Makers in Cornwall Come Together to Create Meaningful Wedding Inspiration

 

As a film photographer working out of Cornwall—a ruggedly romantic peninsula in the South West of England—I envisioned this story as a celebration of some of the talented artisan friends I know here, whose methods of creativity have many parallels including traditional craft-based practices using their hands and an understanding and deep appreciation of their natural environment. 

I wanted to show the time, energy and love that goes into an artisan's work. Often in the wedding industry we see only the beautiful finished products and it's easy to forget the hours of time and energy that an artisan spends on their craft.

Drawing on the natural inspiration of our coastal home, this story starts with Lancaster & Cornish who create natural dyes from foraged elements, in this case, camellias combined with iron. The dye Sian Cornish created was used to colour organic silk which was then taken by local bridal designer Claire Headdon to create a bespoke gown in the softest tones.

All photographs and styling by Taylor & Porter

All photographs and styling by Taylor & Porter

Local organic farmer florists The Garden Gate Flower Company created a bouquet finished with Sian's ribbons and Calligrapher Myrtle & Co drew inspiration from these tones and created a bespoke suite, using handmade inks and organic papers. Local jeweller Mirri Damer creates ethical pieces which evoke perfect days spent on rugged beaches and her hand made ring and earrings finished our bridal look.

I wanted to show the time, energy and love that goes into an artisan’s work. Often in the wedding industry we see only the beautiful finished products and it’s easy to forget the hours of time and energy that an artisan spends on their craft.
— Taylor & Porter

Read maker interviews below

and see final result at the very bottom!

 

Meet Sian Cornish

How does your work involve the use of natural practices and materials?

The desire to take forward my family heritage in the textile industry with an ethical heart is what drives me. Textiles are in my blood. Starting with my Great-Grandparents cotton weaving in the Lancashire Mills of north-west England, the story continues into the 1900’s with my Grandad, David Lancaster, selling textiles from around the globe.

In the pursuit of natural colour, I work with natural dyes, foraged and gathered where possible from the beautiful Cornish countryside that surrounds me.  Our palette of colours, developed in my Cornwall Studio, evolves with and responds to the seasons. However I am also a pragmatist, keen to see natural dyes embraced more into the mainstream fashion world, so I also use of extracts and ground plant matter in our commercial work, mindful of our clients desire for repeatable colours.  

Making and dyeing by hand allows us to forge a connection to nature and to the client, creating meaningful pieces that may be passed from generation to generation.

Recognising the environmental and social impacts of the fashion and textile industry, I seek to minimise our impact on the environment and individuals who work in the industry. We use natural products and fabrics including pure silk and bamboo. We keep our supply chains short, and where available use organically certified products.

I believe it is important to know where our fabric has come from, who has made it, what processes have been used and what chemicals added.

There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and poverty.
— Mahatma Gandhi

Can you roughly outline your workflow?

We make and dye our ribbons and textiles by hand in small batches and for individual bespoke orders.  Plant material are gathered, foraged or bought from fair trade sources. Next, comes the preparation of the fabric, and making the dye bath. Depending on the colours required, fabrics are sometimes pre and/or post-treated with a mordant (this enables the pigment to enter and stay in the fabric) before immersion the dye bath.

I chose to dye with Camellias as they are, for me, all about Cornwall. Victorian plant hunters brought seeds of new species over from the Far East in the early 20th century to Caerhays Castle near where I live and, aided by the mild climate, these beautiful plants thrive in Cornish gardens today.  The camellia blooms for this project were picked on a cold March morning from a large private garden at the top of a wooded lane above our house.  It was a wonderful moment to return to the studio with a huge truck of deep pink flowers, anticipation growing for the final result.

It was wonderful to dye with freshly foraged blooms, and I carried out a series of tests with the flowers first to ensure the colour palette would work. There were surprises in the process; only the deepest of pink camellia flower yield a shell pink, whilst paler blooms produce a beautiful soft ivory.

Dyeing 20 metres of beautiful organic silk from Claire L. Headdon was nerve-wracking. Working with the largest vat of camellias I have ever used, I was so excited to see the beautiful soft colours emerge, before finding somewhere to dry the fabric naturally (a challenge in the English climate at the best of times). The fabric is then ironed before preparing to pass on to Claire.

How many hours do you think roughly go into one of your pieces?

We work to a dyeing schedule where possible with our ribbon work.

From testing to foraging, dyeing and drying, the process itself took place over an entire week. Much of the time was spent in preparation – making colour swatches and ensuring the final result was going to work.

Why do you choose to work for yourself and what do you love about the work you do?

I love the creative freedom that comes with working for myself. It allows me to express my individuality, and be connected both the nature and the seasons.

Whilst my children are young, I am grateful for the flexibility it allows me too – I love to be there to pick my kids up from school and not miss out on important milestones along the way.


