The co-owners of Sails and Canvas in Devon have a love of sailcloth and a desire to upcycle unwanted marine materials that drives their lifestyle business. Words and photographs: Emma Inglis
Friends since childhood, Juliette Johnson and Mandi Wilkinson stand in their workshop – an old sail loft overlooking the estuary and boatyard on Topsham quay in Devon – surrounded by sails. ‘We have a passion for them,’ says Juliette. ‘They come to us after a life of adventure, often smelling of the sea and crusty with salt. Loved by their owners, we give them a new life and pass on that love.’
The pair set up Sails and Canvas in 2015 to do something with discarded sailcloth and marine canvas. ‘Sails are incredibly strong and durable, but they’re made from a synthetic man-made material which is not biodegradable,’ says Mandi. ‘We try to upcycle all of the sail, from piston hanks and original sail numbers, to class logos and insignias. It makes us happy to know we’re keeping sailcloth out of landfill.’
The ladies employ three seamstresses and work together designing a varied range of products which includes bags, deckchairs, fabric ‘buckets’ and cushions. ‘My favourite item right now is an everyday tote made from an old Cornish shrimper sail,’ says Juliette. ‘The tan sailcloth is so rich and worn that it almost looks like leather.’ Mandi loves her beach bag: ‘We are a family of five and spend most weekends on the beach in Budleigh Salterton. It’s a huge bag and all the buckets, spades and beach paraphernalia can easily fit in it!’
Mandi and Juliette regularly join beach cleans and recently have been talking to Andrea Harvey, #2minutebeachclean campaign manager, about making use of their ‘end-of-life’ sailcloth. ‘We’d ideally like to make it into mini buckets for people to grab when they do their beach cleans,’ explains Juliette. Other projects include an exciting collaboration with the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, turning decommissioned vintage cotton sails from museum exhibits into a limited range of bespoke items.
When it comes to living by the sea, the pair take full advantage of everything on their doorstep. ‘I bought an inflatable paddleboard last summer and the family are completely addicted,’ says Mandi. Juliette is ‘a yoga girl’ and will often head to Exmouth Beach with friends to enjoy a yoga session there. ‘It’s the perfect end to a busy day in the workshop!’ she says.
Find Sails and Canvas
Sails and Canvas specialises in using upcycled sailcloth and marine canvas to create stylish lifestyle accessories. Prices for items start from £15. There is a bespoke service too, offering everything from sun awnings to bike covers.
• Visit Sails and Canvas at Shed 9, 10 Topsham Quay, Topsham EX3 0JB, or buy online at sailsandcanvas.co.uk.
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