Boutique Of The Week: Molesworth & Bird
Though often mistaken for watercolour paintings, Molesworth & Bird’s designs are actually made from pressed, foraged seaweed found washed up in rock pools on the south west coast. Old friends, company founders Melanie Molesworth and Julia Bird both worked as stylists for various interiors magazines in London before relocating to the shore; Julia to Cornwall and Melanie to Dorset. At low tide, they head out to the beach to collect fronds of seaweed – the UK has over 600 different specimens along its coastlines – to carry back to their individual workshops, press and turn into works of art. ‘We find the best seaweed after storms, or in the late spring/early summer when the colours are brightest – especially the pinks like the beautiful fan weeds,’ Melanie tells me. ‘We love the fact that no two specimens are ever the same and enjoy the identification process as well as the eternal search for interesting and lovely shapes and colours.’
I first spotted Molesworth & Bird’s charming artwork a couple of years ago at a designers and makers fair in the heart of London. Sold as framed originals or printed across a selection of products, from stationery to cushions, tea towels to linen tote bags; their eye-catching display of coastal loveliness was directly opposite where I was stationed signing books. Needless to say, after spending all weekend admiring Molesworth & Bird’s gorgeous seaweed designs, some of my earnings went on a beautiful, engraved enamelware jug….
Inspired by a series of pressed seaweeds from 1825, it took the pair years of practice to perfect the technique (mould is an issue when pressing seaweed, apparently) but they’ve now got the process down to a fine art. ‘All of our seaweeds are foraged from local coves and beaches and pressed at our homes with large traditional wood presses we’ve had made for us,’ Melanie explains. ‘Each piece of seaweed is rinsed in fresh water and floated on paper before being layered up between sheets of card and newspaper to press. We are both real nature lovers and particularly inspired by the sea. Julia is also a keen wild sea swimmer and swims throughout the year – not just to find seaweed!’
Living in separate parts of the south west, Molesworth & Bird tend to talk on the phone most days to discuss designs and compare seaweed pressings, and then meet up somewhere in Devon (halfway between Dorset and Cornwall) every few weeks to discuss future business plans. ‘I’m responsible for the day to day running of our little shop in Lyme Regis and Julia tends to run the internet side,’ adds Melanie,’ We also both contribute to our Instagram feed – after spending time as stylists for magazines it is great to be able to be creative with our own designs. We work closely together on new products and tend to agree, most of the time!’
Molesworth & Bird have two shops. The main one sits in the artisan quarter of Lyme Regis, Dorset, in an ancient water mill and there’s a shop-cum-open-studio in Lanhydrock near Bodmin in Cornwall; now re-opened with safety measures and social distancing in place, and some beautiful new pressings created during lockdown. ‘We obviously closed during lockdown, and initially we didn’t think that people would have the appetite for buying from our website at such a difficult time. However, we opened up for online sales after the first month and found a reassuringly positive response which kept us buoyed and inspired.’ The thriving online store ships to customers all over the world. The pair also run workshops offering guests advice on how to forage for the best specimens as well as sharing the basic skills for successful seaweed pressing (postponed for now but back soon – click HERE for details). In the meantime, Molesworth & Bird have designed a small seaweed press so that anyone can create a coastal artwork.