The James Grove Heritage Centre – Part 2
Following the installation of some cabinets and work-top earlier this week, the new heritage centre is now visibly taking shape. Still a little way to go before the opening, but visitors to our offices are already in for a treat, we think. For the centre comprises various interpretation boards, videos, photos, sample books, historical records, historic dies, books, old marketing material and memorabilia, not to mention a section showing the materials used in button-making, and how buttons are made.
And for those who have some information or artefacts that they think would complement the collection so far do get in touch. Whether you would like to donate, lend or sell what you have we’d be keen to take a look.
We first learned about Solidwool (www.solidwool.com) toward the end of last year and were fascinated by both the material and story. We immediately wondered whether it would be possible to make buttons from it and so contacted Hannah and Justin Floyd at Solidwool to find out more.
In fact, the organic element is wool taken from upland, hill-farmed, Herdwick sheep. It is estimated that 99% of all Herdwick sheep are bred and kept within a 14 mile radius of Coniston in the Lake District. But following the decline of the British carpet-making industry for which this robust wool was intended, the price of a fleece fell to just 40p. For small, subsistence, upland farmers this was existential and called into question not only their livelihoods but the sustainability of the entire breed. It was this that first attracted Justin and Hannah to the idea of using the wool for other purposes and the idea of Solidwool was born.
It took a few years for the manufacturing process to be developed and perfected, particularly as strong eco-credentials were as important as the use of wool. Indeed, up to 30% of the resin used is bio-based and renewable, being a bi-product of the wood pulp and bio-fuels industries. This results in a 1/3 reduction in carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions compared with the production of conventional petrochemical resins. And it is hoped that this will improve further as more R&D is conducted.
For now, we’ve made the first few buttons ever using Solidwool and the results are really pleasing. We’re taking them through some washing tests to see how they fare, but we are hopeful they will prove durable and attractive in equal measure. If all goes according to plan, we hope to start small scale production in late Spring!
Given that the story revolves around sustainability, provenance, eco-friendliness, heritage and good old British innovation, we are very excited about this new material and really hope it all goes well.
In these days when plastics and their impact on the environment are so much in the press, it is re-assuring to know that there is an alternative. We introduced Codelite® buttons to our range about a year ago – made from 96% milk casein they are very ecological. But we have just received word back that they have passed the EU’s stringent biodegradability test!
This is conducted in conditions which seeks to emulate the composition of an ‘average’ landfill site. The material under test is then simply embedded within it and left for a while – 6 months, in fact. To pass the test, at least 60% of the mass has to have decomposed and Codelite® passed! Of course, it is not only a matter of decomposition which is key, the question is what is actually decomposed. Being a milk by-product, Codelite® breaks down into the same innocuous proteins and fats that it was comprised of.
We are really pleased with the results, but don’t worry, Codelite® buttons will last for years in non-test conditions!