day. It is at this point that the handles are added to each mug and any additional details are made.  The next step is the drying process which is done outside, a further two days, weather is again an important factor and can delay the process.

Finally, the piece is fired in a kiln, hand made from bricks. The oven is heated by wood, bought from local farmers. The pieces remain in the oven for eight hours and then are left to cool for two days. The finished pieces are then carefully packaged and shipped to Nkuku in the UK. 

“There is something magical about holding a mug in your hand knowing the story about the person who made it and the journey the piece has taken.”

Photos & story courtesy of Nkuku

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The Makers | Conjuring up the coast


We were thrilled to discover the work of ceramicist Libby Ballard and even more delighted when she was happy to collaborate with us to create a duo of cups for both tea and coffee drinkers.  

Having studied on the South Coast in Brighton, it’s not hard to see where Libby gets her inspiration.

“The sea and coastal landscapes are the main inspirations for my practice. Using photography as a starting point to capture my interests in colour, shape and form, I use a combination of porcelain and stoneware, and experiment with different glazes and textures to achieve the desired effects.”

The colours, the layering of the glazes and the speckled clay in her work, conjure up days on the beach, the movement of the waves and the sand beneath your feet.

ceramics-beachAfter leaving The University of Brighton with a BA in 3D Materials Practice (Wood, Metal, Ceramics and Plastics), Libby went on to form her company Libby Ballard Ceramics in 2014.

“From the start I was obsessed with ceramics. I enjoy working with clay and love its tactile nature.”

Each cup can take four to five days to make. It’s a long process of throwing, firing, scraping and dipping. To truly understand what is involved, we asked Libby to document the process.

“Firstly I wedge up a blend of two stoneware clays to get the speckle effect I require. I then weigh out the clay and wedge up again so it’s a consistent texture and ready to throw, without any air bubbles.

“I then throw on to a wooden batt on the wheel head. Each piece is thrown by centering the clay, throwing a cylinder first and then gently pulling out to the correct width. The cups are then left loosely covered overnight to stiffen up.

libby-ballard-ceramics“The next day when they are leather hard and can be touched without losing their shape, it is time to turn the bases and stamp. This involves taking away excess clay from the base so that they are all smooth and uniform. This also helps to compress the clay so that cracks don’t form. I then leave them to dry slowly, covered lightly with plastic. If they dry too quickly or unevenly the rim can dry out causing pressure on the base which again can cause cracking. 

“Once fully dry they are fired to 1000 degrees over 10 hours and left to cool slowly in the kiln which can take up to 24 hours. They are then removed from the kiln and any rough parts sanded off.

“I mix up my glazes with a range of raw materials and oxides for colouring, I often play around with new glazes and test out different percentages of colour. Each glaze, when mixed up, needs to be left to settle for at least an hour and then sieved three times through a specific size mesh. 

“I then pour clear glaze into the inside of each cup and wipe any dribbles from around the outside rim. I then dip up to the rim in a light green glaze and then leave for the glaze to soak in and dry. They are then dipped again in a dark blue glaze but this time only halfway up the cup.

“The glaze on the base of each cup needs wiping back with a clean, damp sponge or it can stick to the kiln shelf. I then load the kiln for the second firing. As my work is all fired to stoneware temperature it goes up to 1260 degrees over 11 hours and is again left to cool for about 24 hours before it can be removed. 

“When removed, each cup is checked once more and the bases sanded back where necessary." 

Since graduating Libby has moved inland and has set up her studio in Bath, Wiltshire. 

"I am so excited to explore the surroundings and perhaps bring more of the countryside into my ceramics."

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The Makers | A mix of traditional processes and modern thinking


At reste we get every excited when we meet like-minded individuals. Someone who mixes traditional processes with modern thinking; who prefers natural ingredients and who insists on everything being ethically sourced and cruelty free. So when we stumbled across Chris Lafferty and his skincare brand Washed Out Soap Co it was a match made in heaven.

This is no ordinary soap: no synthetic preservatives, foaming agents or stabilisers, just beautiful handcrafted bars using a blend of natural ingredients and fine oils.

“We create our soaps using the cold-process method, a centuries-old technique, the basic principles of which are believed to have been in use as far back as 2800 BC, the first soapers being Babylonians and Ancient Greeks. The basic principle is based on blending a carefully selected range of fine oils with an alkali. The soap is the end result of this process, “ explains Chris.

In contrast to its ancient origins, modern soapers have been able to fine tune the basic principles, transforming the once muddled procedure into a specialist craft.

“All of our soaps are made by hand in small batches. Each bar is cut and finished by hand, then left to cure for a minimum of five weeks. The bars are then stamped and packaged before being sent out. No machines, no robots, just a human or two and some acquired skill.”

After several months of planning and developing, Chris launched the business in January 2015 with his goal to enrich people's routines and rituals on a daily basis. Every single item has been developed, crafted, prepared and packaged with care and attention. Each product is vegan friendly as standard; using only plant-based oils and waxes, and never using palm oil. Nourishing coconut oil, cocoa butter and olive oil is used as the base for each of the soaps; different formulas feature different and specifically selected ingredients but the base is always these three simple oils.

The Salt of The Earth bar is completely free of fragrance for the benefit of sensitive skin and allergy sufferers. It is enriched with Himalayan sea salt and kaolin clay to give a gentle, luxurious wash leaving the skin feeling soft, nourished and conditioned.


But The Washed Out Soap Co isn't limited to good soap, it also boasts a range of body butters.

