Member of the Moment
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!
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
Our first Member of the Moment in 2018 is the New Lanark World Heritage Site.
My name is Melissa Reilly and I’m the Marketing and PR Officer at New Lanark World Heritage Site. New Lanark is one of Scotland’s 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites of “Outstanding Universal Value” and welcomes around 300,000 visitors annually. Founded in 1785 as a cotton-spinning Mill Village by David Dale and Richard Arkwright, New Lanark became internationally recognised under the enlightened management of Robert Owen. Today, New Lanark is still a living and working community with over 100 residents as well as a range of tourism facilities including an award-winning Visitor Attraction, Mill Shops, Mill Café, Hotel, Hostel, self-catering cottages and outdoor Picnic & Play Area.
Once a powerhouse of the cotton industry in Scotland, New Lanark today now uses the historic textile machinery to produce a high quality range of woollen yarn. In 2015 New Lanark launched the world’s first ‘Organic Tartan’, fully certified by the Soil Association.
New Lanark is looking to expand its audience by introducing a programme of world-class touring exhibitions in its newly developed Exhibitions Gallery. The first of which will be ARTIST TEXTILES Picasso to Warhol, opening on 26th January and running until 29th April. This stunning exhibition explores 20th century art in fashion and textiles with highlights including prints of work by artists such as Picasso, Warhol, Matisse and Dali.
A typical day for me always starts with a cup of tea! (in my favourite ‘Addams Family’ mug which my musical theatre society performed in 2016). As a force of old habit, my first task on the computer is always to check all of New Lanark’s social media channels for activity, comments and posts that have went up through the night.
Every day can be different at New Lanark, one day I might be meeting a foreign TV company to facilitate their filming at the site, and the next I might be designing a press advert for one of our upcoming exhibitions.
I usually check my emails in the morning and then turn Outlook off so that I’m not constantly distracted through the day by emails coming through – if someone desperately needs me there is always the phone!
One of my earliest memories is playing with my ‘Fashion Wheel’ and wanting to be a fashion designer when I grew up! I have always been interested in creativity, crafts and design and this is no different today.
At University I studied for a BA HONS in ‘Applied Graphics Technology’ which was a diverse course covering a whole host of creative subjects from website design and product design, to HCI (Human Computer Interface) and video production. Since University I have worked on a range of freelance design projects and I regularly assist my musical theatre society with the design of their promotional materials.
Before working at New Lanark I was the Social Media Executive for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Being so closely involved in the successful delivery of the #BestGamesEver and to be in the heart of Glasgow during the summer of 2014 was something I’ll never forget! I’m also very proud to have been awarded the ‘Rising Star’ award at the 2016 ASVA Awards (Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions) which recognised my contribution to New Lanark.
As I mentioned before right now I am very busy delivering the marketing campaign for ARTIST TEXTILES Picasso to Warhol which is opening at New Lanark at the end of January! After that I’ll be moving onto working on promotion for our next textile exhibition ‘Making the Great Tapestry of Scotland’ and then it’ll be summer before we know it and GAME PLAN Board Games Rediscovered will be opening.
New Lanark is such a special place to work, not only because of the village’s fascinating history but because of the beauty of the natural surroundings. There’s nothing better in the summer than sitting with a New Lanark Ice Cream cone by the Waterwheel and watching the river (and the world!) go by.
I’m not sure if it’s a ‘mistake’ but a learning I have gained over the past year has been the importance of managing visitor expectations within marketing, in terms of the imagery and wording used. Something as simple as using the phrase ‘enjoy a day out…’ can lead to people believing that the activity being advertised will actually fill a full day. Thinking back, I accidentally posted a picture of a cheeseboard I was enjoying on a Saturday night to a corporate account I was managing through my phone due to an Instagram glitch!
Right now my workspace is overrun with ARTIST TEXTILES marketing and Picasso quotes – not a bad thing at all!
It has to be the Scottish granny classic - “What’s for you won’t go by you”. I very much believe in this and through past experience it’s turned out to be very sound advice.
As we move into 2018 I think it’s a really exciting time for the textile industry and attractions in Scotland, to develop our offerings to allow more people to engage with textiles through new and innovative events, exhibitions, workshops and activities.
New Lanark are running a Textiles Design Competition to celebrate the travelling Artist Textiles Exhibition. Check out their website here.
