We met this incredible pair through two serendipitous encounters and have admired and enjoyed their individual and collective creations ever since.
Hayley and Nathan Maker are responsible for the beautiful No Guts No Glory in Exeter. Becca Allen is a freelance designer and illustrator and has worked with the likes of Habitat Collection and Moon Magic.
Together with Nathan Maker, Hayley and Becca launched Sacred Grounds in 2018 in Exeter City Centre. We quizzed them on all things collaborative.
Hi you wonderful pair! Will you share with us a mini timeline of the key milestone moments in your working relationship?
[HAYLEY] We met way back in 2010 when Becca was living in Falmouth I think, and I had just moved back to Devon to help Nathan with some aspects of running No Guts No Glory. I’d heard so much about Becca, as she was so involved in the very start of No Guts No Glory - screen-printing the first t-shirts in her garage with Nathan, she sounded like a total legend so I couldn’t wait to meet her. The first conversation we had was a chat about business goals and our creative friendship just blossomed from there on.
We’ve worked together on so many different projects, from the very beginning of our working relationship designing and sign-writing for businesses, we’ve pretty much branded most of Fore Street between us, we’d meet up in cafe’s to come up with the best puns for the notorious NGNG t-shirts! We’ve done so much together, like decking out and helping Becca open up her studio workshop in her Penryn AirB&B, I even (proudly) provided the blooms for Becca's wedding, whilst starting a floristry business just after I’d had Edie, and because we understand and connect with each other on an aesthetic level it was the most fun job I ever had as a florist, with zero stress even though I was running around after a little toddler at the time!
The most significant milestone has to be working on Sacred Grounds together, it was just so awesome that Becca agreed to team up with Nathan and I on this project, and we haven’t looked back since.
It’s a total dream to wake up most days and communicate new ideas and really look at all the tiny details that can make up an experience - hashing out all those teensy details gives us both such pleasure - it’s all about the things that you don’t notice, right? It’s really incredible to think that we can now offer our distinct collaborated style for people to experience in the cafe space. Becca and I have always connected on a much deeper level and that’s what makes our collaborations so special, we always manage to weave in those elements of our lifestyles that are really part of who we are and I think that’s why the cafe especially feels like such a personal yet open space.
Sacred Grounds is a recent collaboration between the two of you and Nathan Maker. How did this project come about? When and how did the initial idea occur? How did it evolve into something collective? What’s the intention for Sacred Grounds?
[HAYLEY] Over the years we’ve known each other, we’ve talked - and joked - frequently about collaborating on a project, one that marries (yes, it is like a love affair) our mutual love of design and interiors as well as our lifestyle choices; being plant-based and really capturing the essence of good eco-friendly design and innovative cooking and lifestyle - all of the things that really get us excited.
The concept for Sacred Grounds came about in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, Nathan and I took a hike and whilst out in the open beauty of nature we actually planned the whole project from the ground up! When we returned to Exeter we were excited to hear about an opportunity to take on a business unit in McCoys Arcade right where our initial project No Guts No Glory had begun. We all met up to chat through our ideas, and the three of us realised that this was the opportunity we’d been waiting for all these years, every step forward we took after that moment felt like everything fell into place - our branding and logo even accidentally represents the balance and harmony of the three of us working together,
It feels like we’ve been manifesting this dream slowly over the years adding and honing our ideas, into a tangible reality.
The resounding mantra and intention for Sacred Grounds is to create spaces for people to enjoy and spend sacred time with family and friends or by themselves a chance to reconnect. Offering incredible plant based food and drinks in an atmosphere that is designed to relax and revive your senses. We have many plans for the future including a workshop schedule and evening acoustic sessions under the Atrium, beyond that even there are so many more dreams and aspirations for a greener and sustainable future for our families and for future generations.
What were each of you responsible for in the journey? Are you involved on a day-to-day basis? What are your roles today?
