At work with: Grain & Knot

For our first 'At work with' of 2021, we caught up with Sophie Sellu of Grain & Knot. We discuss how Grain & Knot came into fruition, healthy working routines during lockdown life and the ever present inspiration of nature in Sophie's work.
Sophie Sellu from Grain & Knot
Grain & Knot London

Grain & Knot create beautiful handmade objects for the home, all made with reclaimed timber. Founder, Sophie Sellu created the brand in 2014 after she discovered her love for woodwork. Her pieces have an organic quality to them and happen to be both useful and beautiful. Last year, Sophie was nominated as ‘one to watch’ in Homes & Gardens Design Awards and won the first ever independent awards in the Modern Crafter category in December 2020.

Due to England’s new lockdown measures, we were unable to visit in person, so we asked Sophie to share a snippet of her working life with us. From the value of scent to the inspiring lines in nature, we talk through how Grain & Knot began and the exciting projects coming up throughout 2021.

Grain & Knot collection

Can you tell us a little about your career journey and what lead to you starting Grain & Knot?

I started woodwork at school, and loved the process of making something physical. In later life I was working in trend forecasting and concept design and found myself in an unfulfilled creative path. As a way to increase my creativity I tried loads of different one-day workshops from screen-printing, pottery and woodcarving. I was instantly hooked on woodcarving and things escalated quite quickly. I was made redundant from my concept design job, which was my second redundancy in 2 years so decided to create my own path. Grain and Knot started as a place to document my carving journey and within a year I was working on it full-time. I started selling my own products and teaching carving workshops. The last 8 years really have flown by! I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Sustainable carpentry - Grain & Knot

What continues to inspire you in nature, particularly your main raw material – wood?

There’s nothing more I love than spending time outside. I’m hyper aware of my surroundings and look forward to the changes that note the turn in the seasons. Even in the city there is so much to notice and take in. I look forward to my daily walks so much with Stanley and happy to do so in any weather. The different timbers I use all vary so much, and it fascinates me that the wood grain can vary even from the same tree.

I’m currently working a lot with spalted timbers. Spalting occurs naturally in certain timbers and causes black lines to run through the surface of the grain. It’s such a beautiful detail that cannot be rushed. It can take years for timber to spalt, and I love the fact that it’s slow. Trees take so long to grow so I always want to mimic that in my work and never rush my creations.

Grain & Knot Founder

As we move into a third UK lockdown, how do you manage a healthy working routine?

I’ve never really had a healthy work routine! Around 3 years ago I moved from a workshop in Bermondsey to a workshop space in my home, which was a really great step, but I struggled with it at the time. I go through phases of completely overworking to days where I don’t make anything at all, so having a space I can pop-in and out of during my day is really beneficial. With creativity coming in waves I run with it when I can and allow myself time off without feeling guilty. I’m really lucky that I genuinely love what I do so when I am working it’s usually a joyful experience.

Grain & Knot Interior

What value does scent have in your home or workspace?

Whenever someone visits my studio they always mention the smell! Earthy, wood scents that I guess I’m used to now. It’s so interesting that certain timbers have different smells and it’s quite a skill to be able to differentiate them. The classic cedar is so beautiful, but walnut also smells wonderful when it’s cut. When I’m clearing up the mess from the day before I always light a candle or have incense burning almost as a cleaning ritual to begin my day.

Grain & Knot Collection

Are you currently reading anything?

Whilst I work, I tend to listen to podcasts and am currently really invested in Louis Theroux’s podcast, ‘Grounded’ and really look forward to each episode – likewise with the Adam Buxton podcast. I always have something on in the background when I’m working and it’s nice to hear genuine conversations – especially when I spend so much time alone!

Woodwork with Grain & Knot

Can you tell us a bit about the sustainable aspect of your business?

All the timber I use is either reclaimed or sustainably sourced. Recently we have come into ownership of a tree that was brought down in the recent storm Bella. From what we can tell, it’s almost 200 years old, so we have a great responsibility to use it to its full potential. We will use as much of it as possible to create beautiful objects, also giving some to other woodworkers that we know for a really special project that we are working on. I use offcuts from other woodworkers and I also pass my offcuts onto a jewellery maker. Any wood chips are put into the compost bin to go back into the earth. I’m also looking forward to working with various tree-planting charities in the next few years to put back what we use.

At work with: Grain & Knot

What are your plans for 2021?

For 2021 I’m looking more into my impact and the ways that I can give back. I’ve plans to work on a project from one tree with a group of woodworks to create as many beautiful objects as possible. I’m also pushing my work into more of a sculptural direction. Alongside all this I am also setting down roots to write my book. It’s going to be a rather long project that probably won’t be ready for at least another year but I’m really excited for the challenge.
Grain & Knot Workspace

When your day of work is done, how do you wind down in the evenings?

I love cooking, so usually wind down by making really nice meals, especially in lockdown. I’ve enjoyed the small moments to do something special. The end of the evening is usually spent with my whippet, Stanley, on my lap and I couldn’t ask for a better lockdown friend.

What is your favourite Evermore scent & why?

I love Moon! It’s so rich and warming and I love that the entire house smells amazing. Not only does it burn beautifully, it also makes my workshop smell great, even when it’s not lit.

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– Images taken in lockdown by Sophie and her boyfriend.