We came across Tim's business, Clement Knives, on Instagram and we're instantly drawn to his concept. He's a professional knife maker, who transforms plastic and metal waste into hand-forged knives. Inspired by restaurants and makers, Tim, a former chef, set out to make his own products as low-impact as possible. This results in the creation of stunning, unique, high quality knives great for professional chefs or home cooks alike.
For starters, could you introduce yourself and your professional background?
I’m Timothy Westley, a bladesmith from West London. I had a painfully normal childhood filled with sports and exploring, before my work ethic kicked in. Before, during and after university I worked in short-term jobs as a window fitter and a chef. I have a Fine Arts degree and while the certificate might be useless, the process of producing art has been very useful training for starting a business.
Could you talk a bit more about your work transforming plastic and metal waste into hand forged knives, and what inspired you to start this business?
I started the business a long time ago in my head, but it wasn’t until I went full-time that I discovered how hard it is to make money when nobody knows what you’re doing. I decided to cut the cost of the knives and simultaneously find something unique that would make them stand out. In my personal life I had already begun making swaps to more planet-friendly alternatives, but it didn’t click until I took up litter picking along the river that I could reuse plastic waste in my knife handles. There wasn’t a great deal of information on recycling plastic at home online so it was a slow start that required research and practice. I sent the first knife I made with a plastic handle to Doug McMaster of Silo restaurant and haven’t looked back.
Where do you source the materials for your knives? Has anyone, for instance previous customers, brought materials to you to reuse?
The main source is my litter picking locally and when we go exploring in our camper. I’m happy for people to donate their plastic waste to me but I try and control it as I’ve found that people feel they are doing me a favour by letting me recycle their rubbish when in fact, there’s only certain plastics I can use. I definitely won’t let people send me stuff in the post as that just adds to the carbon journey of the waste. The steel that I use as cladding around the core steel/edge of my knives comes from people magnet fishing along waterways and just leaving it on the side.
How have people reacted to your knives? What kind of feedback have you gotten from other makers, chefs, restaurants, and the food industry at large?
I’m a bladesmith first and think that I make a pretty good knife. My experiences as a chef influence the types of knives I make, so I’m confident that what I produce is serving an actual purpose. I’m lucky to get lots of messages from customers, who are predominantly chefs, that tell me they love their knives and how they’re made in a more thoughtful way. People respond well to the ethos that I have working towards zero waste, using non-virgin materials and being the change that you want to see.
What role do you think restaurants, chefs, and other makers play in the fight against climate change?
I believe that by continuously spreading the word, people will be inspired to change and that chefs are very influential people. Like the saying goes, if the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach (or just pictures of food on Instagram), then I think chefs and restaurants can change the world.
Which innovative makers would you say are also making an important contribution to the zero-waste space?
There are lots of smaller businesses like mine making uncompromising changes to the way they operate. They are showing that they can make a living by being less impactful in so many different ways, which will only inspire more to do so -- and the bigger businesses will have to show that they are changing as well to keep up with trends.
wherefrom is building a community of conscious consumers, what’s something you do, as an individual, to lead by example in the realm of sustainable consumption?
Personally, it’s a combination of not consuming “bad” things (like single use products) and consuming more “good” things (like only buying plastic-free fruit and vegetables). I would only purchase a plastic bottle if it’s the right type of plastic for me to recycle. I’ve recently changed who I bank with so that I can support a bank trying to be more ethically conscious and not have a negative impact on the environment through their investments.
For Clement Knives, there are rules I try to follow to maintain respect for my materials. For example, I don’t use glue in my handles (which would mean they can’t be recycled again) and I work in ways where I can avoid permanent mistakes (if the tip of a knife breaks, then that’s a shorter knife not an unusable one). Fundamentally, my end products use more waste than they create.