A former Cornwall art, design and technology teacher is turning her passion for creativity into a new business that transforms beach and leisure waste into unique handmade accessories.
Kate Doran gives old wetsuits, inflatables and inner tubes that may otherwise end up in landfill a new lease of life by upcycling them into amazing one-of-a-kind objects such as bags, purses and mouse mats. The 38-year-old, from Mount Hawke near Redruth, left her classroom career to launch Flotsam Flo after suffering a brain haemorrhage that made her re-evaluate her life and priorities. Named in memory of her late grandmother Flo – Kate’s business is going from strength to strength.
It received the Judges Commendation Award in the ‘circular economy’ category at the 2022 Cornwall Sustainability Awards, while Biffa has gifted her a large office to use as a studio at its recycling depot in Redruth after she outgrew her current workshop. Kate is also supported by a business mentor.
And she now has even more access to the material she needs following the placement of Flotsam Flo-branded wheelie bins at several holiday park sites. Items she makes will then be sold in the park shops. Her products can also be found in online shop Etsy.
Kate said: “After my brain haemorrhage in 2019, I decided life was too short not to do things you truly love. It changed my whole perception and outlook on life. I’ve lived in Cornwall all my life, so looking after nature and the environment have always been very important to me. I used to sew as a kid, worked with reclaimed fabrics at uni, and taught textiles at school, so decided to combine everything into a new venture. I started off using material I found, and then reached out to the local community on social media and people began sending me items to practice with, and it’s just grown from there. This time last year I was making things but didn’t know how to run a business. Now I have an amazing mentor, Clive Kessell, and a wonderful new studio at Biffa in Redruth. I really can’t thank everyone enough for their support. Everything that’s happening right now is just incredible. My gran’s not with us anymore, but I think she would be really proud."
Kate will be giving demonstrations of her work at the Royal Cornwall Show in June.
Peter Giddings, Biffa’s General Manager for Cornwall, said: “I’ve been in the waste and recycling industry for 25 years, and supporting Kate has been one of the highlights of my career. We share the same vision of a world where waste is re-used or recycled as much as possible, so it made perfect sense for us to work together more closely; but I still can’t quite grasp how she can look at a wetsuit and visualise what she’s going to turn it into!. Some of the items she makes would not look out-of-place in a high-end department store. They’re that good. I’ve never seen anything like it. She’s truly inspirational.”