First up, can you tell me who you are, and a wee bit about your business?
My name is Jane Macmillan. I am the Content Creation and Education Officer for the Harris Tweed Authority (HTA) here in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis.
What does a typical day look like for you?
The main duties of my role here at the HTA include: managing our Social Media content (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vimeo), maintaining our website content and updates, designing our Point of Sale materials (boards, leaflets, flyers) visiting and supporting schools and hosting workshops about the Harris Tweed industry, working ongoing projects such as the Harris Tweed App and our new exhibition room to work on.
Where does your passion for the industry stem from?
I am very passionate, as an islander, about our Hebridean culture; our music, our language and our traditions. Harris Tweed comes into that world – weaving is an old tradition of the isles and Harris Tweed is something that belongs to the people of the Outer Hebrides. It’s part of our heritage, which I’m very proud to share with the rest of the world.
Did you study? Where?
I went to study Classical Music first in Edinburgh, but I didn’t last long and had to move back home to Lewis – I was too homesick! After that, I studied Scottish Cultural Studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands and then I started working at the HTA.
Photography: Lewis MacKenzie
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
I initially started working at the HTA on a year-long maternity cover post as an administrator. I worked hard and took every opportunity that was handed to me. I was very proud to be offered a new post as Content Creation and Education Officer and thankful to our CEO Lorna Macaulay for recognising my potential and for giving me the chance to explore the more creative aspects of the HTA.
Who are the influential figures you look up to for inspiration?
In all honesty, the figure of the Outer Hebrides is what I look to for inspiration; the people and place. When I’m looking for social media or creative content inspiration, I always fall back on the colours of our landscapes and the stories behind our island people – those creating history today and those no longer with us, who left us great stories to tell the next generation!
Photography: Lewis MacKenzie
What exciting projects do you have in the pipeline for the near future?
I’m currently working with a design team on creating our Harris Tweed brand room exhibition. The space will tell the story of Harris Tweed; how it’s made and why it must be handwoven by islanders at their own homes in the Outer Hebrides from wool dyed and spun here also. It all comes back to the Harris Tweed Act of Parliament 1993, and that is what the exhibition will be about.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
I really enjoy the social media aspect to my job. Connecting with people around the world over something we mutually love (Harris Tweed) is a great feeling.
What is the biggest mistake you have made in your career so far and how could it be avoided?
I’ve only been working at the HTA for just under three years, so it’s a fairly new career break for me. Before that, I was a full-time musician! I’m sure there will be some pivotal career changing moments (and mistakes) to come in the future though, and plenty to learn from.
What does your workspace look like?
The HTA is located in the upstairs of the Stornoway Town Hall building. It’s a beautiful old building, right in the heart of Stornoway – tall ceilings, old doors and preserved fireplaces. It’s the perfect home for the ‘Guardians of the Orb’, which we’re ‘unofficially’ known as!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
So far, my favourite piece of career advice is to make sure your colleagues are like your family. You can ask their advice, work as a strong team and bounce ideas off one another; working with people you love makes the job so much more enjoyable.
What are you looking for from the textile industry currently?
I would love for everyone to know the Harris Tweed story. Why Harris Tweed is the choice of fabric for many, why it’s so special, why it’s protected and why so many people fall in love with it. I want everyone to walk into a shop and know why they’d choose a garment or product in Harris Tweed over any other. I want people to understand that Harris Tweed is purely a fabric and be aware that there is an Act of Parliament to protect it. Most importantly, I want everyone to understand why it’s worth protecting.
Any final thoughts?
I think it’s so important to love the job you have. When you think of how much time in your life you spend at work and with your colleagues, it seems silly to be doing something you really don’t enjoy. I consider myself very lucky to be working alongside such incredible people, with a brand I’m truly passionate about and in the place I call home. It’s wonderful to be part of the Harris Tweed family here in the Outer Hebrides and I can’t picture myself anywhere else.
Find Harris Tweed online:
website / Instagram / Facebook / Twitter
Jane MacMillan interviewed by Kimberley White