Best know, that if it’s in the shop, we have researched it, but occasionally things slip through our fingers and we have to back track. At the moment we are chasing an amazing product (they sent samples) which they’ve said is organic so I asked for the organic certification. It’s been three weeks and I’ve not heard back from them. This kind of thing makes me suspicious.
I know when I speak to smaller makers, they can often tell you excatly where they got something, what the weather of the day was and what the people are like who they traded with for raw ingredients. I feel the most honest suppliers can tell you a story, a real story, one from experience. I become wary when it’s all talk and nothing else behind it. Some stories are funny, some are strange or hilarious, sometimes even a little sad, but there is always a story and thats what I love about sourcing.
With experience I’m beginning to find that Europe does this sustainability thing so much better than us in the UK, and local makers aside, some of the best manufacturers are based in Germany or the Netherlands. As you may know, I’m half Austrian and managed to acquire an Austrian passport some years back (lucky me still in the EU) so I want to take advantage of my passport and my language skills. I’ve got to brush up on my German but I would love to be able to do business in Germany and Austria. There is so much to learn from Europe.
I’m also planning a trip to the Netherlands to visit a natural epsom salt mine. Sourcing out materials in their raw form is so exciting, so satisfying. There’s nothing better than seeing where everything comes from. I also want to go back to Kenya and get pomice from the volcanic crators. I’m lucky to have moved there in my late teens and create strong friendships with like minded folk. There is no reason to bulk (not right now anyway, not at least until I speak better Swahili), it would be more to visit my good friends and then bring back some stuff in a suitcase.
And while I seek out materials and ingredients, I dream only that trade between people is fair, that egos do not get in the way of business- that’s some fucker doesn’t see weakness and want to take more from someone they view as weaker or desperate. These are the harsh realities out in the field. Can you imagine the war and blood shed over coffee and diamonds. (You’ve seen the film blood diamond right?) Have you heard about the truffle farmers who sabotage one another because a kilo of truffles can be worth tens of thousands. This shit is real. People want too much sometimes and when I think of these things I feel a responsibility to stop it.
It’s so disheartening when I research products which appear fantastic– but curiosity killed the cat right – and then we find out things that we can’t ignore, but for everything that isn’t what we thought it was, there’s a person or a company who really put their heart and soul into what they produce and it’s those people we want to source from. It’s also true that all the local makes are small companies, sometimes unable to meet higher consumer demands because they lack work space, funds and well, usually space and funds, and it’s our jobs as shops to ensure they can continue to build and grow their products without comprising on the love part which is where all the goodness actually comes from.