In furniture, calling yourselves British manufacturers can encompass a range of practices – from making your pieces from raw materials under one roof, to importing finished products from overseas and ‘badging’ them as a British brand because they’re designed in, or managed from, the UK.
We don’t do this.
So we’d like to explain how and why we do things the way we do – because they’re fundamental to what MARK is, and what you get when you buy our furniture.
When we started MARK back in 2007, the whole point – our drive, our vision, what brought us together – was to manufacture locally. Not because we’re xenophobes and blindly think ‘British is best’. But because we believe both creativity and quality come about through close working relationships.
We like to work with the people who make our products in a very hands-on way. As makers and designers working together, we can come up with creative solutions together, solve problems and insist on the best quality.
To us, it’s not just an order, but a close, active, ongoing collaboration.
We make the majority of our products here in Cornwall. We compliment this with parts from further afield in the UK, if the expertise isn’t available on our doorstep.
But a few components do come from outside of the UK, where there’s a good reason.
These include the wooden slats for our Verso III outdoor chairs, which are machined at source in Indonesia using accredited timbers, and the beech plyform seat and back for Verso I and II again sourced close to the material source in Germany, from the acknowledged experts.
Essentially, quality always comes first. Most of the time that means local, for the reasons above. But we’re pragmatic not pigheaded. So if it’s better – for the product, for you – coming from source internationally, that’s what we’ll do. We’re always transparent, so you’ll always know what’s what.
We work with all our partners and suppliers to ensure our materials are sourced in the most sustainable way possible. Amongst our many clients, we’re proud to have made furniture for the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), meeting their exacting standards for sustainable production – and apply the same standards to everything we make.
We mainly use temperate hardwoods from sustainable forestry in Europe and North America. Except for our outdoor furniture, which is made with Iroko and Teak – tropical hardwoods chosen for their durability – for which we have an FSC-certified supply.
Our steel wire and tube products are made from mild steel with a minimum 87% recycled content (average 95%).
We only recommend upholstery fabrics from reputable suppliers who take their environmental responsibilities seriously. Of our three main suppliers, two are UK companies manufacturing in the UK.
The third is a Danish company that also manufactures many of their woollen fabrics in UK mills.
Foam is used widely in the industry, but we’re working hard to reduce our reliance on it, as it’s oil-derived and non-recyclable. While cotton is a natural material, it also has a very high water and energy footprint – and is usually the product of intensive agriculture.
So we work to offer alternatives. We offer polyester as an alternative filling material; although it’s an oil-derived material, it’s also fully recyclable.
Chemicals used in furniture finishes can have significant environmental impacts; polluting air, ground and water; and using water and fossil-derived resources. We use three main finishes that we’ve selected for their environmental benefits over the alternatives:
We use galvanising as a pre-treatment for our outdoor steel products. Galvanising is the process of applying zinc to mild steel to provide it with a strong and protective coating that lasts for up to 100 years. Zinc is an abundant non-toxic metal and can be recycled indefinitely without losing any physical or chemical properties. Importantly, galvanised coatings are recyclable, giving the steel an almost continuous life span.
2. Powder Coating
We use powder coating for all our painted metal furniture. Powder coating offers clear environmental advantages to the alternative solvent-borne liquid paint finishes. Less hazardous waste is emitted, with no release of VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) which are hazardous to human health.
One application is required to gain the average thickness for a coating compared to the two or three that would be necessary for a liquid paint.
Therefore not only is the amount of paint required less but excess powder or overspray can be collected and recycled so there is no waste. This is particularly important for a product such as the Net chair or Six coatstand which would generate 60-70% waste if wet sprayed.
The powder coating process uses a solvent free mix of plastic resins, pigments, and fillers. It is a long lasting finish, and at the end of life is easily removed in the steel recycling process.
3. Timber finishing
We only use oiled finishes on our timber furniture. We believe this offers a superior, deeper finish to the more common lacquered finishes. It also has environmental advantages. Our finishing oil is derived from plant parts and is a penetrating finish that seeps into the wood pores rather than building a protective film on the surface of the wood. Oiled finishes are more forgiving of scratches and can be easily reapplied over the life of an item.