How Abalon founder Ana Bridgewater is bringing sustainable crafts into our homes
The artist and ceramicist shares the traditional British and Japanese technique that inspire her porcelain crafts
As we head into 2019, our eco-conscience has never been more alert and, just as a desire to reduce our environmental impact has seen us continually move away from fast, throwaway fashion in favour of well-produced, unique, investment pieces, interior design experts are also replicating this practice in our homes.
As more and more luxury brands are embracing sustainable methods, one designer taking a circular approach to luxury creation is artist and ceramicist Ana Bridgewater, founder of eco-luxury brand Abalon. Known for its artistic, hand-sculpted, refillable candles, Abalon uses porcelain sourced in the UK from Stoke-on-Trent, with each piece enduring an extension process of sanding and firings, making them as precious and durable as venetian glass.
“I have been working with porcelain for more than a decade,” said Bridgewater, who describes her ceramics as ethical and artisanal. “Porcelain is a green material and it can be restored. There´s something magical about its transformation into ceramic.”
It is the details that set Bridgewater’s pieces apart; some pots are set with precious gems such as emerald and blue topaz, and each piece features Abalon’s signature gold lip. This lip adds yet another transformative quality to Bridgewater’s work – once the candle is burned and the ceramic cleaned with warm water, it can be reused as a stylish tea cup – inspired by Japanese traditions of reclaiming ceramic.
Speaking about her passion for sustainability Bridgewater said, “I have grown up seeing plastic in our sea and rubbish in our mountains, and therefore I can’t ignore ways of reusing, recycling, and being careful with the environment. I believe we have a responsibility to our planet.” >>
This responsibility even extends to Abalon’s candle wax, which is pure eco-soya, deriving from organic soya bean oil, infused with ethically-sourced essential oils distilled in Norfolk. Unlike mass-produced paraffin wax candles, it is non-toxic to burn, and utilising local British farms and artisanal companies.
Bridgewater’s ‘full circle’ approach to sustainability means that she will never discard broken pieces, instead either restoring them, using the smaller pieces to create one of a kind items of jewellery, or crafting them into pieces of art, as displayed in her recent exhibition ‘What is Broken?’
“I restore all my broken pieces with a Japanese technique called kintsugi. Kintsugi is an ancient Japanese art of fixing broken ceramic pieces with gold. It is the philosophy that breakage and repair is part of oneself history and increases beauty.”
But porcelain remains Bridgewater’s true passion, with Abalon launching new interiors collections this year with the same eco-friendly ethos as its candle and jewellery collections. It’s also an opportunity to collaborate with specialised artisans, such as the Abalon lamp which is created in partnership with Devon-based creative woodshop Lomas. With each handmade lampshade taking a month to create, each piece is a true work of art.
“My London studio is my laboratory and my factory. It’s where I design and experiment, and hand-make my pieces one-by-one,” Bridgewater said. “It’s hard work, but I love what I do. I have been working with porcelain for over 15 years – it is an amazing material. I love it for its hardiness translucence and sonority. There ́s something magical about this material, it is part of the Earth and has a natural beauty that I love.”