Second Chance Dreams with Sea Drift DesignsKate Stuart
Michael Limon and Sylvia Soulsby dreamed up Sea Drift Designs in 2014, after a pair of second hand pure wool tweed trousers were gifted to them by a Ghillie in Scotland. When they discovered that they didn’t fit, the couple offered them to friends and family, but to no avail, and knowing they wouldn’t use them in their current form, tried to decide what to do with them. Pairing them up with an old Harris Tweed jacket that was covered in paint splashes after (horror!) being used to paint scenery, Michael and Sylvia decided to make a duffle bag. With some old leather from a sofa, they were off, and the bag became the inspiration for their new business, giving second chances to jackets, blankets and other woven, woollen garments that were no longer being used.
With a background in art, design and education, Michael spend 10 years in working in The Netherlands before returning to the UK. Sylvia was a science technician before she retired, but has always loved knitting and sewing, so their skills are perfectly matched, and their thriving business evidence that life after retirement is good. Living beside the sea at beautiful Whitley Bay on the Northumberland coast, and both avid beachcombers, they have managed to perfectly weave the gifts of the sea into their creations, with bag handles made from drift wood and brooches and hair slides made from shells. The choice to use natural materials complements the pure wool they use in the construct of their bags.
I was so happy to meet them recently at a local Ethical Living Fair held in North Tyneside, and I asked them about their designs and how they source their materials. “Everything we make,” they told me, “is designed and made by ourselves and we pride ourselves on our craftsmanship, individuality and the uniqueness of our designs. Most of the fabrics we use are pre-used, but we are sometimes given remnants of new fabrics, and we buy new waterproof fabric to line the bags with to ensure durability. We use genuine leather that we source as off-cuts from a bespoke furniture manufacturer, and we embellish the bags with shells and drift wood we collect ourselves from local beaches.”
Both keen recyclers, and with an allotment where they grow fruit and vegetables for themselves, friends and family, they are successfully living as self-sustainably as they can, with a business that sits well with their environmental beliefs. Beliefs that are really evident in the passion they have for upcycling and keeping in circulation cloth which otherwise might end up in landfill.
Duffle bags may have been the beginning of their journey in recycling old tweed and tartan cloth, but their range has grown in the years since they started and now they create unique briefcases, satchels, holsters, weekend bags and rucksacks. Offering a bespoke service, they also take commissions from bereaved families who have lost a loved one and want to turn precious clothing items into usable items, helping them carry the memory of their loved one with them.
Bag making is a slow craft, and the use of natural, re-purposed and often vintage materials in bags from Sea Drift Designs sets them apart from the mass produced, often 100% plastic-based bags that fill the market. Choosing a unique bag from them that will last is surely a good decision. I already have one on my Christmas list!
Chat with them in person at Tynemouth Station market every Sunday from 10am – 4pm
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