In the bathroom of Ella Martin
Meet Ella Martin, a fashion graduate with an intent focus on textile waste recovery. Her work is focused within the social enterprise space - a love song to women and the power of intent. With interests that range from upcycling to fashion to education and a deep devotion to sustainability and community work, her thoughts on creating space, care and collective change make for an insightful read.
This is the first interview in a series centred around the bathroom, covering topics including the idea of home, the creative process and the meaning of sustainable living.
Tell us a bit about what you do to make a living.
I work for an organisation which delivers education to a variety of groups, including migrant women affected by domestic violence. I work in a funded role alongside the social enterprise arm, which is an op shop, and alterations and upcycling workshop. I teach sewing to these clients and the community and work in other collaborative and digital methods to deliver information about textile waste recovery. I come from a fashion production background and studied fashion design and sustainability.
Why do you care about sustainability? And what does it mean to you?
Sustainability isn’t really something I have had to develop a care for. It has been ingrained in me by my family - which is a notable privilege because seeking to learn these sustainability concepts as a busy adult would be much more laborious. Sustainability to me means everything - environmental sustainability, but also personal sustainability - setting up habits that you can maintain while being well. And these can both be best achieved and maintained by having sustainable local and central governmental and grassroots systems which support the development of these goals and habits - including supporting businesses.
What else interests you outside of your work?
I love to spend my free time doing things toward sustainable ends for enrichment. Volunteering with Koha Apparel, the West Auckland Resource Centre or Repair Cafe, mending my clothes, or, most of the time, recharging with my friends and family so that I can best maintain my habits. I stay politically engaged as much as possible, learning about new concepts and points of view to guide my decisions. I love to op shop in search of beautiful and useful items for my home.
And at home. What makes a home comfortable for you?
As a creative person, an important feature of a comfortable home is beauty. This has been easy living with my friends from fashion school, and we have thrived in setting up our beautiful spaces to hold us. Designing sustainable systems into our space from day one has meant we are able to enjoy them, the mundane joy of transferring food waste to the bin outside for composting. Kind people who seek joy are best for a comfortable home also.
How would you describe your home? And how do you feel the bathroom sits in relation to the other rooms? Is there intimacy or not?
Our home is a little dream cottage that we were so pleased to get. It is very humble but beautiful. It sits tall on a patch of grass, surrounded by trees and is filled with light. Our bathroom is at the top level and is a little haven - it came with a beautiful little tub and a skylight to peek up at the trees. It is one of the most inviting rooms in our home for this reason.
Your bathroom. What do you like about it, or not? Can you change it, and if not, describe your ideal bathroom?
What I like about our bathroom is that it has everything we may need in the smallest space practical - I think everything should be this way. We rent this house, so we work with it to make it as useful as possible. A little more space for storage could be practical, but it helps us to keep our unnecessary products and purchases to a minimum, as less things mean less work and waste.
What decisions do you make at home, in your life, that you feel are sustainable?
Every new year I pick a few habits I will try and maintain throughout the year - in 2021, it was to start buying refill products and recycle soft plastics. In 2022 it was to find a composting system that I will maintain. These have been successful so far, considering monetary and time constraints, which is a point of joy and pride. These are in contrast - or perhaps to balance - other decisions I make, such as driving more than I would like to. I have a deep love for the bus system, but I have not used it much this year due to my working situation and keeping that time for recharging. This is one of my major goals to amend in 2023.
There’s a lot of talk about personal action regarding climate. What do you think businesses could do better? What change would you like to see in the world?
The change I would like to see is for us, collectively, to start to reap the benefits of our labour and innovation. The intention of automation, system efficiency and skills is to reduce our work and increase our time for pleasure, in theory. We don’t want to support people with social systems such as universal basic income, so we create new labour that needn’t exist - creating a new iteration of a white sneaker or SUV. Imagine if we were to eliminate all unnecessary businesses and half production, still meet all our needs and become happier. The climate impact would be immeasurable!
We can’t show up for our community or causes if we don’t care for ourselves. How do you take care of yourself?
I have always been a worker at heart, and over the past two years, that focus has been put into progressing the social causes I believe in. It is only in the past year that I have truly believed in the necessity of caring for myself in order to make my work good- and at this stage, this is my biggest justification for taking care of myself. I love to spend time with my family up north and with my partner and flatmates, and friends. We play board games and eat food that isn’t in our budget. I am getting back into films and reading. When I get the space to be creative, I love to upcycle textiles just for the challenge.