As part of our ethos here at Gallox we have always strived to work with and support local manufactures, artisans, and crafts people. Our Vision at Gallox has always alluded to more than stocking clothing and apparel. It is about forming a collective with like-minded individuals who hold similar ideals and want to disconnect from the fast lane.
This Autumn we have linked up with a true innovative visionary, Mr Mark Etchells. Teaming up with Mark is the first part of the process. Mark has lived and worked in North Devon for over twenty years. Living in the small village of Bradiford, at the heart of a close-knit community, where the village pub still plays a big part in people’s lives, as it always has, and always should be.
Marks’ work here takes him across the North Devon area where he specialises in building, or rather re-building old stone walls using traditional methods with lime, slate and lead work.
Alongside this he is also involved in performing arts and has several writing projects. With this, he has travelled extensively around the world, from Korea to Tbilisi, Georgia and throughout Europe.
Mark has also worked in Bosnia for the OSCE in 1996/97 as an International Supervisor through the UN, and also in Ghana, West Africa as a Fisheries Advisor through the international charity VSO.
Mark has close family ties in the southwest of Finland and has spent a lot of time exploring its’ raw beauty. Last winter Mark and his partner, Nada spent January on the uninhabited island of Oro, on the very edge of the Finnish archipelago at a writer’s residency. They stayed in a simple wooden house built in 1914 for a Russian army officer and his family. The house was 50 metres from the Baltic Sea and surrounded by granite outcrops, forest, and Sea Eagles. Truly a magnificent place. Food (alongside a case of beer) were delivered once a week by a passing boat until the sea froze over.
It was here that Mark was inspired using watercolour to capture the simple wooden houses and outbuildings on the island. With this, Mark began painting and drawing a series of maps and images on to Birch bark which he collected from the surrounding forest of the house.
Mark recalls; “The place still seemed to have an air of frontier somehow, and I was interested in bringing this spirit to life in a very old school traditional way. The maps, to me, are like something that was given to someone a couple of centuries ago, a path to a gold field in the Klondike era or a route through a barely populated expanse of forest. Pens, paper and iphones with Google maps never existed then. People drew or recorded things on anything available and birch bark is perfect for this. It’s a useful tree to be fair, native Americans made complete canoes from the same bark.”
Mark has always had an interest in country pursuits and its’ traditional ways. In Addition to his many talents, Mark makes knives using Finnish carbon steel blades that are then fitted to Exmoor stag antler handles. Furthermore, he makes both bone and antler arrow heads and spear tips, taking inspiration from basic Neolithic tool making techniques.
Whether it be in the watercolour, bark painting, or the knife making, the excitement of making something permanent and useful from sustainable natural materials that, he finds so endearing.
We are delighted to say that we have a project lined up together and we are proud to be able to offer a truly unique medium of maps painted on to birch bark.
We are now taking commissions on the website for Mark to create a bespoke map of an area/location which is close to your heart. All you need to do is send us a specific area or map reference you would like replicated on to the birch bark. They will take around 3 weeks to create from time of taking payment.
The Birch bark measures around 9x7 inches (approximately) but will vary slightly due to the fact they are a natural product. They are reinforced with rice paper and Japanese rice glue to offer support and stability. The bark comes unframed to allow you to choose how best to show off your functional art to friends and family.
They will be packed up and shipped out securely when completed and as always there will be no sight of single use plastics.
Keep an eye out for further collaborations with other North Devon artisans, free thinkers and general reprobates, there are plenty of us out there!
GALLOX - UNYIELDING TO THE ELEMENTS