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This is me: George Wyatt-Willsmore, founder of Wyatt & Jack

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Wyatt and Jack create sustainable products from reclaimed deckchairs, windbreaks and beach fabrics. We asked the founder and director George to tell us her super cool story

Words by Sofie Jenkinson

Our pieces are a labour of love. From the beginning of their lives, as chairs that people share special times and memories on, to the painstaking hand washing of each piece of material once it arrives with us.

I want to keep and tell stories.
Our ethos is: meet the beach. And it’s probably the most important aspect of wyatt&jack for me. People are talking and listening less and less.

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Each bag has a label inside from the beach they came from. It’s integral to the bags – it’s what makes them special.

Making time for people who maybe haven’t spoken to someone from one week to the next. These are the important things to me.

I love the wornness of it. Like, after 30-odd years on the beach, it wasn’t giving up. It seemed a shame to waste it, so I made myself a bag. Then another one. Then another one. And it’s grown from there, unbelievably.

I was sharing a workspace with a guy who was a beach concessionaire. He asked me to dismantle some old sun beds – I took off the yellow PVC and got really attached to it.

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I thought it would be a bit of an adventure: collecting it all, saving it, giving some money back to the concessionaires. And it was- and is.

The collecting is definitely the best bit. I love stumbling across a new stripe or material that’s been hiding away for years.

The ‘doing’ of the business became a mission quite quickly. After a couple of conversations, I found that there was loads of this stuff being burnt or thrown away all over the country.

I don’t know if creative people are aware of being creative, same as I don’t know if mathematicians know they’re really good at sums. But I do know that since I was a teenager, I wanted to push fabrics…make them do things that they weren’t originally intended for. Trying to bend stiff materials into delicate shapes, mixing up different media, clay, paper, plastic, found objects.

I love seeing things that would usually be discarded, turned into something colourful and useful. One of the first things I ever made, about 20 years ago, was a hat from a patchwork of Fruit Salad and Black Jack wrappers. I still have it!

You can call it ‘upcycling’ but I’m not sure how I feel about that to be honest. For me, years ago, it was trying to do things cheaply, with minimum environmental impact. That’s trendy now- it wasn’t so cool back then! Still, as long as it’s happening a lot and our landfill is getting smaller- its all good.

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We’ve recycled about 4 tonnes of beach fabric so far, which is something we’re all a teeny bit proud of.

It can be overwhelming. When people start to contact you as opposed to the other way around. I do find myself thinking: “What? How are you aware of what we’re doing?”. That’s a great feeling – like it’s gently filtering out, no hard sell, just the story of the beach guys and the fabrics… so it makes sense to people

I’m realising more and more how important it is to balance – your work, your family and the other stuff you like doing. However much you love your job, with the wrong balance everything becomes a chore. You need the time out to allow for fresh thoughts and ideas

There shouldn’t be a difference in finish between something that’s repurposed and something that’s made new. I want people to like or want the bags because they like the bags- not because they’re recycled.

My bigger picture, the dream for a couple of years time, is to be an entirely island based company. To bring all the manufacturing aspects back to the Isle of Wight. I would love that. I’d feel like I’d really succeeded in giving something back then.

Imagine people swapping skills with each other. If we discontinued the use of money and introduced a bartering system – where you only use what you need and it’s be like, you know, “My trousers are falling down – can you make me a belt?” And then, “Sure! Can you make me some trousers?” That kind of thing.

If you give out positive, you will get positive back. That’s not a tie-dye hippy thing either…it’s a fact, I reckon.

If I’m giving it my all, all the cool stuff starts happening. The days when I’m feeling a little bit demotivated are the days when everything moves really slowly. That goes for everything, not just the business.

Treat others the way you would like to be treated. And be honest, even if it goes down badly – it’s the best option in the end.

Invest in ideas and people.

Some of the people we work with have lived their whole lives on the beach. One of them saw the Germans invading during the second world war- he watched it from a sea wall with his friend.

Someone who inspires me to make the most out of each day and be the best person that I can is my son. Everyone says this about their kids, but he is a beauty! (And also my greatest achievement.)

The pull of the beach and the sea is something I don’t notice unless I can’t get to it for a long period of time. Even if I don’t get there as often as I’d like sometimes, in the back of my mind – I know it’s there.

If it’s busy and my head is muddled, I’ll try and get in the sea. It sorts me right out and I feel refreshed and ready to start again, all salty.

Get yourself to Wyatt and Jack 

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