Ara the altar
earth-aware adornment for the everyday
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Letters of Ara

An online journal & e-mail newsletter in which to explore areas of interest and influence for Ara the altar.

Purposeful Packaging | Designed & Made In House

Ara the altar linen organic cotton packaging

For the first chapter of Ara the altar’s journey, the GOTS certified, organic cotton drawstring bags -which I had made specially in a carbon neutral factory as part of an ethical supply chain- have served me so well. For some time, however, in preparation for coming to the end of my supply, I have been looking for a way to further minimise Ara’s carbon footprint by bringing the production of my presentation packaging in house, in line with the slow approach I adopt in my jewellery design and production. The brief I gave myself was threefold:

1)    Purposeful

To me, it feels counter intuitive to waste energy and resources creating packaging that would provide little value, use or longevity for my customers. Instead, I wanted to create a product that would be long-lasting and functional, in which to keep Ara pieces safe. 

2)    Low Impact

With respect for people and the planet integral to every aspect of the brand, it was of paramount importance to source a traceable, locally and ethically produced fabric, created from natural, sustainable materials. Furthermore, it was important to me that the design and methods used to produce the product itself would ensure minimal environmental impact and minimise waste, with a zero waste goal.

 3)    Reflective of the brand

Whilst first and foremost the packaging would have an intended purpose, I also wanted it to be something for Ara customers to treasure - not something mass produced but a slow-made keepsake to accompany their chosen piece.

After months of research, design and finding sewing pins everywhere, I am so pleased to share with you my new, slow-made, purposeful packaging that has been thoughtfully designed and created in-house; designed and developed by me and my partner, David, who has learnt to sew on a 1921 Singer to make these little pouches that will accompany every piece of Ara the altar adornment.

The Fabric

I began my search for a fabric that had been created with utmost respect for the earth. After some initial research I knew I wanted to work with hemp or linen, given their very little reliance on water or pesticides. It transpired that most of the hemp suitable for this project was made in China (which did not meet the requirements of my brief when concerning Ara’s carbon footprint). Whilst I did manage to source more locally made European hemp the fabric available to me at the time did not possess the qualities suitable for this particular project. I am, however, really keen to support the use of this fabric so keep an eye out for an exploration into hemp later down the line. In continuing my search for the perfect, earth-kind linen, I was delighted to find a very special fabric with UK based company, Bysshe, who source fully traceable, European yarns, and weave them into beautiful fabric, here in the UK. This small, independent company ensures “the highest quality at the lowest environmental cost, developing fabrics for a sustainable future”.

I fell for a beautifully tactile, twill cloth, woven on a Jacquard loom in Lancashire. The fabric is constructed of linen weft yarn, made from certified European Flax in France by a Masters of Linen certified company. The linen weft yarn is woven across GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified organic cotton warp yarns. The fabric was then finished in a specialist finishing mill up the road in Yorkshire. Finished without bleach treatment, this fabric celebrates the natural hues of the flax and organic cotton. On one side, the natural linen is more prominent -slightly flecked throughout, in warm, natural, earthy tones- and on the other side, the organic cotton twill is more prominent, appearing lighter due to its natural hue, and incredibly soft to the touch.

The Design

When it came to the design, our aim was to develop a pattern that would make the most effective use of the fabric with the least waste. We also had to consider the product’s intended purpose (to keep its cargo safe), and to ensure that the design would suit the thickness and properties of the fabric. Consequently, we chose to design a little pouch that would not rely on a drawstring closure (again to further minimise waste) and we developed a design based on a simple, repeatable rectangle to ensure minimal, if any, fabric waste.

Our unique design utilises a sewn down, fold-over top to keep belongings neatly tucked away inside. At first glance, it might not seem obvious how to easily open the bag. By folding the top flap inside-out, the full width of the opening is revealed, and the treasure can easily be tucked in or taken out.

The Production

It was important that the production of the bags reflected the production of the pieces: slow. For this project, my partner, David, learnt to sew on a very special Singer sewing machine from 1921, spotted and purchased in a charity shop by my grandad, and given to my mum many years ago. By managing the production of the bags in house, using GOTS certified natural organic cotton thread, and traditional production methods powered by 100% renewable energy, Ara the altar can continue to tread even more lightly whilst creating our earth-aware offerings.

I think these bags are really special and truly reflect Ara’s ethos. I am so pleased that one of these little pouches will accompany every piece of Ara the altar adornment.


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