Interest in well-designed household object has helped revitalize age-old companies the world over, including the humble wood-and-bristle brush trade. Take, for instance, Iris Hantverk, an in-demand, century-old Swedish company that employs visually impaired artisans to make its brooms and tub scrubbers. Then there is R. Russell of Buckinghamshire, England, a business established in 1840 in an outhouse attached to the Plough Public House in Chesham.
Charles Russell was caring for brewery horse and selling beer when he decided to try his hand at crafting brushes, a popular local trade. Today the operation—no long in the outhouse—is the oldest family-owned business in town. It's run by sixth generation descendants of Russell's who continue to craft brushes by hand that are made to last.
Just as designers Margaret Howell and Karl Lagerfeld have helped renew interest in Scotland's textile mills, UK home goods purveyors Objects of Use and Labour & Wait, among others, are putting long-established manufacturers like R. Russell back on the map.
Above: At the turn of the century, Chesham was known for brush making with over 12 companies in the town; today R. Russell is the last remaining manufacturer. Shown here, its bristle samples in a range of shades.
Above: You can also order brushes directly through R. Russell. The company's promise: "We consider no order too small or too large and our personal attention is assured at all times. All enquiries will be handled personally with prompt attention to insure a positive outcome. Be assured over 160 years continuing service in the trade is at your disposal."
Above: From Objects of Use, the R. Russell Dustpan No. 1, £8.50, is made of black-painted steel with a loop handle for single-handed use. The Hand Broom No. 1, £8.50, is also made by R. Russell and currently being restocked; contact Objects of Use for availability.