Words by Hannah Tapping | Images by Lydia Rose Creative
Using a unique sustainable material to create functional, practical, yet beautiful products inspire by nature.
Homeware brand LIGA (pronounced Leega) produce clean and contemporary eco-friendly pieces with their main collections including placemats and coasters, trays, trivets, tableware, kitchen textiles and eco dishcloths through to botanical home fragrances. Their ethos is to make everyday products sustainable and affordable. Founded in 2017 by husband and wife team Jennie and David Elderkin, this is a fast-growing family run business based in Cornwall with over 500 LIGA stockists across the UK, in addition to their bespoke collections created for global brands. The brand is very much connected to nature in the way it uses materials sustainably, their design inspiration and the charities they support.
The name LIGA originated from the acronym Lifestyle, Interiors, Gifts and Art, from the product categories Jennie focused on for her stores. The word LIGA can also be translated as ‘collection of people’ in other languages, which appealed to Jennie. “Change happens when we work together, so we now define LIGA as collection of people who love eco living. One day it might be a word in the dictionary!”.
“I started with my own homeware shops just over ten years ago now in Cornwall and thoroughly enjoyed the buying element – knowing my customers and what they liked. Keen to find a brand that sourced materials sustainably, produced stylish and simple designs, I struggled to locate what I was looking for. Deciding to start designing for myself and my stores, the first challenge was finding the right people to work with in manufacturing. It’s been a challenging and exciting journey and I’m still on it.” says Jennie. Having her own retail shops gave Jennie the ideal opportunity to test products, identify bestsellers and learn from her customers what they wanted, allowing the brand to grow organically and rapidly.
Cork is one of LIGA’s key materials (the cork they use is a waste product, grown and harvested in Portugal in the Montado forests) and is a key story for the brand. A remarkable natural and sustainable material, cork has excellent thermal properties, is impermeable to liquids and gases, super resilient, lightweight and hypoallergenic. The eco-friendly process of cork harvesting enables the products to be made without the need for felling trees and without interfering with the delicate eco systems of the cork forests, ensuring the safety for their animal inhabitants. Cork forests, also play a vital role in the control of climate balance by absorbing a huge 32 million tons of CO2 each year and once cork is harvested it is still a living material, which continues to absorb CO2 long after it has been cut down. The process of harvesting cork bark has remained practically unchanged for centuries, naturally and by hand – a highly skilled and specialised industry.
“The design process for us is quite organic, sourcing materials and working through how they can be used best. It’s as much about learning about a product’s limitations as well as its benefits,” comments Jennie. “We have a number of different people who we work with in Portugal from father and son family businesses to very large companies. The designs on the printed mats are inspired from what surrounds me where I live. All of our products need to be functional, practical and affordable, that is something I feel passionate about. I don’t want to create more waste – but use waste to create.”
Drawing inspiration from nature, LIGA’s designs evoke the spirit of coastal and country living to bring a natural sense of balance into the home. Themes and imagery for their collections include wild flowers, hydrangeas, sunflowers, birds, coastal designs covering fish, crustaceans, wild swimming, fishing boats and waves.
“Living in Cornwall I am never far from the sea and its therefore no surprise that I love to connect with it anyway possible,” comments Jennie. “We have had a crazy few years and a particularly busy last summer here in Cornwall and my sanctuary, my get away from it all, has been to jump onto our little boat and explore around the creeks and rivers. It’s not only been a great way to escape the crowds and chill, but the perfect way to connect with our family and share in simple pleasures. Everyone is relaxed and goes with the flow which has inspired the boat graphics in our new collections that we have called Ebb and Flo.”
The Elderkin’s family home on the south coast of Cornwall was lovingly renovated using eco materials, including cork for insulation. “Our planet-friendly habits as a family are changing as we become more aware and constantly question things. We are making headway in many areas and in some we still need to do better,” explains Jennie. “We have installed a smart meter to monitor and learn about our electricity usage which is such an easy way to be more mindful. We have a hybrid electric car now and our electricity is sourced from wind power. Our attitudes have changed and we are mending and repairing wherever possible rather than buying new, as well as growing what we can and not using chemicals in our home or garden. We are also now learning to question the source of a product and look into how and where it is made and stopping to think whether we need it.”
In April 2021, the LIGA concept store was opened in Fowey, their first own-label shop. Set in a Grade II listed building, once a medieval bakery, the store was designed to showcase their entire collection spanning 400 products alongside other inspirational, sustainable guest brands, including Swole Panda, Thought, Weaver Green, Luks Linen, Helen Round and Green & Blue. The brand’s home fragrance range is handmade by a candlemaker in the store’s basement workshop. LIGA has grown rapidly since its launch, now employing a team of 40 people and over the past year has been featured in range of national media titles including The Times, Guardian, The Independent, Coast, You Magazine Country Living and BBC Good Food amongst many others.
“We have created our own ‘eco park’ just outside Truro with a renovated cow barn as our warehouse linked to a series of converted shipping containers, to provide us with all the office, showroom and storage space we need. We have used a lot of our sustainable cork in the design for both aesthetics and practicalities and the team love working in this unusual and quirky space, overlooking cabbage fields and Idless Woods,” muses Jennie.
Future plans see more exciting new product launches, the introduction of different types of sustainable materials for the brand and expansion into more global markets. LIGA have also recently signed up to work with ‘One percent for the planet’ to support projects that help repair the environment, to start to give back what has been taken.
“Exploring ways to make our daily home lives kinder to the planet is something we should all be working towards,” says Jennie, who is passionate about each of us considering our everyday choices. “We can all change one thing in our lives to be more eco positive and slowly but surely it will make an impact; but if we all jumped onboard and really gave eco-living our full attention, we could make a rapid difference, creating a better future for our children and coming generations. We want people to be curious, to want to learn more about an eco-living lifestyle, to be inspired and be ready for change.”