Artists Max Bainbridge and Abigail Booth’s curiosity for natural materials and investigative process inspired them to create their joint craft practice, Forest and Found. Their relationship begins first with nature, then with each other as they forge objects intended for the everyday. Inspired by and created from foraged woodland materials, each piece is imbued with a timeless sensibility. In the company of Bainbridge and Booth, you realise you’re never far from useful materials - and that nature has much to teach us.
Where one might see a fallen branch, they see the beginnings of a wooden spoon. To Booth, Gorse doesn’t simply grow flowers but creates a hardy natural dye. Whilst craftsmanship of this kind is often presumed to be a rural pursuit, much of Bainbridge’s wood supplies are found close to home in Epping Forest, while the natural dyes for Booth’s graphic textiles are also sourced and gathered locally. Her book, The Wild Dyer is a fascinating look at the sources and uses of raw materials; and deep dives into the world of patchwork.
Working from their London studio, the duo collaborate with the city’s forestry commission, tree surgeons and other craftspeople to ensure their approach is respectful to the environment. This is evident in their zero-waste treatment of how they find and manufacture the work. It’s a way of life and poignant reminder that you don’t have to live in the countryside to experience a close relationship with nature.
Bainbridge explores our evolving relationship with nature in his book, The Urban Woodsman – an uplifting, yet practical guide to carving simple and functional objects using locally sourced wood. This sense of being open to the elements no matter where you are, creates an inclusive dialogue – a feeling instantly understood in the open shapes and tactile nature of Forest and Found’s output.
By blurring boundaries and dissolving limitations, the pair can work with the mysterious and subtle patterns of nature to create art that is not just to be observed but to be used. In the spirit of sustainability, Booth often uses Bainbridge’s wood offcuts to create dye distortions in her work. Particular woods possess dense tannins, while the heartwoods – or central wood – of certain trees can create a rainbow of colours, if soaked in water and then left to ferment. Booth knows to seek out Brazilwood when searching for a deep magenta, that pinks can be extracted from Plum wood, whilst Walnut wood is capable of producing shades of yellow.
A poignant reminder that you don’t have to live in the countryside to experience a close relationship with nature
Bainbridge’s use of hand tools and Booth’s abstract quilts demonstrate a process that communicates the individual life of a piece, allowing its natural imperfections and flaws to tell its own story. So, whether they are working on a large wall hanging, or carving a Japanese inspired tea bowl, each piece carries the essence of its own journey from the woods, to the maker’s hands – and finally to ours.
When they aren’t working, the couple can be found on coastal explorations, foraging for different samples of earth, rock and clay to use in their natural dyeing process. From the earthy red of limestone to the ochre of mulberry heartwood, the soft and subtle tones of Booth’s large textile pieces are not only deeply connected to the changing seasons, but also have a calming meditative effect.
Much like nature, the work isn’t to be rushed or forced, but moves to its own rhythm and unfolds in its own time. As a test of their endurance and patience, each piece – whether it’s a wooden spoon, bowl or intricate painting on canvas – is symbolic of their passion for slow living, and the twists and tangents the journey of their lives as artisans takes. Together, they created a platform that allows them to explore their passion for nature. Through Forest and Found, the pair combine pleasing traditional craft methods with a contemporary process, to create objects that are both timeless and quietly essential to our modern lives.
Imagery courtesy of Forest & Found