We might be back to school here in Scotland but my children are not going back to school, they are both off to uni. Terrifying thoughts are interwoven with tremendous pride and excitement about their future. Our son is in his final year in Aberdeen and on the 14th September we drop off our daughter to study in London – empty nest syndrome here we come.
Oh dear – I look so lonely!!
It is not quite autumn yet, but when I return from London after the 14th September, I will be focusing on making our home as cosy and comforting as possible. I am very aware that we might not be in our beloved family home for ever, we have a large house and garden where we have brought up our children and welcomed lots of guests and had lots of parties. We do hope to stay here while our children are studying, but I am conscious that it will be a bit of a last hurrah for our house – a few more fun Christmases and New Years, but every day, it does feel a bit mad having five bedrooms and a huge office in our garden that all need heated, cleaned, decorated, it might be quite nice to simplify and have a change. Whatever happens though, we are here, and our next house, whether it is big or small, cosiness and an emphasis on natural materials is always going to be a huge priority for us. I find the best short cut to making a home both cool and cosy is natural sheepskins.
I also know that buying sheepskins, if you are environmentally aware is a task that requires a little thought. People often buy them for their babies, as a snug bed cover, not realising that sheepskins bought cheaply, in large chain stores, are not produced using homegrown skins or natural tanning agents. The last thing you want to wrap a fragile new born baby in is a material that you know nothing about the provenance of. This is one of many reasons why I am delighted to introduce you to Skyeskyns.
Established in 1983, Skyeskyns, based the beautiful Isle of Skye, is the sole remaining commercial woolskin tannery in Scotland. You will be interested to hear that this family business has today taken its next step towards a neutral carbon footprint, by introducing, for the first time, skins tanned using mimosa bark. Skyeskyns is now run by the second generation of the Hartwell family who are helping to steer the business through the 21st Century, producing and stocking the highest quality, hand-crafted sheepskins, leather and woollen goods and adapting the business to fit with the highest possible environmental and sustainability goals.
The Hartwell family all share a passion for working in and with the landscape and, being mindful of their heritage and legacy, conserving and cherishing both artisan skills and the environment. The tannery is the very heart of the Skyeskyns business, and the team of highly skilled craftsmen and women have recently taken another step along their journey of ‘treading lightly’ by moving to a new, more sustainable, tanning process which uses mimosa, the tannin extract from the bark of the mimosa tree.The business ethos is focused not only on producing the best quality sheepskins but also on the principles of nature conservation and sustainable community development and land use. Lambskins have always been a by-product of farming in Britain, where there are the highest standards of animal welfare. Skyeskyns works closely with suppliers to ensure that all lambskins are ethically sourced from local abattoirs, stopping them from being exported and putting money back into the local economy.Therefore, as the next logical step in the process, and after hugely successful trials, Skyeskyns introduced the mimosa bark to tan all of their sheepskins. An ancient, traditional hand crafted and natural process, mimosa tanning travels into the past to take the business forward into a sustainable future, allowing for the production of the very best quality sheepskins the business has ever produced and cementing the Skyeskyns reputation for quality. Eventually, everything produced within the tanning process will be compostable and spread back onto the Skyeskyns croft, supported, in future, by a series of reed beds.Jess Hartwell, Marketing Director at Skyeskyns, depicted above says: “The skins we tan ourselves at Skyeskyns all come from either our own homebred sheep or from other Scottish sheep farms, minimising travel and using a waste product from the meat industry, and everything we do within the tannery and our entire process has sustainability at its core. We are now so excited to have launched a new to us, albeit very traditional, tanning process which produces the softest, most buttery and high-quality leather in the most environmentally sustainable way possible.”“Our ethos, ever since my dad first started tanning in 1983, is about trying to effect positive change and be the best we can be environmentally and otherwise. This production change is a key step forward in fully achieving our aims and values. When you tie in all our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint, from running an electric vehicle to using recyclable packaging, we are proud of the way in which the business is moving forward both commercially and environmentally.”
“We are all delighted to be working with nature in such a low impact and beautiful way. Made by nature, enhanced by Skyeskyns.”
I love everything about this story – Jess and her amazing family just make me want to get on a boat and move to Skye! Our modern day heroine, Greta Thunberg would definitely approve.My own living room, depicted above, is full of natural materials and finds. Our home is quite a brutal 1970s architectural house, but we find that softening it with organic products and textures is really effective.
In addition to selling online, by the way, Skyeskyns has become an immensely popular 5-star visitor attraction, drawing thousands of the visitors who visit the Isle of Skye throughout the year. Skyeskyns operate their long-established tannery and showroom in Waternish and a newly opened shop in Portree.
Do visit, either online or in person, you are in for a truly magical experience.