Mind The Cork | Jenny Espirito Santo
‘Everything is okay when you’re in nature. I think that definitely influences my design aesthetic that tends to be quite simple and minimalist.’
Jenny is the founder and designer behind contemporary & eco-friendly lifestyle brand mind the cork. She’s passionate about making things with cork, is inspired by nature and loves the simple things in life. From her London studio, she combines playful minimalism with sustainable materials to create products that are exciting, elegant and beautifully crafted.
We talk to Jenny about cork, what role nature plays in her business, her favourite way to unwind and what she loves most about running her own business. She also shares about the importance of community, having friends who believe in you in times of doubt and learning to be purposeful with her actions in everyday life.
words by Marjolyn Poutsma and Jenny Espirito Santo / images by Jenny Espirito Santo
It’s lovely to talk to you! Can you tell us a bit about your background and what inspired you to start your business mind the cork?
‘Thank you so much for inviting me to share a bit about my brand! I started mind the cork as a hobby and a bit of a side hustle actually. I graduated just after the big global economic recession; after interning and working as a junior designer in high-end residential interiors for a few years, I felt out of place and fell out of love with the industry.
I travelled around and tried a few different career paths, but in the end, I felt that if wanted to live and work in a more positive way, I would need to create a job for myself. Cork came into the picture because I’m half Portuguese – where the majority of cork oak trees grow – and already had an interest in the material for its potential use in product design. My aesthetic is naturally quite minimalist, and I wanted to explore the material to create contemporary products that were well crafted but still quite playful and understated.’
You obviously love making things with cork! What do you love so much about this material?
‘I’m a total cork fanatic! Instead of the crazy cat lady, I’m the crazy cork lady haha! I love cork because it is such a wonderfully sustainable material. Beyond its natural beauty, its environmental credentials are brilliant. Natural cork is an eco-friendly material that completely biodegrades or can be readily recycled without creating any significant secondary waste.’
Your planters are inspired by your desire to bring nature in. Does nature play an important role in your life and how does it inspire your work?
‘I think I’m naturally drawn to peaceful environments and often that is out in nature. Whether it’s going for a walk at the local park, walking on a beach or the countryside, or even being in water; I love that feeling of calmness and fluidity, which is a sort of safety net. Everything is okay when you’re in a nature. I think that definitely influences my design aesthetic that tends to be quite simple and minimalist.’
Do you have a favourite season in the year?
‘Autumn, without a doubt! I love a cosy life.’
From inspiration to finished piece – what does your creative process look like?
‘It really depends on what I’m working on. I create my own collections for mind the cork, and I also work with other brands and businesses on bespoke orders. It normally starts with an idea or a solution that I have in mind for something, followed by sketches, technical drawings and prototyping before I’m happy with the final design.’
What’s your bestseller and why do you think people like it so much?
‘The best seller of all time is the Atlas Hanging Planter. I think that’s because hanging plants are the absolute best! And this planter is really lightweight and naturally beautiful – it sits well in any interior to displaying a collection of hanging plants.’
Where do you work from? Is your workspace important for your creative process?
‘At the moment I mostly work at my studio, which is just about half an hour walk away from my apartment. When I’m going through big chunks of admin, I love to sit by the window in my living room at home, and do a bit of people (and bird – I’m on the third floor) watching. That’s probably my favourite spot to work from.’
Do you have any work in progress that you’d like to tell us about?
‘I’ve actually got something seasonal that just came out, the Botanical Cork Ornaments that are perfect for the Christmas tree. I think they’re really special for all the plant lovers out there, as they’re such a lovely alternative to plastic Christmas ornaments.’
What’s the best part of doing what you do?
‘When I created mind the cork, I set out to build a little corner of the world that was tailor made to my needs as a designer and as person. In my mind, that meant a focus on material and aesthetic. Over time I realised the best part of it actually went beyond the creative freedom, it was the opportunity to connect to people – customers, suppliers, collaborators, fellow business owners – who share similar values.’
Is there anything you struggle with as a small creative business owner?
‘Sometimes it feels like a lonely uphill battle. I wouldn’t have made it this far if it wasn’t for the lovely community of creatives and fellow small business owners, it’s an amazing support system.’
What are your other passions or interests?
‘Where do I start?! I love food and travelling but obviously haven’t been doing a lot of that during the past year or so. I’m a big fan of Sci-Fi – my favourite films are The Thing (1982) and Alien (1979), I also love Jaws (1975) – so all the warm and fuzzy Sunday afternoon films!
Politics is a big part of my life, I don’t think I ever spend a day without a political discussion of some sort. I also love starting craft projects, but am not the kind of person who ever finishes a project, unfortunately.’
What does slow living mean to you?
‘I think it starts with listening to my body and my intuition, then being purposeful with my everyday actions, however small. It’s so easy to become enveloped in the fast pace of life and reacting to everything that is thrown at us. I think this creates false needs and standards we set for ourselves. I still do it far too often! I’m training myself to stop, listen and act with intent and kindness.’
THE TOOL BOX
What materials/resources do you use?
‘Cork, of course. That’s it for the most part. As my business grows beyond a now woman band, my biggest and most precious resource are the people that help me create my work. I absolutely couldn’t do it without them.’
How do you get in the mood to work?
‘I really enjoy going into my studio, putting some music on, making a cup of coffee (second of the day) and planning for the day ahead.’
What’s in your mug beside you:
Which maker inspires you?
‘Oh, it feels impossible to choose, even a handful of them. Most of (if not all) my friends are artists, designers, makers or creative in some way. Most are women. I’m inspired by all the different ways we’ve been able to express ourselves creatively and create financial stability by persevering in doing what we love to do.’
How do you relax after work:
‘On a perfect day, an old episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. That’s my vice, haha! I’d love to say I go to yoga or an early evening hike. But no, I live in London and hate bad weather so I rush home and watch ridiculous TV shows – the world feels like a crazy place most of the time, this helps me escape for an hour or so.’
JENNY’S TRADE SECRET