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Tula and the Whale eco-friendly jewellery Totnes Devon

Tula and the Whale – sassy, stylish and sustainable statement jewellery

by Camilla

Meet the Maker interview – Tula and the Whale

Kat from Tula and the Whale creates colourful statement jewellery, handmade in Devon using leather offcuts from the fashion industry and vegan cork. Kat talks to fellow Folksy maker Clare Gets Crafty about the importance of being ecologically conscious in both home life and in business, and how being forced to share a blue bedroom as a teenager honed her eye for colour…

To celebrate being our featured maker, Kat is offering a 15% off until 27 September 2020. Just add discount code ‘feature15’ when you check out –https://folksy.com/shops/tulaandthewhale

Tula and the Whale eco-friendly jewellery Totnes Devon

Being as ecologically sound as possible is very important to me, so the ethos behind Tula and the Whale is to repurpose unwanted materials and give them a new life as bold, vibrant jewellery.

Kat, Tula and the Whale

Hi Kat. Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you do?
Hello everyone! I’m Kat, a wildlife-loving, colour-obsessed craft hoarder. I’m very lucky to live in South Devon near the busy little town of Totnes, next to the magical river Dart. I’m a mum to two hilarious children and three crazy pets.

I love creating bold, vibrant jewellery and accessories from leather offcuts and cork leather. Being as ecologically sound as possible is very important to me, so the ethos behind Tula and the Whale is to repurpose unwanted materials and give them a new life. I aim to skim off waste from the fashion industry and keep it from landfill, transforming it into something that people want to wear with confidence. My ideas keep on evolving and, in the future, I’d like to repurpose other materials into jewellery, such as tin and fabric.

Tula and the Whale eco-friendly jewellery Totnes Devon

How did Tula and the Whale come to be?
As a child I was very crafty and wanted to make things all of the time – something I’ve passed on to my daughter! When I was a young adult I had a great job working in a haberdashery in Bristol, which was opposite a cobblers. I was given leather scraps from the cobblers, bought a leather needle and started sewing purses for my friends. This evolved into making jewellery, mainly for myself to begin with, but as my skills improved, the requests got more frequent. 

I now realise how important working from home and having flexible hours is. This enables me to keep on top of the chaos that is family life and work around the school timetable.

Tula and the Whale eco-friendly jewellery Totnes Devon

I aim to skim off waste from the fashion industry and keep it from landfill, transforming it into something that people want to wear.

Kat, Tula and the Whale

What’s behind the name Tula and the Whale?
Tula is the name of my daughter and whale is my husband’s nickname (his favourite animal is a humpback whale). I tried to come up with lots of different business names, but somehow that one stuck! Although I may have to change it at a later date, because I have a distinct feeling that Tula does not like me using her name! Oops, I should have thought of that when she was a baby.

Tula and the Whale eco-friendly jewellery Totnes Devon

I think if any of my surroundings influence my work, it’s the natural world. I spend a lot of time near or in the River Dart. Trying to stay quiet enough to spot kingfishers is the game I play with the mini ones – it sometimes works.

Kat, Tula and the Whale

You live near Totnes, which has a reputation as a really creative, interesting and ethical town. What’s it like to live there and does it influence what you make and do? 
I am a West Country girl but have only lived in South Devon for a year. But even though I’m relatively new to South Devon, my husband grew up here, so it has always felt like home. It is a very vibrant, creative and easy going place to live, and I know that we will be settled here for a long time.

I think if any of my surroundings influence my work, it’s the natural world. I’m addicted to the river Dart and I spend a lot of time near or in the river. Trying to stay quiet enough to spot kingfishers is the game I play with the mini ones – it sometimes works.

A lot of my creative work is also influenced by my years living in Bristol. I spent most of my adult life there, which has definitely shaped my style. It’s a city that I still love and miss, and visit as much as I can.

Tula and the Whale eco-friendly jewellery Totnes Devon

I believe that it’s essential that now, in an age when the facts are right in front of us, that we all make our best effort to be as ecologically conscious as possible – in home life and in business. 

Kat, Tula and the Whale

You talked about ecological concerns being a driving force behind your creative business. Can you tell us more about that?
I believe that it’s essential that now, in an age when the facts are right in front of us, that we all make our best effort to be as ecologically conscious as possible – in home life and in business.  Apart from repurposing leather, I use plastic free packaging, non toxic glue and my workshop is powered by green energy.

Clearly it’s hard to be perfect but it’s easy to make small changes and I am always on the look out for new ways to improve my sustainability.

Tula and the Whale eco-friendly jewellery Totnes Devon

You’ve got a great eye for colour. Where do you think that comes from?
Growing up I had to share a bedroom with my older sister who was obsessed with everything being blue. Carpets, walls, bedding – all of it! I strongly rebelled and found my love for bright colours and multi-coloured patterns. I really like blue now, especially the teal, turquoise kind.

Although I’m drawn to bright colours, I also like earthy tones. My favourite colours change monthly, and sort of in time with the seasons. Orange is my current favourite! Pastel colours are a pet hate of mine and I’ve never been somebody that could wear them without looking ill! I also have disdain for magnolia…

Tula and the Whale eco-friendly jewellery Totnes Devon

Can you talk us through your making process from start to finish? How does each piece of your jewellery come to be?
Ideas pop into my head, usually at bedtime or first thing in the morning. I sometimes sketch them down, but other times I go straight for the making. I play with shapes using my big leather press to cut out pieces that I can experiment with. Creating new designs is very exciting. When I have an idea that I’m happy with, I refine it and then choose colour combinations, which I find very therapeutic.  

Tula and the Whale eco-friendly jewellery Totnes Devon

My favourite colours change monthly, and sort of in time with the seasons. Orange is my current favourite! Pastel colours are a pet hate of mine!

Some of my work is hand painted. I use leather paints to create a pattern and bring colour and life to an old piece of beige leather. 

Tula and the Whale eco-friendly jewellery Totnes Devon

Who are your creative heroes?
I have many but my grandmother is my absolute hero and she taught me to knit when I was six. She’s still knitting now, even though she is nearly 90. My mother used to have lots of crafting books around the house and I was always drawn to the Kaffe Fassett books, which were bursting full of colour and patterns.  

I loved visiting the Barbara Hepworth Museum in my teenage years when I was really into sculpture. The rawness of shape and form drew me into the art world. I also adore the work of Joan Miró and ended up with a Miro-inspired tattoo in my travels around Thailand. Luckily I still love it.

Tula and the Whale eco-friendly jewellery Totnes Devon

What does craft mean to me? Happiness. It’s my therapy.

Kat, Tula and the Whale

Finally, what does craft mean to you?
Happiness. I think everyone can benefit from a creative outlet, whether it’s painting, cooking, making music or whatever! Without crafting, I would be a lot more frustrated and less relaxed. It’s my therapy and what I do to unwind, plus there are endless ways to evolve and learn new skills. The satisfaction with the finished product is almost as good as the process.

Tula and the Whale jewellery

Treat yourself to 15% off all things Tula and the Whale with discount code ‘feature15’ valid until Sunday 27th September 2020

Shop Tula and the Whale on Folksy >


Meet the Interviewer

Clare Gets Crafty Crochet

The maker asking the questions this week is Clare Gordon from Clare Gets Crafty. Clare makes bright, cheerful and sustainable crochet for the home.

You can find her on Folksy here https://folksy.com/shops/claregetscrafty and read our Meet the Maker interview with Clare here > Colour, crochet and creativity – meet Clare Gets Crafty

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