Melissa Reilly interviewed by Kimberley White.
October 2017, and our Member of the Moment is the talented Eliza Kesuma of Moody Monday.
I am Eliza Kesuma; the surface and pattern designer and director, of Moody Monday. We create luxury artisan design-led bespoke wallpaper, fabrics and accessories for interiors, both contract and residential market; from our studio in Edinburgh. My designs are inspired by unconventional beauty that surrounds us. For me, it's about taking inspiration from the most unlikely places.
We have a very small but effective team here in the studio; at the moment the main team consists of Andrew and myself. Andrew is our studio and sales manager. We also have a small team of talented freelancers and volunteers that help us out when we need an extra pair of hands.
I studied Design for Textiles (Fashion, Interior and Art) at Heriot-Watt University School of Textiles in Galashiels, specialising in Print.
A typical day for me would be an early start, with the first priority being to put the kettle on and brew coffee in the French press. While waiting for the coffee to brew, I scan through my notes, calendar and Trello board to see what outstanding work I have to do for the week, keeping an eye on any deadlines, and plan my day based on this. I will then spend the next hour or two checking and responding to emails and tying up any loose ends from the previous day.
For the remainder of the day, I turn my attention to continuing or finishing any design or non-design work to progress existing projects and to ensure I meet the deadlines I keep noted on a list in my studio.
From time to time, I will have meetings scheduled for the day or I will attend events. I tend to schedule most of my meetings into the same day where possible, so I will have an uninterrupted few hours on a particular day to concentrate on any studio work in progress from my priority list.
I would say, not as glamorous as some might think. It’s very practical and low key, much like myself!
I showed signs of an interest in creativity at a very early age. At six years old, I was either drawing, or writing poetry on the walls of the house, or ‘customising’ my clothing when I got my hands on a pair of scissors, much to the dismay of my poor Mum.
Whilst attending school, it was obvious to me that I was more interested in, and performed better at, the creative subjects as opposed to the more academic ones. I was drawing on anything – clothes, arms, textbooks, notebooks, bags, folders, shoes, etc. I even used to have my classmates queuing up for me to draw on them!
I would also design and make cards and gifts for friends and, with their support and encouragement, I started an early venture called ‘Nature’s Tribe’, featuring found objects and ink illustrations, which I worked on after school and then sold to classmates. My family convinced me to enter various design competitions held by different department stores in Jakarta, where we lived, and I won. The most notable of these was designing cards for Hallmark.
I moved to Scotland in 1999 and had aspirations to be a fashion designer, at first, enrolling at Heriot-Watt University to study Textiles and Fashion Design. At the end of my first year, I had more of an interest in textiles and decided to focus on this area going forward: specialising in print design. Throughout my time on the course, including placements, I found that I liked both print and surface design in both fashion and interiors; the versatility and tactility of the materials and colours used in fashion and the longevity/permanence of interiors. I also wanted to bring the excitement and innovation associated with fashion into interior applications: this is why I love playing with colours and different subjects and textures in my designs.
I don’t think I could choose one single proudest moment of my career, as I am pretty proud of all of the experiences and achievements I have had so far. The creative industry is a hard one to break into, so you have to be proud and grateful for every single milestones you reach and give yourself a pat in the back for the great things you’ve achieved from your hard work; no matter how big or small, they all count for something.
Both my late Mum and Grandmother were big inspirations for me. My Grandmother would always make interesting bags for me when she visited from Singapore and my Mum was always painting or making clothes for me, despite working full-time as a teacher. They both expressed their creativity in multiple ways, and were hoarders of interesting fabrics and fashion items.
On a more mainstream note, I really admire Bjork for her ever-evolving creative pursuits. She does what she feels is right at the time and does it with such originality, poise, and conviction.
I suppose the similarity with all of the three above is that they’re all fearless creative interdisciplinary passionate females!
In addition to the bespoke projects to the contract market we are focused on, we are working on licensing partnerships with other brands and businesses to spread our design passion as widely as we possibly can.
Getting to see the look of sheer joy on the client's face when you finish a project and having them tell you that it turned out better than their initial expectations. Makes me feel like I’ve died and went to heaven, every time!
Our studio move initiated last year and only just concluded in the past few months. Without going into great detail, it was a bit of a disaster and unfortunately had a significant impact on the running of the business. However, I believe that with every setback there is the opportunity to gain something invaluable out of it.
