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121 Claire O’Sullivan and Kitty Wilson Brown: Contemporary Hempery

Circular Economy Podcast episode 121 - Kitty Wilson Brown and Claire O'Sullivan of Contemporary Hempery

Claire O’Sullivan and Kitty Wilson Brown are two inspiring people who are passionate about the properties and potential of hemp, especially for textiles. Their journey together led them to found a UK business, Contemporary Hempery. Hemp has amazing potential, for a wide range of products, and it’s brilliant for regenerative farming practices – so why aren’t we doing more with it? It’s useful as a textile, in construction, in food and personal care products, and as an alternative to plastic. It’s one of the earliest cultivated plants in our history – but although cultivation is increasing and being encouraged by the European Union, elsewhere it’s a different picture.

Kitty and Claire outline some of the uses of hemp across different sectors, about the little-known history of hemp growing in the UK, and some of the ways it was used – many of them absolutely essential to our industrial evolution. We’ll also hear about some of the current issues, in terms of hemp production and processing.

Kitty and Claire also share the story of how they came together, the amazing coincidences that sparked their interest and what drove them to start Contemporary Hempery, to embark on this long and complex journey to rescue hemp for regenerative, contemporary textiles. 

International speaker, author and strategic advisor, Catherine Weetman helps people discover why circular, regenerative and fair solutions are better for people, planet – and prosperity.

Catherine’s award-winning book: A Circular Economy Handbook: How to Build a More Resilient, Competitive and Sustainable Business includes lots of practical examples and tips on getting started. 

Stay in touch for free insights and updates… 

Read on for more on our guest and links to the people, organisations and other resources we mention.

 Don’t forget, you can subscribe to the podcast series on iTunes, Google Podcasts, PlayerFM, Spotify, TuneIn, or search for “circular economy” in your favourite podcast app.  Stay in touch to get free insights and updates, direct to your inbox…

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Links we mention in the episode:

Links for our guest:

Businesses using hemp:

  • hempen.org– fantastic not for profit who consult on hemp growing and produce the best organic complete cold pressed CBD
  • wakelyns.co.uk– longest established organic agroforestry site in Europe, where Contemporary Hempery is growing hemp
  • margentfarm.com– farm in Cambridgeshire, house built of hemp now producing hemp architectural products
  • Harrison Spinks beds, they are doing fantastic work with hemp https://www.harrisonspinks.co.uk/
  • Hempwood organic flooring hempwood.com
  • Bespoke sunglasses and optical eyewear handmade in UK hempeyewear.com
  • Largest hemp farm in the UK currently: East Yorkshire Hemp, specialist hemp growers since 2002 eastyorkshirehemp.co.uk
  • Alliance for hemp and flax growers, showing just how much other countries in Europe are growing, and getting away from us due to restrictive UK government policies allianceflaxlinenhemp.eu
  • Hemp clothing in the UK, from www.baukjen.com and www.babbleandhemp.com

Books, people and organisations we mentioned

Guest bios

Claire O’Sullivan, co-founder of Contemporary Hempery is a studio jeweller with an MA in Entrepreneurship for Creative Practice. Her interest is in the place where art and commerce meet, and in processes which take raw material to product. Claire’s involvement in hemp sprung from a sense of place, living in the centre of what was once the centre of a thriving and economically important hemp growing and processing industry.

Kitty Wilson Brown, co-founder of Contemporary Hempery is a textile artist and weaver. Kitty graduated BA at Chelsea College of Art, UAL in June 2021. She studied weaving in Tokyo and completed an internship at the Liverpool Weaving Company. Her work is focused on sustainability. Kitty grows flax, hemp and natural dye plants for her work and is co-founder of Contemporary Hempery.

Playlist: getting started with the circular economy…

Want to know more about the what the circular economy really is, and how it can help your business?  Here’s a playlist to help you get to grips with the concept, how it creates value, and the common myths (spoiler alert – it’s much more than recycling!)

  • #1 What is the circular economy: A quick intro to explain what the circular economy is and why it’s important. We explore how it helps create better products and services, and at the same time helps to make a better world. I break it down into my 5 circular economy components, helping you think about each part of your business.
  • #2 The linear economy and your risk checklist: We dig a bit deeper into the way we do business now, the linear economy, and why that’s creating problems for business, society and our living planet. Also, we’ll look at the risks that emerge from those big-picture issues, and how they might affect your organisation.
  • #90 Does circular mean it’s sustainable? Does circular mean it’s sustainable? Catherine Weetman is worried that companies are using circular economy solutions to grow their business (and their footprints).
  • #101 Circular is better for people, planet and profit! How three simple strategies can help you get started with circular and regenerative solutions that are better for people, planet and profit.
  • #120 Priorities are changing: people find life is better when we care for and share things – circular economy strategies make that better for business, too.

And here’s Catherine’s guide: What is the circular economy? 

Want to dig deeper?

Why not buy Catherine’s award-winning book, A Circular Economy Handbook: How to Build a More Resilient, Competitive and Sustainable Business. This comprehensive guide uses a bottom-up, practical approach, and includes hundreds of real examples from around the world, to help you really ‘get’ the circular economy.  Even better, you’ll be inspired with ideas to make your own business more competitive, resilient and sustainable. 

Please let us know what you think of the podcast – and we’d love it if you could leave us a review on iTunes, or wherever you find your podcasts.  Or send us an email

Please let us know what you think of the podcast – and we’d love it if you could leave us a review on iTunes, or wherever you find your podcasts.  Or send us an email

Podcast music

Thanks to Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow, otherwise known as the brilliant, inventive and generous folk duo, O’Hooley & Tidow for allowing me to use the instrumentals from the live version of Summat’s Brewin’ as music for the podcast. You can find the whole track (inspired by the Copper Family song “Oh Good Ale”) on their album, also called Summat’s Brewin’.  Or, follow them on Twitter.

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