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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Seedy Sundays: Get ready to plant something new and exciting in your garden!

We talk to dedicated organiser Sara Cundy about the growing Seed Swap phenomenon, and why swapping seeds preserves biodiversity.

Written by Faye West


Rachel Freire S/S 2011, troche illustrated by Krister Selin

‘I’m terrible at interviews’ I announce shortly after arriving at Rachel Freire‘s East London studio. A bit of a melodramatic introduction, seek maybe; but as I now sit staring at my notes which resemble the scribbles of a toddler I now know why I said it.

My trouble is that I just like to listen to people. I get lost in conversation and forget to write anything down. I refuse to record interviews because I hate the sound of my own voice and I find it a bit of a distraction, sick so my erratic notes are all I have to record our meeting. Sometimes, if I meet up with somebody and they don’t say much, I can manage it; when I meet people like Rachel Freire – gorgeous, mesmerising, opinionated, articulate – I’m left with nothing.


Illustration by Abby Wright

Rachel is based at the Dace Road studios, home also to the likes of Christopher Raeburn (featured in ACOFI) and Rui Leonardes. Ex-tennants include Mark Fast and Mary Kantrantzou who’ve now moved to Shacklewell Studios, aka hipster central, but despite her successes, Rachel’s staying put. I meet her on a grey Saturday afternoon, she’s been up for most of the night, but you wouldn’t notice despite her protests.

”Whoever says January is a dead month is LYING!’ Rachel exclaims as she makes the tea. I do find that I get on better with people who drink lots of tea. I just don’t trust people who don’t like it. I know, as she gives them a stir, that we’re going to get along. We sit at a big oak desk in the centre of the studio, Rachel lights a cigarette and we begin our conversation. I ask Rachel how it’s going, and she seems pretty positive. She has an army of interns and creates ‘a sense of family’ in her studio, which is adorned with all sorts of interesting antiquities like skulls and baseball paraphernalia. A sign above the door, Rachel’s mantra, reads ‘IF IN DOUBT, SPRAYPAINT IT GOLD,’ a statement I wholeheartedly agree with.


S/S 2011, illustrated by Naomi Law

Rachel brands herself as a ‘costumier’ who happened to fall into fashion, which explains her unique and innovative approach to dressing. ‘I’ll never lose track of my costumier routes,’ she tells me, ‘I’m pretty anti-fashion. It dictates what we wear and how we feel, and I’ve never subscribed to that.’ Her models ‘need to have an arse’ and she’s conscious of the responsibility a fashion designer must adopt, whether that be ethical or environmental. ‘I am the cheapest person!’ Rachel admits, ‘but I will never shop in Primark. I look at the clothes and think ‘somebody suffered for this’. I want customers to hold things knowing somebody’s crafted it – that something is special.’


S/S 2011, illustrated by Gemma Milly

Rachel won’t compromise. She’s staying true to herself and won’t put her name on anything that she hasn’t rigourously vetted and knows exactly where everything has come from. Rachel is as much an ethical designer as any of the Estethica designers – if not more so. She values the work of other people and believes that you ‘have to be ethical in so many different ways’. How you treat your interns, where you source your fabrics, how you communicate with suppliers – all these things, Rachel believes, are necessary for good business, not just opting for ethical fabrics.

Rachel’s previous collections provide sculptural, architectural pieces with innovative techniques (read all about her glow-in-the-dark S/S 2011 collection here) and it seems A/W 2011 will be even more exciting. As we chat about the boy Rachel’s texting and get mixed up with whose tea is whose (easy mistake – Rachel’s recently got a new mug but the Queen of Fucking Everything option she’s given me still has sentimental value) we’re surrounded by leather nipples. REAL nipples.

Rachel and her team of merry men (and women) have been hard at work in the previous weeks to marry them together to make roses. They’re absolutely beautiful to touch and look at but there’s something rather unsettling about them. ‘That’s my aesthetic!’ Rachel declares.


S/S 2011, illustrated by Joana Faria

Rachel’s also working with Ecco, who are developing processes for leather manufacturing for couture houses. Rachel has devoted a lot of her time visiting the Netherlands tannery working alongside them in their quest to transform how we produce and approach leather goods. ‘I’m obsessed with materials!’ Rachel tells me. ‘It’s much nicer to make a jacket out of something that you’ve had an input in from the start.’ She shows me a new process she’s working on (damned if I can remember the name) which gives leather an ethereal ripple-like pattern that looks as if it’s been photoshopped. I’m speechless, and we both sit caressing it for a while until I can think of something to say.