I think there are some setbacks or disasters that are impossible to completely avoid; in spite of the due diligence, research and investigation you’ve put in to ensure that you are making the right decision. Unless you can look into the future, there are some things in life just can’t be controlled. In this instance I had to force myself to accept what had happened, in order to get on with my life and the business; making the most out of a bad situation.
Who is your design inspiration?
It changes all the time, because there are just so many inspirational talents out there: past, present and future speaking, especially within the vast creative landscape beyond the world of interiors and textiles. I find a lot of people and subjects inspiring, even if they’ve not been intentionally so. It depends on what my mind is interested in, obsessing over and what I have found inspiring at the time.
A noteworthy one worth mentioning though is Barbara Hulanicki, whom I have had the great honour and pleasure in meeting in person, during a screening of the documentary ‘Beyond Biba’ a few years back.
“Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”
It’s from a Japanese idiom that means when life knocks you down, stand back up no matter what has happened, and continue on.
Someone gave me that advice during a very difficult time of my life, which sounded cliché and mildly insulting at the time, as if I was in the Karate Kid. But I saw the value of it much later on and been hanging on to it like a mantra ever since.
1. A sales agent to represent our business to the trade market in the UK and overseas, we are at that stage where we require a sales representative.
2. A means to a physical (brick and mortar) more permanent platform to present Moody Monday’s full collection, so people can take their time to absorb and appreciate the beauty of all we have to offer!
Any final thoughts, Eliza?
I think it would be great to have a dedicated sales-agent hired and assigned to represent and secure sales for Scottish textiles businesses, as a different kind of support from the government. The landscape of business looks a lot tougher and is rapidly changing; therefore the support we are getting from government and its supporting organisations needs to reflect this as well.
You can visit Moody Monday online or take a look at their Instagram.
Eliza Kesuma interviewed by Kimberley White
This week we were lucky to catch Clare of Prickly Thistle, to hear all about her exciting textile mill plans.
I'm Clare Campbell, a Chartered Accountant turned designer. I established Prickly Thistle in 2015 as a new challenge after accomplishing all my goals to date. I asked myself how I could apply the skills that I've gleaned from other successful organisations and create a business that gives people around the world an emotive experience and champions an economic uprising for the Highlands. Prickly Thistle was born, to give clients the opportunity to weave their own piece of history through bespoke tartan designs and products.
A typical day would be a different day every day; no two have ever been the same! The range of client services that we offer at Prickly Thistle can see me in the design studio working on a new bespoke tartan for a client based on the research information they have uploaded to their private design book on our portal, to visiting the mill to film new commissions being woven, to working on the new Highland mill plans and even scheduling a late Skype call to speak with clients in North America about their product collection labels. No detail is ever left out. But I suppose one aspect that is essential to every day, is my coffee routine…
What made you want to get into the industry?
I have always had a love for how beautiful a tartan cloth can be, a simple design in the sense of mirrored horizontal and vertical lines. But as I began to research the history, it connected with me; in that this cloth carries an almighty sense of purpose and belonging for so many, certainly for the last 200 years. Then I asked myself the question – how can I disrupt the next 200-year chapter? Today we live in one global nomadic society and long for experiences that connect emotionally, so what does that mean for tartan?
The design process that I share with clients is one that discovers a story, their personal story, so to be able to present them with a tartan design that manages to encapsulate all of this, whilst adding to their legacy with its formal registration into the National Records of Scotland, makes me feel proud and privileged.
All entrepreneurs who have the tenacity to follow their passion and vision. To to quote Steve Jobs, “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do”.
The headline project has to be my crowdfunding campaign due to launch later in 2017. This will be to raise funds to build a textiles mill in the mainland Highland region once again, a heritage industry so synonymous with this region that the wearing of a tartan kilt is known around the world as being part of the “Highland Dress”. Watch this space!
At the moment my favourite thing about my work is the challenge of bringing my vision into a reality.
What does your workspace look like?
I work in the design studio looking out to Ben Wyvis and the Cromarty Firth from one window and from the other I see the steading that is waiting to be restored as a mill. On my desk I have a desktop workstation which I use for my tartan design software, also paired with a laptop it is great to have two devices on at the same time to double up on admin and creative work. Pantone charts are a must at all times, at least 6 notebooks all for a different purpose – design notes, product prototype sketches, marketing ideas, even one just for to-do lists.
