To coincide with the launch of our new Stonewylde bags, I’d like to explain a bit about the story behind our Stonewylde merchandise. The very word ‘merchandise’ seems to run counter to all that Stonewylde stands for, and for those who’ve read the entire series, may be reminiscent of Harold’s dreaded quotas!
Very early on when the first three books were self-published and the Stonewylde forum thriving, many readers asked for a special Stonewylde T-shirt. It felt a bit weird, but we agreed and produced a Green Man shirt. The image was drawn by my middle son Olly, and some people still have these very distinctive green and white T-shirts.
We then designed a unique Stonewylde logo and registered it as a trademark, to prevent unscrupulous traders using it and exploiting people with shoddy goods. Several T-shirts, bags, pens, car stickers, badges, greetings cards and bookmarks on, we’re still producing limited edition merchandise, and will continue to do so if there is demand.
Our latest bag is called ‘Crow and Quill’, and is designed by a talented artist, Alice Martinez. She studied at Loughborough University and has an MA in Art and Design and a BA in Illustration. She’s in the process of reading the series, and I really hope she’ll design more for us in the future. There’s a new T-shirt in the pipeline also designed by Alice.
Trying to stay true to the Stonewylde ethos, we’ve sourced the bags as ethically as we can. We’ve bought the bags from a company called Continental Clothing, who have an excellent ethos. The brighter coloured ones are made by EarthPositive, from organic cotton. I used to imagine that organic cotton simply meant it would be better for my skin and the Earth. It wasn’t till watching a clip of workers, including children, picking cotton in a field and actually being sprayed with chemicals as they worked, that I realised the full implications of using pesticides and other chemicals in an industry where labour and life is cheap.
The bags with poppers are made by Salvage, from scraps of organic cotton reclaimed from the cutting floor of clothing companies (60%) and recycled plastic bottles (40%). So they’re entirely made from reclaimed/recycled materials, apart from the popper. Both EarthPositive and Salvage are members of Fair Wear, an organisation similar to Fair Trade. Fair Wear works against the unbelievably brutal exploitation of workers in the clothing industry and fights to establish safe and hygienic working conditions, fair hours and living wages.
The bags have been printed by a wonderful little screen-printing company in Somerset called I Dress Myself. The company was started in 2006 by wife and husband team Hannah and Pete, and now includes Isy and Nat as well. They have a forward-thinking company ethos: they each work a maximum of four days a week, have coffee and lunch together, share the jobs and roles, and discuss everything co-operatively.
I Dress Myself were the first screen printers in the UK to use 100% water-based textile inks, and now help other companies make the switch – thus avoiding the toxic chemicals often used in textile printing. They re-use and recycle as much as possible, and combine new technology with old fashioned elbow-grease. I’ve seen them in action and the process is refreshingly low-tech, with a lot of love and care put into the printing.
They work in a fabulous studio on the top floor of the old Engine House of an ancient Silk Mill. The mill was built in the late 1700s and is currently being restored for use by artists and creative industries – it’s an amazing building.
I hope you all like the new Stonewylde bags, and I’d welcome feedback please on both the design, and also the colours I’ve chosen for the bags. I wanted to try something a bit brighter this time with a wider choice, and I hope I’ve got it right!
Please visit the Stonewylde Store to order, and postage and packing for the UK is included in the price. I hope too that you enjoy your new bag knowing it’s ethically sourced and produced, and lovingly designed and printed. And nothing to do with Harold’s quotas whatsoever!
And here we have a selection of Stonewylde fans posing with their new Crow and Quill bags, taken off the Stonewylde Appreciation Society page on Facebook.