S/S 2011, illustrated by Yelena Bryksenkova

So what’s up next for Rachel? Well, A/W 2011 looks set to be her bravest collection yet, and I had a sneak peek at some of the fabrics, textures, techniques and cuts she’s working on. On a grander scale, she ‘loves to teach’ and wants to establish a system where the efforts of designers to instil good practises and skills into their army of interns is recognised. She describes mainstay teaching as ‘box ticking’ and, as someone whose never done what she was told to do, feels there’s more to give in a studio-based environment than anything in the classroom. I hear ya, love.

Rachel’s excited about the future. She plans to dazzle once a year at the A/W 2011 shows while maintaining commissions with an ever-expanding roster of clients and other projects during the rest of the year. She also wants to live on a boat and explore costume design in cinema. She references Jean Paul Gaultier‘s work on flicks like The Fifth Element and is excited by the prospect of applying her unique aesthetic to film. It all comes down to financing. ‘Money dictates and creates a standard,’ Rachel tells me. ‘The system to support new designers is very small, but I won’t compromise my values. I’m here to stay.’

I should bloody hope so.

All photography by Matt Bramford

Rachel Freire S/S 2011, tadalafil illustrated by Krister Selin

‘I’m terrible at interviews’ I announce shortly after arriving at Rachel Freire‘s East London studio. A bit of a melodramatic introduction, page maybe; but as I now sit staring at my notes which resemble the scribbles of a toddler I now know why I said it.

My trouble is that I just like to listen to people. I get lost in conversation and forget to write anything down. I refuse to record interviews because I hate the sound of my own voice and I find it a bit of a distraction, so my erratic notes are all I have to record our meeting. Sometimes, if I meet up with somebody and they don’t say much, I can manage it; when I meet people like Rachel Freire – gorgeous, mesmerising, opinionated, articulate – I’m left with nothing.


Illustration by Abby Wright

Rachel is based at the Dace Road studios, home also to the likes of Christopher Raeburn (featured in ACOFI) and Rui Leonardes. Ex-tennants include Mark Fast and Mary Kantrantzou who’ve now moved to Shacklewell Studios, aka hipster central, but despite her successes, Rachel’s staying put. I meet her on a grey Saturday afternoon, she’s been up for most of the night, but you wouldn’t notice despite her protests.

”Whoever says January is a dead month is LYING!’ Rachel exclaims as she makes the tea. I do find that I get on better with people who drink lots of tea. I just don’t trust people who don’t like it. I know, as she gives them a stir, that we’re going to get along. We sit at a big oak desk in the centre of the studio, Rachel lights a cigarette and we begin our conversation. I ask Rachel how it’s going, and she seems pretty positive. She has an army of interns and creates ‘a sense of family’ in her studio, which is adorned with all sorts of interesting antiquities like skulls and baseball paraphernalia. A sign above the door, Rachel’s mantra, reads ‘IF IN DOUBT, SPRAYPAINT IT GOLD,’ a statement I wholeheartedly agree with.


S/S 2011, illustrated by Naomi Law

Rachel brands herself as a ‘costumier’ who happened to fall into fashion, which explains her unique and innovative approach to dressing. ‘I’ll never lose track of my costumier routes,’ she tells me, ‘I’m pretty anti-fashion. It dictates what we wear and how we feel, and I’ve never subscribed to that.’ Her models ‘need to have an arse’ and she’s conscious of the responsibility a fashion designer must adopt, whether that be ethical or environmental. ‘I am the cheapest person!’ Rachel admits, ‘but I will never shop in Primark. I look at the clothes and think ‘somebody suffered for this’. I want customers to hold things knowing somebody’s crafted it – that something is special.’


S/S 2011, illustrated by Gemma Milly

Rachel won’t compromise. She’s staying true to herself and won’t put her name on anything that she hasn’t rigourously vetted and knows exactly where everything has come from. Rachel is as much an ethical designer as any of the Estethica designers – if not more so. She values the work of other people and believes that you ‘have to be ethical in so many different ways’. How you treat your interns, where you source your fabrics, how you communicate with suppliers – all these things, Rachel believes, are necessary for good business, not just opting for ethical fabrics.

Rachel’s previous collections provide sculptural, architectural pieces with innovative techniques (read all about her glow-in-the-dark S/S 2011 collection here) and it seems A/W 2011 will be even more exciting. As we chat about the boy Rachel’s texting and get mixed up with whose tea is whose (easy mistake – Rachel’s recently got a new mug but the Queen of Fucking Everything option she’s given me still has sentimental value) we’re surrounded by leather nipples. REAL nipples.

