The search for a British master brushmaker.
Rose & Lavender have been successfully selling traditional brushes and household products from the German manufacturer Bürstenhaus Redecker for a couple of years now. We have always been aware of the distance the products have had to travel to reach the UK and the carbon footprint that entails. The fact that there seemed to be no British equivalent meant that we were in a catch 22 situation. Either stop selling the brushes or just grin-and-bear-it.
The last 20-30 years has seen a major shift by brush manufacturers in their choice of materials. Whereas natural raw material such as hair and plant fibres dominated the scene sixty years ago, we now see synthetic and man-made materials taking centre stage.
However, pollutants rarely stay in one place. We can see the effects across the globe as the waste travels by air and water. The extent of the damage spreads worldwide.
The reason behind this is not rocket science. Synthetics are cheaper and easier to produce in large quantities. This may make the accountants and factory owners smile, but it is doing untold damage to the environment – contributing an overwhelming amount of chemicals, waste and carbon emissions.
Because the manufacturing process is so toxic, it tends to take place in places like the Far East and on the Indian sub-continent, where labour and unfortunately lives are cheap. A large part is also due to the lax environmental regulations in these countries.
So we decided to try and find a UK brush maker who could meet our needs in terms of style, quality and with a brush making tradition.
Fortunately we have managed to find one! With a history going back to the 19th century (over 90 years before Friedrich Redecker started his company in 1935) and now on the seventh generation of the same family, these master brushmakers can and do produce a beautiful range of brushes that are made to last.
The origins are a bit hazy, but it is known that in 1840 Charles Russell was the landlord of a pub called the Plough. Based in the small market town of Chesham, Charles used to make brushes which he then sold to his customers. His son George was the first member of the family down in the records as a brush maker.
Today the family business is run by Alan Russell, the last master brushmakers in a town that was devoted to the trade. Surrounded by beech woods, Chesham had a woodenware industry since the sixteenth century and brush manufacture began two hundred years ago as a means to utilise the off-cuts from the making of wooden shovels for use in brewing.
Being based in England means the brushes will not have to travel the long distances they did when we ordered stock from Germany. Plus by buying local we are helping to keep skilled British workers in a job. Who can argue with that? We will be rolling out our new range over the coming weeks and months on this website. And we are sure that our customers will appreciate the quality and skill that goes into making brushes by hand as much as we do.
MADE IN ENGLAND BY THE SAME SMALL FAMILY FIRM SINCE 1840
The first of many. Craftsman-made brushes handmade in England. From left: Indoor Sweeping Brush, Cobweb Brush with 1 metre handle (not shown), Lambswool Duster, Record Brush, Computer Brush and a Bannister Brush (dust brush).
Whilst we will still be selling certain specialist handmade brushes from the like of Iris Hankvert and Burstenhaus Redecker, we hope that eventually a large part of our stock will be produced by small ‘traditional’ family firms right here in the UK.
Thanks to Chris Jones from R. Russell’s and the Spitalfields Life blog.
The original blog can be found here.