Making eco-friendly products in France with creative flair

Making eco-friendly products in France with creative flair

These three women based in France are doing their bit for the planet by using recycled materials in their innovative designs

Anja Grix, 56, has lived with her husband Ken, 56 near Gouarec in Côtes-d’Amor since 2018. In-between renovating her house, she makes ceramic jewellery from vintage and retro plates

Anja says: “Before I started making jewellery, I worked in libraries and museums as an outreach officer, so I was always digging up bits and pieces for children to find on ‘archaeological digs.’ In the UK I lived near a field which had been a Victorian dump, so after the field had been ploughed, fragments of china and pottery would be unearthed. But even before then I was always a magpie – as a student I’d make jewellery from vintage objects and various found objects to supplement my grant.

I started making the jewellery in earnest around eight years ago. A lot of libraries and museums faced closure and it seemed a perfect opportunity to make a big change and chase that creative lifestyle once more.

Some of my favourite pieces to make are when people have a plate that means a lot to them which gets broken. Rather than throw it away, I can make a ring or pendant for them so they have something to keep. I also sometimes make gifts for bridesmaids, so they can all have something the same but at the same time is unlike anything else.

When I’m not working on commission I tend to work from kitsch retro plates – plates are always easier than cups or bowls because they don’t have the curve! It’s always nice to see something being given a second life rather than just abandoned. Now that we are renovating the house too I really enjoy finding old bits and pieces for it at brocantes and recycling centres. And while second-hand often used to mean second best, these days people are proud of being able to recycle and reuse, which is the way it should be.”

To see more of Anja’s jewellery follow KnopfDesigns on Instagram or Facebook, or visit her Etsy store at

Zoe Cardwell, 40, lives near Pompadour in Corrèze with her husband Dave, 48, and sons William, 12 and Thomas, seven. She started making and selling beeswax wraps in the summer of 2018

Zoe says: “We’d been watching Blue Planet and Simon Reeve’s documentary Plastic in the Med and I resolved to make more of an effort to avoid packaging. But I couldn’t believe how much a beeswax wrap typically cost, so I decided to make my own and it kind of went from there!

I try to keep my prices down – they need to be affordable otherwise people won’t use them. We’ve made a lot of other changes in our life too – we eat vegetarian at home now (vegan much of the time) and try to avoid packaging as much as possible, for example, we don’t often buy crisps anymore.

The wraps are made of 100% organic cotton which is biodegradable. There are various different ways of making the wraps but I iron it on using greaseproof paper and fix it using a pine resin, which also has antibacterial properties. They’re great for things like wrapping sandwiches or draping over a bowl of salad to keep the flies off, and the warmth of your hands sort of melts the wax slightly so it will stick to itself.

For cleaning they can be washed in cold, soapy water – so you can’t use them for wrapping meat or fish as they can’t be washed at a high enough temperature to kill any potential bacteria. With careful use, they’ll typically last around 12 months. The wraps have been very well received – I sell via Facebook and I’m also in a few shops locally now too. I see little spikes in sales sometimes if there’s been something about plastic on TV or in the news, but on the whole, interest is definitely growing. I also sell other eco-products which I don’t make myself such as bamboo toothbrushes, loofahs and shampoo bars.

Zoe’s wraps cost €13 for a packet of three, plus postage. For more information, visit Karen Hewlett, 56, has lived in Cellefrouin in Charente with her husband Col, 59, and 16-year-old son Joe since 2011. She has been making bags from recycled materials for around three years

Karen says: “In the UK I worked in banking, but I’ve always sewn as a hobby and set up as a seamstress when we came to France.

Around the same time I accidentally caught my favourite dress on a door handle and ripped it, so I decided to make a bag from the material rather than throw it away. Then a friend’s mother died and she asked for a bag made from her mother’s clothes so that she could feel like she was taking her mum shopping with her. And it kind of went from there.

I have a range of bags from handbags through to large bags and can adapt all my standard patterns to the customers’ exact requirements. My flight bags are very popular – they’re designed to fit Ryanair’s new carry-on dimensions exactly!

I love it when people supply me with their own material which means something special to them, but I also hunt out my own in charity shops, places like Emmaus and châteaux sales. I’m really keen on bright colours so the châteaux sales are particularly good for me – you’ll often find 1960s and 1970s curtains which are almost invariably lined, but because they’ve also got shutters, are usually unfaded and in excellent condition, as well as being good quality material.

I’m very much into recycling and like feeling that I’m doing my bit for the planet by reusing materials instead of throwing them away.”

For more information about Karen’s bags, visit


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