[HAYLEY] When we got the keys the space was a total shell, and we had the job of redesigning and building/painting/furnishing the entire space including designing an entire open kitchen. With the set up for the cafe we collaborated on everything really, even if Becca was in Cornwall, we were constantly working together on things, and having her as an outside influence away from the cafe meant that there was a wider clarity, as well as an outside perspective for decision making. We scoured the Westcountry looking for our furnishings and Becca made the most of her Cornish bounty-hunting finding the treasures that you’ll see in the cafe. And, we can thank Nathan for forcing us to use the Asana app to pull our work together and stick to a tight schedule (although, I imagine we would have still kept up to speed without it) The cafe came into being so quickly, and as Nathan and I did a lot of the physical design and build work Becca was popping up to Exeter whenever she could to bring all of the treasures together and go on runs to get everything else we needed. Becca also created the two beautiful pieces of art in the cafe, and got to work designing our branding, logo and all the stationery and signage, we looked into everything that we did in great depth considering sustainability and functionality sparking some really interesting conversations.
There’s always something new that we are involved in on a daily basis from running the social media accounts to coming up with new ideas for future menu items, design ideas and ways to be creative with the Sacred Grounds project - it’s a pretty diverse job and we all work together to make things materialise in the best possible way! Nathan acts a bit like a filter for our ideas and together we make a pretty good brew.
If you were to make a toolkit of attributes for successful co-creating, what would be in yours any why?
[HAYLEY] My toolkit would consist of a pair of ears for enhanced hearing of ideas, a rose-quartz crystal for enhancing team-work and unity, a GSOH, running shoes, An open mind for tackling any disagreements and a spanner for tightening everything up at the end - and some snacks from Sacred Grounds of course.
[BECCA] I second that! Also being a diplomatic Libra in the middle of a business partnership helps ;)
Greatest learnings in balancing multiple projects and ventures?
[HAYLEY] Support networks are everything - if you’ve got a good sisterhood around you they can act as a pretty wonderful sounding board for your ideas and also help with the tough spells, I go to the gym three times a week with a few girlfriends and that’s when we hash out plans, support each other’s dreams and sweat out all the bad funks together. I also find that it’s been really important to set boundaries for myself, setting aside time for working on each project and assessing the amount of work that I expect to do in this time, setting a pace when I’m working that isn’t exhausting or unrealistic is the key.
Taking quality time away from work is vital to keep going and to stay re-inspired and connected to what I’m actually working on, movement and balance in the day to day is such an important thing, as is looking after your heart soul and spirit.
[BECCA] Again, I second that! Hayley manages to articulate exactly how I feel about most things and can write it in the most beautiful way. Travel, movement, community, purpose and connection keep me balanced when I’m juggling all the work.
Hayley, you have a daughter who is growing up within an environment where independent spirit and creation run deep. Will you share how you have evolved as mother, business owner, partner, Hayley?
[HAYLEY] I’d describe myself as being in a fixed state of change, so much so, that its almost a routine, I feel very lucky to bring Edie into the world that we’ve created and her world is chock-full of female role models that are really inspiring and surround her everyday, creating the world that she lives in. From artists through to other independent business owners, musicians and more. As a child we are fixed in the here and now and immersed in the immediate world, she’s almost five and definitely already has high aspirations, she loves visiting friends shops in her neighbourhood where she can help and learn to do practical things like sewing or tending to the plants in the NGNG shop. I’m really lucky to have such a supportive community, they take care of Edie when I’m really busy and have deadlines to work to, or a sick team member, I can see thinking about it that the community has evolved and adapted to me being a parent almost as much as i have and I’ll be forever grateful for that.
Edie has always watched me working and creating from a really young age and so now whilst I am busy so is she in turn - making, drawing (her favourite thing to draw right now are designs for glass cabinets), creating somewhere, immersed in imaginative play, she attends the Exeter Steiner Academy, the Steiner Waldorf system really resonates with Nath and I, its a holistic, creative approach to education and it actually fits very much in line with how we live, using natural materials, constantly learning for the love of it not for an end goal.
Becoming a mother whilst running a business was something that actually drove me to fulfil my dreams more; it really made me want to make it work, and I definitely adapted a lot of the ways that I do things, the challenge was actually mostly a welcomed one - sure there are times when I wish I had more sleep and a sense of myself when I have a lot to do, but these are things that are overcome and life moves forward irrespectively, you learn most from those tough moments, and I feel so heart-strong as well as head-strong now, and in the future I see Edie being a part of our business lifestyle even more, whatever that future may look like.
Working with your life partner can of course be testing too, but we share everything and are constantly simplifying the way we live and work to make things easier, if there’s a problem we work through it together to get to the bottom of things and find each other there, to bring ourselves back up to the same page, supporting each other as business partners, partners and parents.
