It was a grey and drizzly morning in Huddersfield when I arrived at the towns famed train station, sodden and cold to the bone thanks to my long walk along the scenic canal from Milnsbridge. I climbed the stations’ entry steps hurriedly while simultaneously fumbling in my wet pockets, searching for the ticket that held the power to grant me the much needed access through the platform barriers. It’s true that I could have caught the bus into town and avoided all the hassle, I suppose, but In truth I should have done the sensible thing and checked the weather first. My bad.
Standing under the shelter at platform 2, thankful that the wind wasn’t blowing the rain sideways anymore, it wasn’t too long before a tired grumbling sound filled the air and a train crawled around the bend, looking just as tired as it sounded. Ever the worrier, I pedantically flipped between the train schedule on my phone and the schedule displayed above me on the screen, just to check that the times aligned and that it was most definitely my train. I had never ventured to this part of the station before.
Prior to now my journeys had always began on platform 4, where a fleet of modern trains regularly rolled up to whisk travelers off in the Leeds direction. Platform 2 only welcomes a train every hour so if my timings were off, I’d be in for a long cold wait.
The reason behind my venture along new tracks is to meet with Jaq Cook and Dave Christian, the creators behind the handmade wooden furniture brand; Positive Earth. And please, let us establish this now, don’t misinterpret the term handmade for something of a buzz word, and think that what I really mean is hand-finished. Because you would be terribly misdirected to do so. Unlike many other homegrown furniture brands, Positive Earth does not simply embellish existing wooden pieces of furniture to then sell on. Oh no; when I tell you that positive earth is handmade, I mean it is handmade. Every single bespoke item is designed by Jaq, made by Dave, and sourced from local wood.
I had briefly met with Jaq and Dave a few weeks earlier, and found them delightfully intriguing. It was then that I had been introduced to Positive Earth, and I only wish it had been sooner. I’ve lived in Huddersfield for coming up 5 years now and hadn’t ever crossed paths with the brand before, despite my tiptoeing around the towns eco-circles. On paper I knew for sure that Positive Earth was right up my alley, and in person the passion and energy that Jaq and Dave so clearly imbued into their work fascinated me. I just had to find out more. So, I jumped at the chance then and there to express my interest in learning more about their fascinating eco-brand. And after a couple of weeks of back and forth messaging, here I was, boarding the train.
After brushing off the crumbs and taking a perch on a nearby window seat, I popped on my headphones and settled into the train ride. The Journey itself was pleasant enough. There wasn’t much to look at in between whizzing under bridges, speeding through dark-as-night tunnels, and stopping here and there at quaint stations along the way to pick up a handful of commuters; there was just stretches of mud and grass that rolled off indefinitely into the mists of the hills beyond. I expect that it would be a glorious sight to behold on a sunny day, but unfortunately the rotten weather had robbed me of that experience. Nonetheless, it was equally nothing short of cinematic. *Ping* goes my phone, interrupting a moment of Miley Cyrus’s rendition of Summertime Sadness, might I add (how fitting). It was a friend organising the next day’s gym session, but the abrupt interruption jogged my mind; I needed to text Jaq and let her know I was en-route.
15 minutes or so passed and my station stop was up. I gathered my things and rushed to press the exit button. Shuddering as a sharp gust of wind took advantage of the opening doors, I stepped off the train. “Oh, hello” I laugh, with a surprised undertone in my voice. “I’ve never been greeted on the actual platform before.” Standing across from me, bundled up in her coat and gloves, her long blonde dreadlocks imitating the effect of a scarf, Jaq beams a friendly smile back at me and laughs, “come on, the car’s just up the road.” Once buckled in, we set off on the final leg of the journey – a short 10 minute drive up a few hills, around a couple of bends, and through some lanes to our final destination; The Positive Earth Workshop. Any and all pleasantries were short and sweet during the ride, not out of rudeness, but I didn’t want to spoil the meaty conversation that was ahead of us. “Thanks for this lift,” I say gratefully. “I would have walked but, I don’t know my way around these parts.” “Oh no worries,” Jaq replies nonchalantly, “and I wouldn’t want to walk from the station today. It’s a good walk, but it would be a long walk in this weather.” I cast a grim look at the weather beaten country road beyond the window, and nodded in agreement with a slowly drawn-out “Hmmm”.
