For most people, “working with wool” implies a pair of knitting needles and some yarn. In the case of Justin and Hannah Floyd, it meant combining locally sourced wool with bioresin to create a gorgeous, durable, and eco-friendly composite material.
The pair came up with the idea for Solidwool after moving to Buckfastleigh, a small market town in Southwest England that was once a major center of wool manufacturing for the UK carpet industry. But demand for Herdwick wool native to the area has declined in recent years, and the local economy has suffered. With no industry to make use of it, the coarse, charcoal-gray wool has become a worthless byproduct of sheep farming.
“We started thinking about how design can be used for good,” says Justin Floyd, who worked as a product designer before opting to run Solidwool full-time. “One way is to put people to work, and I’ve always been interested in manufacturing in factories. We started thinking about how to bring manufacturing back to the town we live in. We live in a woolen town–so how can we find a new way to use wool?”
Two years later, the Floyds have perfected the production process for creating the material, which they liken to fiberglass, “but with wool as the reinforcement instead of glass.” In February, they launched the Hembury Chair ($450) and the Hembury Side Table ($272), and they’ve already collaborated with other companies to create knife handles, calendars, and sunglasses. The goal, says Floyd, is to keep collaborating with different manufacturers and eventually expand into a factory with a small team of people.
If interest from potential collaborators is any indication, the studio will be expanding soon–Floyd says they’ve already been approached by people about developing kitchenware, consumer goods, and car panels. “The material’s real appeal is in large structural parts,” he says, referring to his ambition for Solidwool to stand in as a replacement for current reinforced plastics, like those used for hard hats and temporary shelters.