Rachel and her team of merry men (and women) have been hard at work in the previous weeks to marry them together to make roses. They’re absolutely beautiful to touch and look at but there’s something rather unsettling about them. ‘That’s my aesthetic!’ Rachel declares.

A sneak peek at some of the fabrics, techniques and colours Rachel’s preparing to show this week:


S/S 2011, illustrated by Joana Faria

Rachel’s also working with Ecco, who are developing processes for leather manufacturing for couture houses. Rachel has devoted a lot of her time visiting the Netherlands tannery working alongside them in their quest to transform how we produce and approach leather goods. ‘I’m obsessed with materials!’ Rachel tells me. ‘It’s much nicer to make a jacket out of something that you’ve had an input in from the start.’ She shows me a new process she’s working on (damned if I can remember the name) which gives leather an ethereal ripple-like pattern that looks as if it’s been photoshopped. I’m speechless, and we both sit caressing it for a while until I can think of something to say.


S/S 2011, illustrated by Yelena Bryksenkova

So what’s up next for Rachel? Well, A/W 2011 looks set to be her bravest collection yet, and I had a sneak peek at some of the fabrics, textures, techniques and cuts she’s working on. On a grander scale, she ‘loves to teach’ and wants to establish a system where the efforts of designers to instil good practises and skills into their army of interns is recognised. She describes mainstay teaching as ‘box ticking’ and, as someone whose never done what she was told to do, feels there’s more to give in a studio-based environment than anything in the classroom. I hear ya, love.

Rachel’s excited about the future. She plans to dazzle once a year at the A/W 2011 shows while maintaining commissions with an ever-expanding roster of clients and other projects during the rest of the year. She also wants to live on a boat and explore costume design in cinema. She references Jean Paul Gaultier‘s work on flicks like The Fifth Element and is excited by the prospect of applying her unique aesthetic to film. It all comes down to financing. ‘Money dictates and creates a standard,’ Rachel tells me. ‘The system to support new designers is very small, but I won’t compromise my values. I’m here to stay.’

I should bloody hope so.

All photography by Matt Bramford

Rachel Freire S/S 2011, dosage illustrated by Krister Selin

‘I’m terrible at interviews’ I announce shortly after arriving at Rachel Freire‘s East London studio. A bit of a melodramatic introduction, approved maybe; but as I now sit staring at my notes which resemble the scribbles of a toddler I now know why I said it.

My trouble is that I just like to listen to people. I get lost in conversation and forget to write anything down. I refuse to record interviews because I hate the sound of my own voice and I find it a bit of a distraction, so my erratic notes are all I have to record our meeting. Sometimes, if I meet up with somebody and they don’t say much, I can manage it; when I meet people like Rachel Freire – gorgeous, mesmerising, opinionated, articulate – I’m left with nothing.


Illustration by Abby Wright

Rachel is based at the Dace Road studios, home also to the likes of Christopher Raeburn (featured in ACOFI) and Rui Leonardes. Ex-tennants include Mark Fast and Mary Kantrantzou who’ve now moved to Shacklewell Studios, aka hipster central, but despite her successes, Rachel’s staying put. I meet her on a grey Saturday afternoon, she’s been up for most of the night, but you wouldn’t notice despite her protests.

”Whoever says January is a dead month is LYING!’ Rachel exclaims as she makes the tea. I do find that I get on better with people who drink lots of tea. I just don’t trust people who don’t like it. I know, as she gives them a stir, that we’re going to get along. We sit at a big oak desk in the centre of the studio, Rachel lights a cigarette and we begin our conversation. I ask Rachel how it’s going, and she seems pretty positive. She has an army of interns and creates ‘a sense of family’ in her studio, which is adorned with all sorts of interesting antiquities like skulls and baseball paraphernalia. A sign above the door, Rachel’s mantra, reads ‘IF IN DOUBT, SPRAYPAINT IT GOLD,’ a statement I wholeheartedly agree with.


S/S 2011, illustrated by Naomi Law

Rachel brands herself as a ‘costumier’ who happened to fall into fashion, which explains her unique and innovative approach to dressing. ‘I’ll never lose track of my costumier routes,’ she tells me, ‘I’m pretty anti-fashion. It dictates what we wear and how we feel, and I’ve never subscribed to that.’ Her models ‘need to have an arse’ and she’s conscious of the responsibility a fashion designer must adopt, whether that be ethical or environmental. ‘I am the cheapest person!’ Rachel admits, ‘but I will never shop in Primark. I look at the clothes and think ‘somebody suffered for this’. I want customers to hold things knowing somebody’s crafted it – that something is special.’


