Loop Loop was born out of a very particular feeling about the way things should be made. While creativity is part of being human, Sophie Bresnahan was sure that we could make stuff in a way that doesn't deplete the Earth's resources, but rather makes use of materials we already have. That's how Loop Loop recycled wildflower cards came about, the first of Sophie's projects, made from her home in Brighton.
Here Sophie tells me more about her journey to starting Loop Loop and shares her thoughts on completing the loop - the real possibility of using materials in a cyclical way:
Tell me about Loop Loop.
Loop Loop was an idea I had early last year. I wanted to start something which had no bad feeling towards it. I love creating and making, but if I felt I was using some of the Earth's finite resources, I'd have a slight aversion to it. I've made clothes and bits and bobs using new fabric before, and people have asked me to make stuff in the past. At the time I said no. I felt I wanted to work in a particular way.
The cards came about when a friend who works in a flower shop said she wanted to stock some cards I had made for my brother. I found plantable wildflower paper, which was made from recycled materials and could then be planted once it has been enjoyed. It represented in my mind this idea of a circular loop, where at the end of its life the paper could be planted. I made my own vegetable paints out of sauerkraut and other concoctions.
I couldn’t scale the idea whilst hand painting each card individually. The whole point of Loop Loop was to be creative but I also wanted to help the environment as well and didn’t want to cut corners but usually industrial printers which would be chemical based inks. So I just thought I would keep it small and paint them for friends and family.
I ended up having a random conversation with a woman in a former event I was working on – organising an organic festival. She used edible inks in her office because they don't leach chemicals like normal inks do. It was an - oh my God - moment. I bought a printer and from then on I could make the cards on a larger scale.
What's the philosophy behind the name Loop Loop?
Loop Loop embodies the ethos of of using recycled and salvaged things, giving life to them again or reinventing them into something else. I want to create gifts and things that have a good feeling towards them – I call it guilt-free gifting.
All the cards are made from recycled paper and embedded with 12 types of perennial wildflower seeds. It’s important I use recycled materials as so much stuff is wasted in the world. The nice thing about the cards is that the end goal is to grow wildflowers, which are all pollinators and can give our bees some pesticide-free nectar to drink. It’s a greetings card, which is a secret protest and a small act of helping to save the bees and create more biodiversity, which we have sadly lost so much of!
As human beings, we love to create stuff. As a society we look at profit as the marker of success. There's just one lens. I did research into some ethical companies when I was starting out. I was going to do a podcast where I'd interview them. I asked them about what works. One business model that came out these conversations, which is called ‘B Corporation’. It looks at purpose as well as profit, so I think of the business in terms of people, profit and planet. We need to broaden our lens instead of thinking success is simply linked to profits. If one venture is very profitable, then what is losing out along the way? Sometimes a smaller profit can make sense if we’re mindful of other areas. It’s a holistic way of approaching business.
Running my business now, I can see why it's often really hard to work in this way when other's aren't doing it. Take the fashion industry, which is seemingly such a sexy industry. It has huge impact on the fossil fuels, usage of land and water, as well as pollution into fresh water and large output of carbon emissions. We need to look with a broader lens.
What's it like running Loop Loop?
I’ve just started Loop Loop in September and still work 4 days a week for an organic food fair in Sweden – The Nordic Organic Food Fair. I love my normal job and the balance I have, it’s perfect. It’s feeds in really nicely to what I am creating with Loop Loop.
The last couple of months running my business have been crazy. I ended up painting a cover for Natural Products News. We ran an open house in Brighton and turned our house into a gallery. I could sit in a room and hear people looking at my cards hanging on my door. It was great! Then I was at the Zero Waste Christmas Market in Hoxton. The cards are stocked in 15 different shops and online market places in just 3 months, it’s amazing! I’m so pleased how it’s going.
Next year I'm going to focus on different cards. The cards are already stocked in some zero waste stores but I want to grow this number, I’ve only just scratched the surface. I don't know how that will look. I love working with fabric - I have some old fabric from a seamstress in Brighton and I have some ideas. That's the whole thing with Loop Loop. I'll start one thing and want to do something else. The overarching ethos of the company is flexible. I can do one thing and then another.
What's the process for designing and making a card?
I don't know a specific example of where the ideas come from. They can come from anywhere. Take the genie lamp - that idea came from watching Aladdin. It's very random. I can't explain! They appear as little ideas as the day goes by, and later in the evening I can do something with them.
When it comes to the process, I use watercolour paints with refillable water paintbrushes. You can use them anywhere. I'll paint on the train. People complain about waiting - for me there is no waiting. I'm always painting. I use paint brushes and refill pens. I'll scan the image and put it into Photoshop to have a play around with it. I can design, scan, change the design and then print. It’s all in my control and I really like that.
What's your favourite design?
I'm just going to my door now where they're all hanging up. It might be 'You're a real gem'. That was one of my original ones. It's simple but, for the right person, it's always welcome.
The theme this month is Morning Routine. Would you tell me a bit about yours?
It's always very varied and hectic to be honest. I have no routine! I get up. I buy my soap from a zero waste store around the corner. I use a Bio Brush Berlin. People will see them and say - they're made of plastic! But they aren't. These toothbrushes are made from compressed old wood. They just look like plastic.
I cycle to work each morning along the sea front. Sometimes I'll swim in the sea in the summer months. The beach is just a 5-minute run away.
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