Sustainable Design Interview: Striving to be a zero waste business

Kerri Hollingsworth is the director of an.ti.quate, an Australian brand that creates quality upholstery designs with an environmentally conscious mind.  We first became aware of her extraordinary upholstery work and business ethos when selecting exhibitors for our Trend Tours at the Australian International Furniture Fair last year.  Her stand was a favourite stop on the tour and visitors loved hearing about her journey.  an.ti.quate went on to win the ‘Best Small Stand’ award at the show.  Kerri also presented fascinating talks about how she strives to have a zero waste business as part of our ‘She Says…’ seminar series feature on the Trend Hub at the show.  Sustainability, the re-use of waste materials and recycling all play key roles in her creative process.  The business was born from a love of upholstery and interior design, but it’s how the an.ti.quate story unfolds that makes it so inspirational.  And we’re delighted Kerri has agreed to share her story with us in this guest post…

3 years ago, I was a flight attendant running an upholstery business on the side, as a hobby. One day my life changed. I started learning more about landfill statistics. It horrified me to know that as a society we were mass producing, single-use and quite often unnecessary “junk”. And, I too—in certain areas—was contributing to the escalating numbers.

The more I educated myself, the more frustrated I became. I reflected on my life, my career path; my everyday choices and the impact I was having on the world. Eventually, the overwhelm I felt around how unjust the environmental situation was, flicked a switch inside me. I decided to embark on a 12-month challenge to not buy anything new for a whole year. I took stocktake of my home to become aware of where I could cut down on plastic use. I finished off whatever products I had and made the conscious decision not to replenish certain items like cling wrap or detergents after that. I started making my own personal care and general cleaning products to reduce my landfill contribution. I used glass where possible and refused non-recyclables.

Within 12 months, my partner, baby Betty and I moved to our farm in Cathedral Ranges in Central Victoria, Australia. Living surrounded by nature only ignited my eco-mindset further. As time passed, my inner state became more peaceful, and I felt happier just by being more conscious of the impact I was having on the earth.

Despite my efforts, I felt a niggle in my heart. I felt ‘stuck’ in my upholstery business. This new way of living meant that my company was no longer aligned with my new perspective and beliefs. I needed to take massive action. I knew the answer, but it was daunting. But if I didn’t make a step toward becoming a zero waste business, I wasn’t going to sleep at night.

Zero-waste-business sounds impressive, right? I definitely romanticised the idea in my mind. As I began planning how I would actually do this, I realised how hard it actually was. You see, as you become more aware of how many products use non-biodegradable or eco-friendly packaging, the green-thumb honeymoon period fizzles pretty quickly.

Of course, that didn’t stop me. This was really important to me. I was determined to find a way. While it hasn’t been easy, I am definitely on my way. The an.ti.quate Upholstery Art business I run today is aligned with who I am and what I value in the world. It amazes me how it grew from a tiny spark of madness urging me to determine where I could cut down on waste in upholstery and find an alternative.

ABOVE: ‘Numero Uno’ – the very first wingback chair in Kerri’s ‘Upholstery Art Collection’.  

ABOVE 4 images: ‘Autumn’ in progress and completed.  The Autumn chair has been designed with the whole lifecycle in mind.  It’s 100% biodegradable: made from 100% compostable New Zealand wool fabric, coconut fibre, hessian & cotton batting for the internal build, and the weave itself is created from wool, mohair & alpaca yarns, raffia, natural fibre fabric scraps and jute twine.

You’ll often find me in my workshop searching through piles of fabric scraps, trim offcuts and yarn. Who knew they’d work so harmoniously together and that this eco-friendly business idea would light me up in the way that it does. an.ti.quate has given me the opportunity to express myself more creatively as previously, it was a lot of grey sofas.

Nature is my muse when it comes to inspiration for colours and designs. The more I pay attention to her, the more beauty I see in the world. 

Currently, I’m working on a ‘theatre room’ project for a client, where I’m creating sentimental pieces using loved one’s clothing and belongings. It’s given upholstery art a whole new meaning. To be able to create something so captivating with mostly ‘scrap’ material—that normally would end up as landfill—is such a wonderful feeling. While, zero waste is what I will always strive for, on a more personal level, creating sentimental one-off pieces that bring my clients’ so much joy is absolutely what I’m here for!

Before taking the leap into my own style and owning my uniqueness, I never could have imagined the feeling of wholeness I currently feel from my work. Listening to the ideas that would ‘drop in’ and giving them the time and energy they needed to develop, has shifted an.ti.quate from part time hobby to a true passion of which I am so incredibly proud. They say when you choose a job you love you will never work a day in your life – it is completely true and I am living it!

ABOVE: ‘Valerie’

ABOVE: ‘Huxley’

ABOVE: ‘Penelope’ – a peacock-inspired piece with a deeply textured back panel made partially from recycled jumpers.

Our sincere thanks to Kerri for sharing her creative journey with us.  Her approach of having equal respect for the environment, the materials she uses, the creative process, her clients and the final product acts as a great example to all of us in the design community.  Through her lifestyle and business choices Kerri shows how each of us making better, more considered choices can positively impact the environment…and no doubt improve our personal wellbeing too.  As the drive towards living more sustainable lifestyles and ethical consumerism strengthens it is important that as consumers we support designer/makers with these values and also place these values at the core of our own work.

♥ You can keep in contact with Kerri via her website (and blog)

♥ Be inspired by her Insta feed

♥ Keep up-to-date with her current projects on facebook (which includes some great videos)

♥ Or email Kerri directly:    

Finally, our thanks to Aaron from The AC Image whose spectacular photos of Kerri’s chairs feature in this post.



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