It’s safe to say that the next woman featured in my Universal Parenthood series is Very Cool. I can’t remember for sure how I found Black and Beech, although I think it was off the back of a Small Business shout out from Gianna Fletcher, but once I found her, I rapidly developed a bit of a girl crush on Stacey. Although she began by creating teething jewellery, it was her ‘A Mother’s Place is in the Resistance’ series that really sparked my interest, as, similarly to her, I have become increasingly more political after the birth of my son. I now have two of the tshirts!
Stacey’s stance on abortion rights prompted me to research something that I had always taken for granted – my right to choose whether I carry a child or not – and, even though I have always been pro life, I wasn’t really aware of the way our Irish sisters are dictated to over abortion. I am horrified that a country only thirty seconds across the water from me can still have laws that take control of a woman’s body out of her own hands.
Like I said, I have a definite crush! That’s what I love about Instagram though – you end up finding people that inspire you to learn more about the world around you and to do better.
It’s worth saying that I haven’t mentioned her business too much in the interview as I fully intend to feature small businesses that I use/would like to use in the near future (watch this space) so have a read and check out her website!
1) Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family?
I am 32, Irish, have lived in the UK since 2009 when I moved to Kingston Upon Thames to do a Masters in Fashion and I’ve stayed pretty much ever since though I now live in Cardiff as I work here as a lecturer, with my husband Nick and my son Clement.
2) If you could give one piece of advice for an expectant mother, what would it be?
Not a clue! My best mate is due to give birth imminently so most of my advice to her has been about getting a support network for breastfeeding as its something she plans to do, so my advise to mums who are breastfeeding would be to get to your local Le Leche League meeting in advance of birth. Also if you’re experiencing difficulties get yourself an IBCLC (lactation consultant) RIGHT AWAY, they are worth their weight in gold!
3) All of us parent differently and have different values. What is your most important parenting value?
Gosh that’s a tough question. I would say my husband and I have fairly strong views on things so we definitely want to raise Clement to be a critical thinker. I hope he will grow to be empathetic and considerate.
4) what motto do you try and live by?
The one that springs to mind is comparison it the thief of joy, which I don’t actually live by very well but I think its one that’s at the forefront at the minute. From comparing your parenting to others, your body, or your business its not going to do you any favours. We are all on our own trip.
5) What are your hopes for your son?
Happiness above all else. For them to be loved and loving people who do more good in the world than bad. And I hope they fulfill their potential.
6) You run a successful business that was originally based around your desire to have baby-safe accessories that still look good. What did you do prior to this and what prompted you to start out on your own?
Success is hard to define, but yeah I’m kept busy!
I actually didn’t give anything up, I still work 3 days per week as a fashion design lecturer, I mind Clem and do all the other bits and pieces like all your readers, laundry anyone? I started because I didn’t see anyone designing silicone jewellery from a fashion point of view, it was just very mumsy and I’m not like that so never saw anything that was very me on the market and knew I could do a cooler version so I did. It’s really as straight forward as that and all the other products are extensions of that. Mostly seeing something I like the general feel of but doesn’t sit 100% with me and wanting to put my own twist on things.
7) On your Instagram you have said that you will (probably) never hold a sale as you believe your products are fairly priced and you do everything by hand. Do you think we as a society have got so used to throwaway fashion at dirt cheap prices that we’ve forgotten there are human faces behind products?
That came about during black Friday. It felt like a complete race to the bottom and I refused to engage with it. Tiny brands are competing with the likes of Amazon and we are different beasts. I do offer discounts on days like International women’s day or breastfeeding week but in general I don’t do many because it under values what we all do as small makers and its tough on customers who pay full price and feel ripped off.
I think most people give little consideration to where their stuff comes from, because of my fashion background I know that fashion is the second biggest polluter after the oil industry and I for one would rather not contribute to that. I make decisions keeping this in mind. Examples include using organic cotton (you might cry if you read up on the ethics of cotton production) climate neutral tee’s, my jewellery comes in a reusable bag rather then loads of plastic. All my paper goods are recycled card, even my tissue paper is.
8) You have regularly donated percentages of your sales to different charities and causes, including Plan International for International Women’s Day. Why do you do this even though you are a small business?
One of the best bits of having a small business is engaging with the women and men who purchase from me. Human connection is a massive part of what I do and one of the most rewarding aspects. I also want my business to have an ethical side and giving some cash to things I believe in makes me feel good, so it’s a win win really. I’d encourage your readers to shop and spend with brands with values where possible. I’m really uncomfortable with huge CEOs clearing out pension pots and stuff. Act with your wallet.
9) At a time where political unrest seems to be a common theme across the world, you make it very clear what your opinions are. Do you think we all have a responsibility to stand up, take notice and use the voice we have to avoid allowing ourselves being sleepwalked into something we are unhappy with?
I’m genuinely fearful of the world we are bringing our kids into at times and think it causes me a lot of stress. Inequality in our society is a huge thing for me both as a feminist, a mother and also as an educator. As someone from a working class background I can see how privilege is ingrained and enshrined and it bothers me.
I’m becoming more and more political as I get older, issues like Brexit horrify me, and although I don’t think everyone has to use their voice at all, I think we have a responsibility to think about how our decisions may impact others (hello climate change?) If you are comfortable speaking out then you should, but I do think we should all inform ourselves when it comes to voting for example.
From a business point of view I was feeling fatigued by the perfection of the pixels and wanted to keep my IG very real because to be honest anyone who knows me will say I am an open book and I wear my heart firmly on my sleeve. So I do speak honestly on my stories, I swear and I’m me! I hope I don’t alienate people but I think most of us enjoy relatable honestly over plastic perfect!
Saying all of that I’m still selling stuff, and if the most someone is happy with doing is supporting a brand with values that align then that’s cool too. No one should be shamed for not being in your face political!
10) Parenting is tough and beautiful all at the same time. Can you tell us about a tough time and a shining moment that you’ve had as a parent?
Tough was becoming a mum without having my own mum around, I lost her to ovarian cancer 5 years ago. Beautiful was my first smile from Clement on Mothers Day, A day I had hated by now really enjoy.
I hope you enjoyed reading her interview as much as I did!
Instagram – blackandbeech
Website – blackandbeech