The couple using foraged materials to make pieces imbued with artistry

combining foraged materials with traditional techniques, the
duo behind home accessories company forest-and-found create
beautiful and useful pieces imbued with artistry.

 


walk through
the woods with max bainbridge and abigail booth – the pair behind
forest-and-found – and you will learn that you are never far from
something useful. where others see weeds, they spy vital materials.
a fallen birch branch can be whittled into a spoon, jolly yellow
gorse flowers make an excellent natural dye, and a gnarled oak gall
the size of a marble is so packed with tannin it produces a rare
black ink.

foraging is often presumed to be a rural pursuit, but
max and abigail find ample supplies not far from their north london
doorstep. much of the wood used for max’s turned bowls and carved
spoons began life in epping forest, while abigail’s graphic quilts
and cushions are dyed using bark, flowers and plants gathered
locally.

the couple met at chelsea college of arts, where they
both studied fine art: max made large wooden sculptures and abigail
created installations using found objects. they graduated in 2013
into an art world that was still suffering the effects of the
recession. ‘it was a difficult time for young artists,’ says max.
‘we didn’t want to abandon everything we’d learnt, but also needed
to earn a living. it seemed impossible.’

that was until the pair spent a rainy august holed up
at max’s family’s house in france. max honed
his woodworking skills, while abigail taught herself patchwork and
quilting using a book, an old singer sewing machine and a stash
of
french linen. the pieces they made became
the foundations of 
forest-and-found:
chopping boards, spoons, bowls, cushions and quilts with a
decidedly quakerish look. in order to fund the business, they did
the odd bit of furniture restoration. ‘we’d buy something, do it up
and sell it on ebay,’ 
explains abigail. ‘with that
extra £500, we could buy a car-boot load of wood, a lathe or a
sewing machine.’


they now work with the forestry
commission to source sweet chestnut, oak, birch and holly from
epping 
forest; any walnut comes from a local furniture
designer’s offcuts. ‘we spotted him burning heaps of the stuff at a barbecue,’ says max. ‘now he hands over
any
thing he can’t use and we get the most fantastic pieces
in unusual shapes, which can determine the
design.’ but the wood only does so much of the work. ‘it’s also
about decision making and knowing when to stop,’
explains 
max. ‘if a beautiful whorl appears on the end
of a spoon, do you keep carving to get a good
shape, or do you stop so that lovely detail doesn’t disappear?’ max
works 
slowly to transform an oblong length of wood
into something fine and functional. he uses knives
and chisels to carve deceptively simple forms, chipping away to
make the fragile transition between the handle and the
bowl. 

in a pleasingly cyclical process,
abigail uses max’s
wood shavings to dye her fabrics. certain
woods contain a lot of tannin, which acts as a
natural mordant; the
heartwoods of different trees create
different colours when soaked in water and left to ferment –
brazilwood produces a deep magenta, plum wood makes pink and walnut
creates yellow. if a metallic salt is added to the dye bath, the
colour will swing from grey to green.

abigail sources her unbleached
calico from a mill in leeds. she submerges lengths of the fabric
into her dye vats and, with each dip, the colour intensifies. she
uses a quilting
ruler and a rotary cutter to form her bold
geometric shapes, which are inspired by english heraldry. yarn tends to stay undyed and each white
stitch against the coloured fabric has a graphic effect. ‘i use
colour sparingly,’ she says. ‘when a piece of
fabric comes out of the bath, it might look horrible,
but it’s all about perception. put that scrap next to another
colour and it might change into something amazing.’ nothing goes to
waste. 


with a characteristically gung-ho
spirit, max and abigail battled the elements to build their
workshop during some of
last winter’s
fiercest winds. thankfully, it remains in one piece, standing at
the back of their walthamstow garden, where there is a
constant hum of activity. strings of calico hang up to dry,
coloured by plume poppies, onion skins, tea and indigo. vats of dye
brew, the lathe thrums and, slowly but surely, max and abigail
achieve their goal of creating objects for an eager
audience.

forest-and-found supplies a few
select retailers across the uk, including botany in east london
and
the future kept in sussex. ‘when we were at art school, we wanted to make
things that would have some interaction with people, but rarely saw
that impact,’ says max. ‘now we’re making pieces that might be as
rudimentary as a bowl or a blanket, but that
people will use everyday. that’s what we love most about being
craftspeople.’
  

 forest-and-found.com

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