Justin and Hannah Floyd are the co-founders of Solidwool, a company producing hand crafted furniture made from a bio-composite material using wool as the reinforcing ingredient in a bio-based resin.
Their business is based in Buckfastleigh, Devon, which was at one time the epicentre of the woollen industry in the UK. Conscious that sheep farmers were struggling with a diminishing market for the coarse fleeces of moorland and hill sheep, the couple looked for ways to bring industry back to the area whilst creating value for the unwanted fleeces. Two years of research and innovation, combined with skills previously gained whilst Justin was a product designer, resulted in a material which had strength and flex, is visually appealing and has its roots in ethical collaboration with farmers.
The couple found that the fleece of Herdwick sheep costs more to produce than farmers were getting for them, selling for only 40p per kilo. Working directly with farmers, to cut out the wool merchants, enabled the true value of the product to be realised. The dark, slate grey colour and the very coarse nature of the fibres making it unsuitable for garment manufacture are properties that are celebrated in the production of the Hembury chair (1), the design of which is inspired by the iconic 1950s Eames Plastic Side Chair. This chair is made using Herdwick fleece set in a bio-resin with a renewable source from the waste streams of industries such as wood pulp and bio fuel production. The legs are made in Somerset from UK sourced ash and the frame is constructed from black powder coated steel in Plymouth.
The distinctive colour of wool from the Herdwick sheep defines the appearance of the end product. Using white wool from other breeds of sheep enables dye to be added to the resin to produce alternative coloured materials. Using fleeces with differing characteristics also offers the potential to produce materials with a range of properties such as a greater or lesser degree of flex. Solidwool produce both moulded products and flat sheet material which is also used in a range of collaborative projects.