The work that I do follows centuries of artisans all in pursuit of the same thing – the desire to harvest colour from nature.

What inspires you about Cornwall?

  • Creativity of individuals
  • Freedom of expression – less tied to the high-pressure unsustainable fashion industry, allowed to be an individual
  • Remote from the rest of the country
  • The sea, the woods, the moors


Why should people look to commission work from/buy from artisans like yourself instead of mass market?

Often when I have finished a piece, whether a ribbon or a table runner, and in particular with this project, I find it hard to let the piece go.  Through working with natural materials, you develops an affinity with the fabric, a sense of ownership, a piece of invisible thread that runs from nature to artisan to the final client. Somehow the fabric becomes imbued with meaning, and sense of place. There is a joy of working with creative, like-minded individuals, businesses and clients that cannot be replicated on the high street.

Natural dyes seem to change with the light and are not harsh colours like commercial dyes. Buying from artisans is ultimately more satisfying – you are getting an heirloom piece and something to treasure long after the wedding or event is over. Many of my clients report back that they keep their ribbons after the wedding as a special keepsake, where perhaps if they were mass produced they wouldn’t feel so special.

Ultimately using artisans is an opportunity to connect in a deeper sense to the product.


Meet Claire Headdon

How does your practice involves organic natural practices or materials?

All silk fabrics used in my studio are organic, eco-friendly and fair trade. This starts at the very beginning in the fields of Mulberry bushes, all the way through the process to the workers in the mills. Only empty cocoons are used for reeling the silk fibres and harmless chemicals are used for boiling, twisting and weaving the fabrics. I am incredibly passionate about promoting eco-friendly products and processes within the textile industry. The silks are absolutely beautiful to work with, are that bit more special and much better for the environment. 

Can you roughly outline your workflow?

All wedding gowns and separates are handmade by me in my studio in Cornwall, with delicate couture techniques to make sure your gown isn't just any gown but something you can treasure for generations to come. Each step is taken with the utmost care, hand finishing a silk Habotai lining, adding a beautiful row of lace covered buttons or creating a structured inner corset, are all specialist techniques which make your gown something to remember.

How many hours go into a piece?

There will be roughly 60 hours of work in creating a wedding gown. I’ll start by gathering inspiration and sketching, then I’ll develop the design by creating several toiles (mock up garments) and start fitting to a body, making sure the fit and design is perfect. There is something quite special about a small design studio. I know exactly where everything has come from, I see everything through from beginning to end and it means everything that is created has that extra special care before it leaves the studio. You also know exactly where your product has come from, where it’s been designed, what materials were used, what went into creating it and making sure it’s perfect before you take it home. 

Why do you choose to work for yourself what do you love about your work?

I love this idea of nurturing family and community by passing on a piece of art, as well as a memory, down the generations. It a piece of art but it’s wearable, I find that so incredibly special and it really should be encouraged. Making garments is an incredible experience, a wedding dress is an incredibly special garment, possibly the best anyone would wear in their lives and it’s amazing to be a part of that journey with someone. 

What inspires you about Cornwall?

Cornwall is an incredibly inspiring place to live and work in. I have been lucky enough to grow up surrounded by the sea and beautiful landscapes, which has always fed into my creativity. It has always been famous for it’s art and being surrounded by such talented artists is a beautiful and inspiring thing. 


Meet Becca Stuart

How does your practise involve organic/natural practises and/or materials?

We started to grow our own flowers because the flowers available from most wholesalers were all the same, too rigid and didn’t look natural enough for the style we wanted to achieve. Alongside defining an aesthetic we also wanted to grow flowers with integrity. Much of the international flower market has a big carbon footprint, being shipped from less well-regulated areas of the world, where it is difficult to trace the provenance of the flowers. We wanted to grow flowers which reflected the landscapes and seasons in which they are grown, and so we grow the majority of our flowers organically on Becca’s parents’ farm, near Fowey. 

Can you roughly outline your workflow for me?

Our work really varies seasonally and day to day. In winter we take most of our enquiries and do most of the consultations for the following year’s wedding, much of our web-site updating and planning for the garden will take place in winter. Spring is so busy with all that needs to be done in the garden and finalising wedding details. Early enquiries can have bulbs, for example planted specifically. In late spring and summer, we split our time between admin, the garden and the actual weddings themselves. So, for a Saturday wedding we will pick our flowers on the Thursday before, first thing in the morning. We then carefully select the flowers for the bride’s bouquet and portion out the rest into larger and smaller arrangements, or reception and church flowers, depending on the wedding. We will build any larger arrangements or instillations on site, so we work out what we will need for this too. On Friday, we make the bride and bridesmaids’ flowers first, and then move on to the rest. We will then carefully pack the van, for delivery early on the Saturday morning. 

How many hours do you think roughly go into one of your pieces?

