Every week, we’re shining a spotlight on the best small brands we think are worth shouting about. We love our great British high street, but there are so many fantastic independent brands out there making clothes, accessories, homewares and more from a place of passion and love and we need to support them – now more than ever.
From fashion and beauty to homeware and accessories, we’ll be bringing you the best small businesses you need on your radar. This week we chat to Alex Coles, the founder of Scruffy Studio, where she makes and sells vibrant terrazzo and marbled homeware pieces out of jesmonite.
How did Scruffy Studio come about?
During the first lockdown [in 2020] I was looking for a side hustle that was a bit more hands-on and that could sit alongside my day job as a freelance copywriter. I came across jesmonite [a composite material used in fine arts, crafts and construction] on Instagram and I instantly fell in love with the endless potential for colour combos and pattern. Plus, it was a lovely opportunity to fill my home with striking homewares that I hadn’t seen in shops.
I came up with Scruffy Studio as a name because I felt that it perfectly captured the nature of working with jesmonite. It’s messy, it’s random and you can’t really control how the colour chips fall or the marble flows – every piece is unique and looks a little bit scruffy. I must admit I was a bit optimistic with the ‘Studio’ as I started out on a kitchen worktop and slowly took over the rest of the room, but now I have a dedicated studio space which is great.
What three words would you use to describe Scruffy Studio?
I would say that the Scruffy Studio aesthetic is bold, characterful and, of course, scruffy! I want people to enjoy seeing and interacting with the pieces or my imagery, so I make sure that there’s always as much colour as possible – I don’t think there’s such thing as too much, right?
Who is the Scruffy Studio customer?
The Scruffy Studio customer is someone who loves bright colours and likes to be quite daring in their choices. They may already have a maximalist vibe going on in their home, or they could be using their Scruffy Studio piece as a pop of colour in an otherwise neutral setting. The beauty of the pieces is that they can have a universal appeal.
Where does inspiration come from for your pieces?
I gather colour inspiration from everywhere and anywhere and a lot of the time I just make something that I think I would like to own. I think it’s really interesting to see colours in prints, wallpapers, stationery, interiors, clothes and even in things like toys. The other day I was playing with Play-Doh with my daughter and she mixed a couple of colours that looked really cool together so I made a note!
Tell us a bit about your design and making process
A lot of the process is me playing around. I think as we grow up, we tend to lose the enthusiasm and time for play. I just love mixing and experimenting – it feels exactly like when I used to make potions and mud pies as a child.
So, once I’ve decided on the colour combo, I mix the two parts of the jesmonite together. Jesmonite is an eco-resin that comes in a powder base and liquid and when you mix them together they react and begin to harden. You have to work pretty quickly to mix in the pigments before it sets.
If I’m making terrazzo, I spread out a thin layer of the coloured mixture and leave it to harden before smashing it up into little pieces – this is very therapeutic! I then make a base mix, add the colour chips and pour into the mould to set. Then it’s a case of sanding (a lot of sanding), to reveal the colours and then finally sealing it to keep it protected.
Is Scruffy Studio striving to be sustainable?
Apart from the jesmonite itself being an eco-resin which means it’s non-toxic and solvent-free, I keep sustainability in mind as much as possible – it’s so important. My colourful packaging is all recyclable, including the pink bubble wrap that I was very happy to find. I also reuse packaging that I get from things I’ve ordered, particularly postage boxes and packing peanuts, there’s no reason they can’t be used again.
I also keep all the excess colour chips and mixture to reuse again in other pieces. I don’t like anything going to waste so during clean up I’ll make a huge effort to set them aside to dip into in the future.
Which Scruffy Studio piece is your current favourite?
Oh gosh, I don’t know if I can pick a favourite! I’m drawn to anything cobalt blue and I find myself coming back to that colour time and time again. In my first shop release, I used that as a base with white chips and I think it looks so smart. I’m also a big fan of the pink, white and red pot and long tray set because it’s just super cute.
Anything exciting planned for the brand this year?
On 18 April I have a complete shop refresh coming. There’s plenty of new colour combos and the brand-new Jellybean Tray which is gloriously chunky and curvy all at the same time. I’m also planning on bringing out a new range of candle holders, bigger trays and maybe expand into some non-jesmonite products, too – but don’t worry, they’ll still be full of colour and very scruffy.