Location: NO FIXED LOCATION, A TRAVELLING FAMILY
Mission: TO CREATE A BUSINESS THAT BENEFITS EVERYONE IT TOUCHES
In my first year of working at festivals I volunteered with People & Planet at the Green Man festival in 2008. I didn’t know anyone else there but on the first day met a friend of a friend who I had met briefly the weekend before. We hung out for a bit and she introduced me to some of her friends at one of the food traders. This was how I met Tina and Rich. Working the festival season I would bump into them nearly every weekend. To this day I have never met up with them anywhere other than a festival and it is usually only for a fleeting visit. However I feel very close to them both and have enjoyed watching them progress from fly pitching their stock at various festivals to now owning a flourishing business.
Tina was born in Saudi Arabia to a Finnish mother and an English father. She travelled a lot as a child but grew up in Norfolk. “By 18 I well and truly had the travelling bug, working as an English teacher to fund my travels. In my heart though, I am an artist, and was living in Leeds studying Art and Design when I met Rich.” Rich grew up in Dorset and was studying Environmental Science and Conservation in Horsfoth. He is also a musician, and met Tina through friends at music nights and jam sessions around Leeds.
In the years that followed they travelled together a lot, mainly in India, and it was through the mixture of interests in sustainability, travel and design that the concept of Forage! was conceived. They started making jewellery on their travels. “We learnt different techniques from the people we met all over the world. Such as macramé string work, leather work and wire work. We liked the idea that each piece we made had a story behind it so we would often use materials that we had found or foraged in some way, such as beads from wood and shells or leather from the Indian street cobblers.”
They started experimenting with designing jewellery and working on these designs with the local Indian artisans. Rich began studying silversmithing and now mainly works in silver. Tina spends a lot of time with local people and started a project teaching finger-knitting to unemployed women in the villages. “Finger-knitting is a technique of knots and loops, similar to crocheting, but using no needles or tools, and the beautiful hand spun wool we use is sourced from a small village shop in the Himalayas. This technique makes beautiful, loose weave clothing and hats. At the end of each session they get paid for each hat they have made. By working with people directly to make our hats, we can offer work to people who really need it. Whilst having fun and learning a new skill which they can use in the future, these women also have the chance to bring some much needed money in to the household.” Tina tries photograph each woman and asks them to label their hats. Forage! sell these hats in the UK with these details attached. “It is so nice to bridge the gap between two worlds. People often don’t think about where products they buy have come from. I wanted to make the production process transparent and make customers think about the journey the product has been on because really, it is quite amazing. When possible I would also take a photo of the buyer wearing their new purchase and take it back to India with me to give to the women.”
Business can be used for doing good and Forage! is living proof. “We think of Forage as its own living entity, through its continued success creates abundance for all involved with it. For our crew we provide a fun, satisfying, and open working environment; for our suppliers and manufacturers, ethical trade; to our customers, we can offer fantastic products; and us, by making our living in the most satisfying way, cultivating and developing our small company.” Their efforts were rewarded when they were presented the Ethical Trade Award at Glastonbury 2013 out of hundreds of traders.
Their reasons for starting the business 9 years ago are very different to why they do it now “Back then the primary reason was to travel, party, and not have to get jobs! But as our business has grown and established it’s become more than a full time job. We work extremely hard and never really seem to stop these days, but it is extremely satisfying to watch ‘our baby’ go from strength to strength.” Juggling their business partnership with their personal relationship means Tina and Rich sometimes find themselves “waking up in the middle of the night and talking about pitch fees, or scarf colours!” However “it always seems to work out, and we come through each year with our business and our relationship stronger.” They celebrated the birth of their daughter last year which has also added another beautiful busy element to their lives.
To show you how generous and wonderful Forage! is, they have created a very special discount code just for readers of The Sprialling. You can use it at the checkout on the Forage! website here and get 10% off!
The code is: thespiralling
Tina and Rich split their time between India and the UK and are always on the move. However they are moving to Bristol in the new year and hope to have a little shop somewhere. So keep your eyes peeled Bristolians for a Forage! near you soon.