"Our Body Butter formulas are tailored to balance and repair tired and damaged skin. Each formula has been workshopped to meet specific demands, and again contain only natural, plant-based ingredients," says Chris.

The Barista Body Butter is a deep and intense treatment for problematic dry areas and it's great for stimulating and improving the skin's general health and natural defences with added arabica coffee beans. Use sparingly as a replacement for general moisturisers or more liberally for deeper overnight treatments. This super product can also be used as a nourishing leave-in styling product or as an intensive hair conditioning mask, or beard oil. 

So has Chris realised his goal when he started the company?

"At The a Washed Out Soap Co we don't sell thousands of bars of soap a week but I am confident that each product we supply contributes to a positive improvement for the user."

And after trying every product in the range we have to agree with him.

(Apologies, these products are no longer available)



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The Makers | Hand-poured soy candles


Driven to create natural, affordable and original candles, Jo Leguen De Lacroix started Clement & Claude. Working from her dining room table, the business soon grew and her candles are now stocked in shops across London and the UK and Jo recently moved to her workshop in South West London.

As Clement & Claude has prospered, Jo has remained true to the original values of the business. Each candle is still hand-poured and made from 100% soy wax.
“I use soy wax, a soft, clean, renewable wax that is extracted straight from the bean and melted over a low heat. I then add an unbleached cotton wick (or three!) and blend the eco-friendly wax with fine fragrance oils. Our suppliers are family farms in the US which have been running for multiple generations, ensuring we support sustainable agriculture."
Soy wax is made simply by using the oil from a soy bean. The oil is then purified and goes through a process called hydrogenation which changes it from liquid oil to a solid. To finish, the finest botanical oils are added, producing a soft, clean, pure wax without the horrible black smoke emissions, which you get from paraffin candles.
Most importantly, the wax is renewable, biodegradable and sustainable - consistently being produced without damaging the ecosystem.

Here are a few tips to get the most out of your candle:
* Ensure you trim those wicks before re-lighting (just simply pull the ends off or snip them off with scissors).  
* Once lit you should always let the burnpool reach right to the edges to ensure an even burn, otherwise the wax may cave in the middle.
* DO NOT leave your candle burning unattended, especially if there is not much wax left.  
* Make sure to blow the candle out when the wax has reached the bottom, otherwise the jars get too hot!

Words & photos: Jo Leguen De Lacroix

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The Makers | Mango wood in the kitchen


Nkuku is a UK company well travelled. It was during time spent in Africa and Asia that its founders became inspired by the traditional skills and age-old techniques that they saw being used. They created Nkuku with a passion to support fair trade, combining comtemporary design with age old traditions, natural materials and sustainable methods of production.

Our mango wood bowls and chopping boards are a part of this story.

The delicious mango is the national fruit of India. Mangoes have been cultivated in South East Asia for thousands of years, there is mention of the fruit in 4th Century Sanskrit. The mango tree has been a constant presence in India and provided food and wood for centuries. India now provides 36 per cent of the world’s supply.

Mango wood is a hard wood; it is strong and durable which makes it a good material for making furniture, and provides longevity to other items including our chopping boards. 

This beautiful material has many distinctive properties and characteristics; it has a unique colouring and can vary from light to dark, and the colour palette can stretch from brown to orange and even shades of pink.


Another, and perhaps the most important reason for our love of this beautiful wood is that it is sustainable.  The mango trees are initially grown for their fruit but once they have stopped producing they can be cut down and used to create wood products. The removal of the old trees makes space for farmers to plant new mango trees. This not only means that none of the wood is wasted but offers a supplementary income to mango wood farmers.

Words & photos courtesy of Nkuku

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The Makers | Linen production in Lithuania


We’re in love with the beautiful linens we have sourced at reste. Our tablecloths, napkins and aprons are handmade by Not PERFECT LINEN, a small family business based in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Traditional flax growing and linen production techniques are a significant part of Lithuanian heritage. Made from the fibres of the flax plant, linen is valued for its high absorbency and its exceptional coolness in hot weather. The Lithuanian climate has always been perfectly suited to growing quality flax. Today, Baltic linen is highly appreciated by textile experts all over the world, and many globally-known brands produce their linen in Lithuania.

Producing linen from the seeding to the cutting of flax to weaving the fabric is a long and laborious process. Because it takes up so much time, over the years the process has become a way of life for many and it has become a central part of Lithuanian culture and mythology. Many folk songs are based around the process. There is even an annual festival in the village of Budraiciai to celebrate the importance of flax and linen, with artisans and craftsmen attending from all over Lithuania to share their experience and sell their handmade items.


Not PERFECT LINEN was founded by Simona Rimkiene “I grew up in Lithuania, surrounded by fabric. My mother was always sewing, creating and designing; however, I initially pursued a very different path – getting a degree in law. After working as a legal consultant for five years, I found myself spending more and more time sewing with my mother. This led me to the decision to leave the corporate world to start my own textile company.”

This life-changing project soon became a family business and an eco-friendly one at that. All the products are 100% linen, a natural no-waste product, made from the flax plant and supplied by local manufacturers.

So why the name? “ I always get questions about the name of my business”, says Simona “I call it not PERFECT LINEN because the imperfect nature of the fabric was what inspired me to start working with it in the first place. The real beauty of linen is that it’s not perfect – if you keep trying to iron it, you will definitely miss the beauty in it. Linen needs to be used, and it gets better with age.”

Words courtesy of Simona Rimkiene. Photos courtesy of Justė Saulytė.

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