The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Cover Story -


“Christ­mas can be a time of so much waste, from the sin­gle-use plas­tics in pack­ag­ing, to even our Christ­mas trees,” wood­worker So­phie Sellu says, sit­ting in her bright white stu­dio in south Lon­don, her wooden cre­ations hang­ing on the wall be­hind her. “It’s far nicer to make your own present, and to re­cy­cle some­thing in the process.”

She is in the midst of a Christ­mas rush as she makes 200 items, from spoons to chop­ping boards, to sell on her web­site and at fairs. “I think peo­ple like the fact that each item is re­ally per­sonal,” she says. “You can’t buy two of the same thing, so no one ever gets the same present.”

For years, all her friends and fam­ily re­ceived hand­crafted wooden gifts as Sellu, who learned wood­work at school, made them as a break from her day job in vis­ual mer­chan­dis­ing. Sens­ing a busi­ness op­por­tu­nity, she quit her job and, sup­ported by a grant from the Prince’s Trust, started a busi­ness sell­ing her beau­ti­fully carved wooden prod­ucts.

Now, friends hop­ing for a Christ­mas present from Sellu will have to wait un­til the last postage date has passed and she has ful­filled all her paid-for items, be­fore “I see how much time I have left,” she laughs.

All her tim­ber is sourced from waste, be it a wardrobe in a skip or old pan­elling on a build­ing site. “It’s nice to give life to some­thing that was thought of as waste,” she says. She spends about four hours a day mak­ing – “it’s tough on your hands” – and the rest of the time teach­ing work­shops, in­clud­ing ones for cor­po­rate clients such as Ap­ple­ton Es­tate Rum and a range of ar­chi­tec­tural firms. Any­one, she says, can learn to carve. “It just takes time and pa­tience. The longer you take on an item, I find, the prouder you are in the end.” For de­tails on prod­ucts and work­shops, visit grainand­knot.com

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