S/S 2011, illustrated by Gemma Milly

Rachel won’t compromise. She’s staying true to herself and won’t put her name on anything that she hasn’t rigourously vetted and knows exactly where everything has come from. Rachel is as much an ethical designer as any of the Estethica designers – if not more so. She values the work of other people and believes that you ‘have to be ethical in so many different ways’. How you treat your interns, where you source your fabrics, how you communicate with suppliers – all these things, Rachel believes, are necessary for good business, not just opting for ethical fabrics.

Rachel’s previous collections provide sculptural, architectural pieces with innovative techniques (read all about her glow-in-the-dark S/S 2011 collection here) and it seems A/W 2011 will be even more exciting. As we chat about the boy Rachel’s texting and get mixed up with whose tea is whose (easy mistake – Rachel’s recently got a new mug but the Queen of Fucking Everything option she’s given me still has sentimental value) we’re surrounded by leather nipples. REAL nipples.

Rachel and her team of merry men (and women) have been hard at work in the previous weeks to marry them together to make roses. They’re absolutely beautiful to touch and look at but there’s something rather unsettling about them. ‘That’s my aesthetic!’ Rachel declares.

A sneak peek at some of the fabrics, techniques and colours Rachel’s preparing to show this week:


S/S 2011, illustrated by Joana Faria

Rachel’s also working with Ecco, who are developing processes for leather manufacturing for couture houses. Rachel has devoted a lot of her time visiting the Netherlands tannery working alongside them in their quest to transform how we produce and approach leather goods. ‘I’m obsessed with materials!’ Rachel tells me. ‘It’s much nicer to make a jacket out of something that you’ve had an input in from the start.’ She shows me a new process she’s working on (damned if I can remember the name) which gives leather an ethereal ripple-like pattern that looks as if it’s been photoshopped. I’m speechless, and we both sit caressing it for a while until I can think of something to say.


S/S 2011, illustrated by Yelena Bryksenkova

So what’s up next for Rachel? Well, A/W 2011 looks set to be her bravest collection yet, and I had a sneak peek at some of the fabrics, textures, techniques and cuts she’s working on. On a grander scale, she ‘loves to teach’ and wants to establish a system where the efforts of designers to instil good practises and skills into their army of interns is recognised. She describes mainstay teaching as ‘box ticking’ and, as someone whose never done what she was told to do, feels there’s more to give in a studio-based environment than anything in the classroom. I hear ya, love.

Rachel’s excited about the future. She plans to dazzle once a year at the A/W 2011 shows while maintaining commissions with an ever-expanding roster of clients and other projects during the rest of the year. She also wants to live on a boat and explore costume design in cinema. She references Jean Paul Gaultier‘s work on flicks like The Fifth Element and is excited by the prospect of applying her unique aesthetic to film. It all comes down to financing. ‘Money dictates and creates a standard,’ Rachel tells me. ‘The system to support new designers is very small, but I won’t compromise my values. I’m here to stay.’

I should bloody hope so.

All photography by Matt Bramford
Seed Swap by Gilly Rochester
Seed Swap by Gilly Rochester.

I knew you could get yellow tomatoes, seek but apparently there are purple and yellow carrots too. Agricultural regulations have increasingly stifled the basic trading of seeds that was standard practice in an age gone by, order and there is a wide variety of fruit and vegetables available out there that you cannot even buy at your local greengrocers let alone at the big supermarkets. To counteract this local gardeners and enthusiasts have been clubbing together for Seed Swaps over the past decade. These are great places to swap your own seeds and discover little known but fabulously named plants and vegetables.

To find out why this practice is becoming vitally important to the environment I spoke to Sara Cundy, who became fascinated by the interaction between people and the natural environment during her degree in Geography. She has carried out research into consumers’ understanding of Fairtrade, and is currently Waste Minimisation Officer at the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust where she works with communities to help reduce the amount of waste generated and sent to landfill. Trained as a Compost Ambassador, she also volunteers as co-ordinator for the Wiltshire Fairtrade Coalition; who are in the process of organising events during the upcoming Fairtrade Fortnight 2011. Phew! I have no idea how she also found the time to organise a successful Seed Swap!
 
Seed Swap Gent by Velimir Ilic
Green Fingered Gent by Velimir Illic
 
You organised Bradford-on-Avon’s first seed swapping event, did you go to many before you decided to run one yourself? Do you know how these swaps started?
??I went to some of the very early seed swaps in Brighton (well Hove actually) and it was about the same time that I got an allotment with friends. ?? 