Just as we pulled up outside of the workshop, which was attached to a neighboring house and overlooked the view of the Emely Moor Mast, Jaq turned to me quickly; “your not scared or allergic to dogs are you? Because we have one. A big one, but he’s as soft as a brush.” I laughed, “No, no, I am good with dogs, don’t worry about it. I love them.” I unbuckled and stepped out of the car. The wind had picked up considerably, but Jaq had warned me prior that this location seemed to almost have its own climate, thanks to being so far up, and so far out of the way. The workshops shutter doors rattled in the wind, and clanged a little louder as Jaq gave them a tap. Almost instantaneously the shutters glided upwards to reveal a rugged looking man holding a piece of wood in one hand while restraining a beast of a dog in the other. The wind blew a storm with the debris of dust and wood shavings that strewn the workshop floor. The man called out, his voice struggling against the wind, “get in quickly.” The dog began barking relentlessly, the mental shutters clanged back into place, and the dust re-settled.
“Oh, it’s horrid out there,” Jaq exclaimed, rubbing her hands together. “Tom, this is Dave, Dave this is Tom. And this is the blade of the dog.” While stepping forward to pet the dog, I greeted Dave with a smile and a nod, “Hi there, you alright?, he replied “yeah not bad thanks.” While Jaq and Dave caught up with one another, I took in the space around me, and it was what you’d expect of a workshop; quite cold, despite the gas heater that was burning away behind me, and full with lengths of wood mixed with multiple Jenga piles of pieces and off cuts that were hidden towards the back of the workshop, away from a variety of manual and electric powered machinery. Laying at my feet, on its side, was a large wooden cabinet adorned with 10 hooks, a toyboy bench, and some open shelving. “That’s something we’ve almost finished, it’s a coat rack with spaces to put your shoes.” Dave said as I reached out to feel it. The surface was smooth. “You’ve made this yourself” I gasp. “Yeah, It just needs some more staining, then it’s done. Ready to go to the customer.” I couldn’t believe it. The quality was amazing, not so much as a misguided scratch, dent, or wonkily cut piece in sight. It was waxed, sanded, and molded to perfection. And all made out of natural local wood, sourced sustainably from right here in Huddersfield. This is what local hard work and quality looked like.
Surprisingly, the workshop also had an attic space. “Wow, these are steep steps” I exclaimed, climbing up them almost vertically. The attic was just an attic, it was used to store bits and pieces of stock. “It’s really an overflow space” Jaq told me while she gathered three meditation stools for us to sit on. They weren’t the most luxurious of seats to sit upon, and they weren’t meant to be either, but they were sturdy, solid, and practical – much like their creators; Jaq and Dave themselves. As we got talking, the wind howled. The noise whirled around the three of us as we sat in conversation. Soon enough, Blade began to bark downstairs, and after being spooked by the loud clanging of the shutters, he came bounding up to join our gathering. To hear our conversation in full, head over to SDO The Podcast on Apple Podcast or Spotify, and click on Series 1: Episode 2. It’s a long conversation, and in it we discuss everything from how Jaq and Dave came together to build Positive Earth, what the eco business currently is, and what the future of it might look like, to Jaq’s talents within the arts of Reiki, pyrography and meditation, as well as the couples mutual passion for mental health and well-being.
Once the conversation was over, and soon after farewells had been bid, I was back standing on platform 2 of Huddersfield’s train station. The wind and rain had died down considerably during my time away, and my mind was left clear to mull over the experience. Fumbling through my now dry pockets for the ticket that would grant me my exit, I thought about what the key takeaway from my meeting with Jaq and Dave was. It didn’t take long to come to a conclusion.
The takeaway is to nourish and harness your passion, whether it be a passion to grow your own food, to live more sustainably, to make your own clothes, or to venture into the world of business with whatever it is that gets you up in the morning. Your passion is your power, and with a bit of hard work, your passion will create your reality.
Till next time,