The time spent is so hard to quantify as we grow our flowers and arrange them, the time spend is so spread out. Some days time flies in the workshop, and we can make a bride’s bouquet in under an hour. Other times it takes longer, it sometimes depends how inspired we are. It is all a creative process and difficult to pin down. 

Why do you choose to work for yourself and what do you love about the work you do?

Being self-employed means we are able to be very flexible over what work we choose to do, what work we target and also how and when we spend our time. The financial pressures of being self-employed are balanced by the flexibility we have, as Becca and I both have young families. The greatest benefit is working with other creative people on photoshoots and creative projects, which is always really inspiring. We have worked with Sian from Lancaster and Cornish over the past few years where Sian has used our flowers to dye ribbons, we often work with the same photographers and venues too. Being able to travel for work is fantastic as we get to see and work in places we never thought possible.

What inspires you about Cornwall?

Cornwall has an undercurrent of independent-minded creative energy which is lovely to be a part of, from having lots of independent shops, designers and artists to outdoor theatre and local community carnivals. Cornwall’s gardens are amazing and always inspiring in terms of design and the plants they grow. Most of all, the landscapes of Cornwall are so diverse, with cute fishing villages, windswept moors and ancient woodlands to take ideas from. Cornwall’s beaches and craggy coastline never fails to impress. 

Why should people look to commission work from/buy from Artisans like yourself instead of mass market?

High street florists often don’t have the diversity of flowers we do. We love the natural wild look you just can’t buy en-mass. Our roses are all varieties which smell amazing and are quite tricky to grow and transport, so never make it onto the wholesaler’s lorry. We forage for autumn foliage, spring hedgerow flowers and honeysuckle on the farm, which makes all of our arrangements unique and totally in keeping with the season and our surroundings. The bespoke service we offer means our customers always get lots of good advice and a personal service they just don’t get elsewhere. We have time to spend really listening to our brides and work together with their ideas to create a personal and unique floral theme for their wedding. Using locally grown flowers is always more environmentally friendly and will boost the local economy too. Cornwall is such a beautiful place and supporting local artisans helps to keep it a creative and vibrant place to live and to visit. Artisans and crafts people are passionate about what they do and I feel that love is embodied in the items they produce. They say money can’t buy you love, but in a round-about way, it can.


Meet Myrtle & Co

How does your practice involves organic natural practices or materials?

I try to use natural traditional inks and sometimes make my own, for this shoot I used iron gall ink and ancient ink used on the magna carta and the Lindisfarne Gospels. It is made from a gall wasp nests found on oak trees and the ink stinks a bit! I also have inks made from turmeric, walnuts, elderberry and cuttlefish.

The paper I used for this project is by Khadi, it is cotton based, made from wastage from the Indian rag trade and doesn’t involve harmful chemicals so the waste water can be used to irrigate crops. 

Finding suppliers with an ethical and environmental leaning is important not just to me but I more and more customers ask if the paper can be FSC standard or recycled. 

Can you roughly outline your workflow?

I start off with the wording from the client then what styles they are interested in - old English or classic copperplate to modern relaxed styles of lettering, and then I draw up some examples of what it could look like. Then colours and papers are sampled and finally I write. I also work closely with a local printer who does screen printing, digital and foil blocking.

How many hours go into a piece?

This depends very much on the amount of words I have to write and font style used - elaborate gothic lettering can be very time consuming where as modern loose scripts are slightly quicker but I usually get an aching hand no matter what!

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Why do you choose to work for yourself what do you love about your work?

I get most satisfaction working with my hands and not being on a computer all the time, which was a big part of why I decided to work for myself. 

I love the creative freedom and control I have over my own work and the variety of things I have written from a eulogy to a horse to a map of a make believe world...

What inspires you about Cornwall?

The light, the space, the sea THE SEA!

Why should people look to commission work from artisans like yourself instead of the mass-market?

Calligraphy contains a level of intimacy that digital communications don’t, it engages the visual mind, leaving the receiver with a tangible item to treasure.

Emily Dickinson said "a letter always seemed to me like immortality"


Local Jeweller Mirri Damer creates ethical pieces which evoke perfect days spent on rugged beaches and her hand made ring and earrings finished our bridal look.
 

The Editorial

I chose to capture this story on one of the wildest and rugged beaches here in Cornwall. It’s power and majesty always provides me with renewed creative energy, and so I felt it was the right setting for me to showcase and capture these artisan’s work, harmonizing with the beautiful environment that inspires us all.
— Taylor & Porter
 
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Full Editorial Gallery

Full Story Credits: Styling, Planning and Photography by Taylor & Porter Film Development & Scanning by Richard Photo Lab Silks & Ribbons by Lancaster & Cornish Dress Designer, Claire Headdon Floral Design by The Garden Gate Flower Company Stationery by Myrtle & Co. Jewellery by Mirri Damer Model, Sarah Alexandra