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Sourcing Natural Materials

Sourcing natural materials from nature and the woods

It’s cold and cloudy, and the damp floor is already starting to invade my waterproof trousers as I lie on the woodland floor armed with a pair of scissors and a Tupperware lunchbox. I’ve been here an hour already, yet the container is only a third full of what look like miniature Christmas trees. But I know that once dried and set in crystal-clear resin, the beauty of these fragments of deep green moss will bring a smile to my face and hopefully joy to their new owner.  I typically collect the moss in autumn and winter when it still looks fresh but is not actively reproducing. It has the longest harvesting season of all the natural materials we use in our pendants.

Lichen has the next longest season since we can only collect it after heavy winds have blown it down from its home, clung to the twigs of old oak trees, high up in the canopy. When dead wood falls or storm damage hits the forest floor, it brings with it the delicate pale sage fronds of Usnea. A staghorn lichen which again when dried and preserved in resin looks stunning. To me, it resembles a tiny underwater garden of sea kelp.  Lichen is actually a symbiotic partnership of two separate organisms, a fungus and an alga, working together in harmony to produce an incredibly useful plant. Growing mainly in clean air, the plant contains anti-bacterial and other medicinal compounds which might explain why so many creatures are known to nibble on it throughout tougher times of the year.

The trickiest materials to collect are the tiny spring leaves from Birch and Hawthorn. Chosen for their recognizable shape and symbolism, the leaves are harvested in early spring, when they are a verdant bright green, slightly translucent and yet untouched by the insects and critters that feed on them.

The leaves must be a particular size to fit inside the tiny acorn molds that we use and so there is a very small window during which I can go out with my flower press to harvest what I need. Often this window is only 2-3 days long depending on the weather. A sudden burst of sunshine after rain and I find the leaves have grown too big already. Head out too early and they are too small or too delicate and the simple act of laying them flat in my press with a pair of tweezers will bruise them.  

At the request of my customers, I had a go at Oak leaves this spring, but sadly they were just too delicate to avoid such bruising. However, whilst out walking again in early summer I noticed second shoots appearing on a hedgerow oak that had previously been munched by deer and these were not only fresh and vivid in colour, but also seemed to be thicker and much stronger than before. Bingo! I took a few leaves to make a trial batch at home and cannot wait to show you the results next summer when I plan to launch them as a new addition to our collection.

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