Social Togetherness: Superfolk

In recent months, we find ourselves more engaged with the environment. Joanne and Geroid are the founders and designers of Superfolk and draw inspiration from the land and water of Ireland.

Social Togetherness: Superfolk

What inspires you and informs your work?

The work of our peers in design, folk objects, art, music and the work of vernacular makers. We are always inspired by people who plough their own furrow and push the boundaries of art, architecture, design and craft. 

Right now, there are great things happening in the world of food. The way chefs and food producers are re-engaging with the idea of sustainability – exploring lesser-known, local and seasonal produce while staying open and eager to learn across cultures and traditions, informs us as we work. We spend a lot of time exploring the environment around us in the west of Ireland and this inevitably inspires our work.

What are your tips for people who wish to see, engage or find our natural environment?

With most things in life our motto is … “start where you are, use what you have, do what you can”. Whether you are in a city, small town or countryside aim to move more slowly through your environment, your daily commute or trip to the shop.

If you can at all, walk or cycle. When you move more slowly through the same environment daily or weekly you will start to notice subtle changes over time. Watch a tree coming into leaf and then over the summer see the colour of the leaf change. And watch blackberry brambles or elderflower trees as flowers are replaced by fruits.

Give yourself a relaxed and enjoyable reason to be outside as much as you can – for some people it is fishing, or gardening, or mushroom hunting. We have a large energetic dog that we have to bring for walks in large open spaces. He pulls us off the couch and out into wild and natural landscapes, even when it is raining.

You don’t need to spend lots of money but get a good raincoat and if the ground is mucky have a pair of comfortable wellies. If you are interested in food, buy or borrow a foraging guide – something small and cheap like Richard Mabey’s “Food for Free” (a classic and a great starting place). Zoe Devlin’s “Wildflowers of Ireland” is also a really great pocket-sized book for wild plant identification. There are lots of good plant identification apps – but it can be nice to put your phone away and be more in the moment with a pocket guide book.

What are your biggest concerns about design and the environment?

Most of us know already that we need to urgently move away from all forms of disposable culture, cheap food production, fast fashion and our reliance on fossil fuels. And yet, we don’t feel empowered that the small changes we can individually make will make any difference. We need to focus more on helping people to feel the positive benefits of their own behaviour change and choices.

In design, we see that a lot of younger designers have little understanding of materials and manufacturing and so are making poor material and production choices in how they bring a piece of work from a computer programme into a physical product. But don’t blame young designers for this knowledge gap – the problem lies within our education systems.

What small measure could people take?

Buy less. And when you do buy, think of spending your money as a form of voting. Before you buy – ask what is this made from, where is it made, who and what am I supporting with my purchase.

What new projects are you working on that you can share?

We are working on some new large block prints for our forest canopy series. As before these will be hand-printed onto washi or Japanese paper. We are also working on some textile-based products and also close to launching a new incense holder to go alongside our “Meander” candle holder range.

We won’t be travelling to any international shows and design fairs this Autumn so we are also working on the best ways to launch these new products directly through our own website, newsletter and social media.

What positive gains do you see coming from the pandemic?

We hope that this might be a defining moment that helps us all see more clearly. A time when what really matters to us collectively and what needs to change can become sparklingly obvious. In Ireland, we have all now seen that we are capable of massive, collective behaviour change. And we have seen that bureaucratic change that may usually happen over years can happen in days when there is urgency and momentum.

We are only ever as strong as the weakest and most vulnerable in our society – while this has always been true it has rarely been so visible.

More and more people understand the benefit of regular or daily walks in nature as well as the benefits of slowing down in their lives. We hope that all this will stand to people and help us all as we must also adapt and see the lifestyle and behaviour change benefits as we face the climate crisis. 

Many thanks to Jo Anne and Geroid for taking the time to discuss their influences and processes as part of our Social Togetherness series. Discover a little more about their story here.

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