Last month Kimberley got to know new member Kate Davies of Kate Davies Designs.
Tell us who you are, and a wee bit about your business...
I am Kate Davies. I founded my business in 2010, initially selling digital patterns and designs online. The company has now grown to manufacture our own brands of yarn, publish popular books, and create collections of designs for hand-knitters, all inspired by Scotland’s rich textile history and heritage. My designs are enjoyed by hand knitters in over 60 countries worldwide.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Any small business owner will tell you that no day is typical! I might be designing a sweater, researching or writing an essay about the history of Shetland knitting, processing invoices, checking stock in the warehouse, working on a commission, responding to enquiries, or all of the above! But whatever I’m doing, I always make time for a long walk with my dog, Bruce, usually along the West Highland Way, where we live.
What made you want to get into the industry?
I always loved making and designing my own clothes, and was pretty good at it. I also have a PhD in history, and a strong interest in Scottish textiles. Until 7 years ago my career was in the latter field, as an academic historian. I had a stroke in 2010 (aged 36), and was unable to continue working in academia. So I started a business which combined my design skills with my love of textile history. Now I live in the best of both worlds, creating contemporary, wearable designs inspired by the landscape which I love, and which surrounds me.
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
Two things: Writing and publishing six successful books completely independently and being awarded the title of Microbusiness Of The Year from the Federation of Small Business and Worldpay in 2016.
Who are the influential figures you look up to for inspiration?
The women of Shetland, many of whom are amazing knitter-designers, and some of whom are also brilliantly creative entrepreneurs. You might not have heard of them, but they have quietly shaped and influenced the direction of Scottish knitwear design for the past two centuries. And there are some amazing women running textile businesses in Shetland today: Wilma Malcolmson. Joanna Hunter. Niela Nell. Hazel Tindall. Natalie Cairns-Rattar.
What exciting projects do you have in the pipeline for the near future?
We are currently working on two large projects – a book of photographs and a new knitwear collection – using some occasionally surprising aspects of my local landscape for inspiration.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
The basic thrill of making stuff, words or designs, that other people enjoy and want to read or wear.
What does your workspace look like?
Out of one side of my studio window I can see a small lochan, and out the other, Ben Lomond. The outside is much more beautiful than the inside – I’m a strong believer in the creative power of mess and seem to work most productively from within the middle of an encroaching mountain of books and yarn.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
If you build it, they will come.
What are you looking for from the textile industry currently?
All our products—from books to yarn—are designed and produced here Scotland and this is very important to us as a business, indeed it is a linchpin of our brand. One thing we’ve really appreciated with the publishing side of things is the support and service we’ve received from our Glasgow printers, Bell and Bain – we are only a small company, but, in producing our books they treat us in exactly the same way they do their larger clients and are genuinely interested in our ethos and what we do.
I believe that a sustainable way forward for the textile industry as a whole might be found in a similarly mutually respectful relationship between small businesses and larger manufacturing operations - working together in ways that have their local economy in mind. That I’ve raised this matter at all suggests that this is sadly not always the case.
You can check out Kate's work at KateDaviesDesign.com or get in touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kate Davies interviewed by Kimberley White