Becca, you’ve been on some epic journeys. Why do you think it is that we benefit so deeply from travelling, aside from the obvious benefit of creative inspiration? Do you have a home base? Why’s that important, or not?
[BECCA] Coincidentally I always travel over international women’s day (mainly because by the end of Feb I have just about had enough of the English weather) but it’s nice to think it’s because I value my body and mind and believe it’s important to give it a decent amount of nurture it needs to thrive. For the last 3 years I have taken around a 6 week road trip around western America (the warmest states with the most deserts!) to get lost in the wilderness, trekking, camping, swimming and chatting to locals in small rural communities (like playing bingo in a town hall of 4 ppl where everyone brings a prize so everyone has a shot at winning! - we contributed a £5 note!) ha.
I just totally switch of and go with the flow, we chase the sunshine and visit local spots from tip-offs we get from friends we make along the way, I eat like it’s going out of fashion and drink filter coffee like a true American (when it’s free refills...helllooo!)
I think allowing my mind to detach from my usual daily work expectations and having my only thoughts of a morning be “where is the nearest hot spring” or “let’s climb that waterfall today” puts my life into perspective. I’ve never felt healthier, happier or more free but I know it’s the nature of my job that allows me to do this and whilst I am traveling and soaking up all the incredible scenery there in a part of me that just can’t wait to get back and working on my next project. These travels are like jet fuel for my creativity. I see SO much signage and typography when traveling thousands of miles along freeways, through towns and cities then there’s the architecture mixed with the diversity of nature and all I want to do is implement the colours, forms and shapes into my work.
For me traveling takes me out of my head and stagnant state I usually reach as winter comes to an end, it resets me so when I arrive back the first few weeks of April after the spring solstice and into warmer weather and the astrological new year I feel like a new person. I have more energy in those first few months of spring than any other time of the year.
It also depends where you travel though, when traveling around the California and it’s surrounding states as much as i love it, it also pains me to see how behind there are with sustainability. The circular economy is like a foreign language but the people I speak to are really enthusiastic to know more and what they can do to have less of an impact on the planet. I always return feeling more passionate and motivated to make a difference with our message and design hoping it spread to our friends we have made along our travels.
My home base is Cornwall but my family are in Devon so it works perfectly that i travel between the two for Sacred Grounds and to keep things interesting. I just love being by the ocean. Having a base keeps me grounded...I also love interior design and having a place that I can put my stamp on and feel totally content in my surroundings.
Anything is possible. Share five goals you’d love to have achieved together in the next five years.
[BECCA] Funnily enough we have a meeting planned on my return to discuss such “goals” of which we have more than we can shake a stick at! Hayley and I create so much energy when we are together we get the feeling that we can achieve anything no matter how ridiculous it is (Nath tries his hardest to bring us back down to earth but we Vito him!) some of our 5 year dream goals involve a Sacred Ground cookbook, an Eco airbnb retreat on the North coast of Cornwall, a YouTube channel, a festival #sacredwaffs food van and a long overdue holiday together!!
Will you share another inspiring female creator with us? One each!
[BECCA] I am slightly obsessed with Courtney Jaedtke (Reynolds) (aka Napkin Apocalypse) @napkinapocalypse I have been following her quirks and lifestyle for quite a few years. She’s an Uber-creator! It amazes me how she finds the time to raise her twins, little boy, rescue birds, personify her dog Pam with her own IG following of 60k, create a clothing label PAMWEAR, document her daily life and be a loving wife to pro surfer Dane Reynolds (I don’t know if she is a loving wife to Dane - I just know being a wife is hard work!) I love her honesty, wit and transparency whilst creating the most unique art - her latest clothing collab with her son Sammy branded “trashboy” after his mad obsession with the trash men and the garbage collection - genius. I would love to take her for a coffee and pick her brains- my kinda women.
[HAYLEY] @juliaflorenceartist always has a fresh perspective and approach to working, she’s a brilliant, wonderful ceramic artist living in Cornwall and we stock her ceramics in NGNG. Julia’s work is always full of her unique energy and sometimes she’ll create something really different just to smash it to pieces. Literally.
Thank you both!
All photographs of Sacred Grounds © Angel Wade 2019