I hope it was successful! Do these events educate people or are gardeners already quite clued up on this practice???
The event on Sunday was fantastic! We had over 300 people attend, and around 40 volunteers either helping on the seed swap stall, making refreshment and running the other 20 or so stands that where at the event. There was an amazing buzz for a really concentrated 2 hour slot. The stalls that we invited to the event had a connection with growing your own and gardening and where from the local area. We also had stands on Composting, food waste, Wiltshire Wood Recycling (who are part of a national network of wood re-use organisations), Beekeepers, Hen Keepers and Tools for Self Reliance, who send tools for use in Africa, but also gave advice on the day on how to maintain your own gardening tools. Freecycle, which is very active in our local area, ran a garden book swap, and promoted the fact that you can advertise through them if you have unwanted gardening equipment or are looking for someone, such as a chap wanting to try out Wormeries. We had three different children’s activities also; Growing Micro-Greens, Fitzmaurice Primary School Gardening Club; making bug houses, The Mead School Wingfield Gardening Club; and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, making your own willow woven hanging flowerpot holder.  Friends of Fitzmaurice Schools Gardening Club also made the fantastic cakes (cake is always a winner!) to raise funds for infrastructure such as raised beds at the school. ??We had a number of volunteers who were able to give advice such as the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust Compost Ambassadors. One of the compost ambassadors is also a ‘seed guardian’ for the Heritage Seed Library and she was able to give advice on the some of the seeds that where available at the swap that had been kindly donated by the Heritage Seed Library, but also how to go about saving your seeds.
 
Sounds like a fun and interesting afternoon well spent. I read on the Seedy Sunday webpage that this event “…shows up the idiocy of draconian seed laws and the Gene Giants’ restrictive practices: in this warming world we need to exchange more diversity of uncontaminated plants to secure future food.” Can you explain to us what these laws and practices are?
??Yes – Seedy Sunday started in Brighton & Hove 10 years ago back in 2001.  Over the last decade the idea has caught on around the country and so from the original there are now numerous seed swaps around the country (which some combine with potato days – the selling of seed potatoes), the founders I think stumbled across the idea of seed swaps in America.  There are EU and national laws regarding the selling of seeds – requiring them to be registered on a national list. This was brought in to maintain quality, but has had the knock on effect of being illegal to sell seeds that aren’t listed. As it costs money and a considerable amount of paper work to list seeds it’s really only the commercially viable seeds that are on these lists.  Some of these heritage seeds produce fantastic tasting crops, but aren’t commercially worth growing.
 
 seedswap by cat palairet
Seed Swap by Cat Palairet.

??I’ve been a member of the Heritage Seed Library which is hosted by Garden Organic in Warwickshire for just over a year (but been aware for much longer) last year we had some Bronze Arrow Lettuce – this year I’ve got Cherokee Trail of Tears which was traditionally grown with other crops such as squash and maize which constituted the Three Sisters that provided the foundation of Native American agriculture. The connection to the growers and the history behind the various seed is fascinating – and you feel like you are playing a part in our agricultural history – food is fundamental to our life. It also helps to maintain our agrobiodiversity.?

How does swapping seeds benefit the environment?
??It helps to maintain our agrobiodiversity to support the future of agriculture and food security particularly in a time of changing climate. I also think that it re-connects us to the land and the importance of working in harmony with nature, the fragility and frustrations of growing your own can hopefully I think help us appreciate and value our food more. With the resurgence of growing your own, thrift, making and mending etc – I think that seed saving is an important skill that many of us could learn. The seed swap also feeds into tackling waste higher up the chain, by growing your own you can cut down on the amount of packaging that you consume (even if it’s just herbs in your window box), you tend to value food more so less likely to throw it away (hopefully!). Many people also get into composting which is part of the natural cycle of returning nutrients to the soil. Many people don’t realise that disposing of biodegradable waste in landfill, which is buried and then decomposes anaerobically, you produce methane, a greenhouse gas more than 20 times more damaging than C02 – which you avoid with home composting.

Colourful Swappers by Velimir Ilic
Colourful Swappers by Velimir Illic ???

These events also appear to create a brilliant excuse for communities to come together, will you organise anymore Seed Swaps?
I organised the event this year on behalf of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, working in conjunction with Climate Friendly Bradford-on-Avon and hopefully we will be able to run similar events in future years. We very generously got funding from the co-operative membership which helped with a lot of the costs, such as hall hire, advertising, producing banners/flyers/posters and distributing seed envelopes – which meant that this year we did not have to charge any stall holders (who were principally other charity groups) or entrance fee.

Find out where the next Seedy Sunday is taking place in your area by visiting their website.

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