Not everyone is your customer.
An opportunity to protect and preserve tartan weaving skills, but also promote innovation and disruption to the traditional methods and applications. The power of collaborations are never to be underestimated, and a continuous opportunity to collaborate with like-minded people is something I will always look for in this industry.
What will the world history books say about Scottish textiles in 2217?
You can visit Prickly Thistle online or email Clare directly to discuss opportunities or collaborations.
Clare Campbell interviewed by Kimberley White
We were lucky enough to grab a chat with busy bee Laura Spring on all things textiles.
Firstly can you tell us who you are and a wee bit about your business?
I'm a textile designer/screen printer based in Glasgow with a huge love for colour and bold prints. My business started kind of by accident in 2011 after a journalist (Charlotte Abrahams) saw my wet weather suitcase I had made for a Craft Scotland show earlier in the year and invited me to be part of her 'Spotted' showcase at the trade show Top Drawer in London. I was away on a craft residency at Cove Park at the time so had to pull together collection quite quickly, but I did and it all snowballed from there!
Things have developed a lot in those five and half years and I'm happy to say I now work with a local manufacturer to produce 90% of my collection which is great because it means I have more time to focus on designing, printing and planning for the future. I love working on projects/commissions too, so am usually juggling multiple things at once but it's how I enjoy to work!
What made you want to get into the textiles industry?
I’d always loved textiles from a young age, but somehow ended up studying Visual Communication for my degree at The Glasgow School of Art. Much of my work during that time was more ‘handmade’ than computer made and it’s where I learnt to screen print. As soon as I graduated I started trying to get work in a more textiles based environment, as it was what I felt most excited by and probably the most natural to me. I didn’t really know where I fitted within textiles at that point but knew I loved to ‘make’ and design so completed a placement with Timorous Beasties pretty much straight after graduating and then spent several years working in the costume department of TV, films and opera before combining my passion for screen printing, fabrics and design to begin my own practice in 2011.
There is really no such thing for me. I think part of running a small studio is that you have to get involved in many aspects of the business so each day is different depending on the time of year and things that I’m working on. A typical studio day though usually starts with some emails at home, then arriving at the studio about 9.30am where I’ll stay until about 6.30pm. I’m lucky to be in a lovely studio environment where we all tend to eat lunch together which is really nice. It’s good to take a proper lunch break and hear about someone’s sculpture problems (I share a building with mainly fine artists) or discuss each other’s lunch options. It refreshes the brain for the afternoons tasks!
That there’s so much variety in what I do. I love that I wear many hats – designer/printer/explorer/researcher…I love working on a variety of projects as well as designing collections, it keeps it interesting and I’ve been really lucky that my job has taken me to many exciting places and working on many exciting commissions.
I’m based in an old sawmill on the north side of Glasgow by the canal. My workspace is a double studio – one side is my print room, the other more of an office/clean space. Quite often it’s a bit chaotic as there’s always multiple things to manage but I love it when I have my print class once a month as it makes me do a really good tidy up. I also have quite a few plants in my space – plants are important.
Be kind to yourself. Running your own business can be all consuming so it’s important to invest in yourself – take a holiday/day off etc. You’ll do much better work if you do.
Can you tell us about another Scottish creative that inspires you?
I have so much admiration and respect for Hilary Grant. I first met Hilary at a trade show; probably in 2012…she was behind me, on the other side of the partition wall at Pulse. I knew of her brand a little bit and loved what she was doing so we got chatting. Over the years, we’ve got to know each other well (we were both on the Fashion Foundry pilot programme and have shared an exciting trade mission experience to Japan) and it has been amazing to see what she’s achieved in that time. Her designs are really beautiful and intelligently structured. She’s really clever and knowledgeable about the industry and her work ethic is incredible. I think she’s created a really unique, strong and respected company that I find hugely inspiring – plus she’s a really nice person with a genuine belief in what she’s doing and I think it shines through.
What has been the most valuable thing you’ve learned along the way?
I think there’s a couple of really valuable things I’ve learnt. The first being, always trust your gut instinct. When you run your own business, it’s essentially all your own ideas/vision pouring out in to the world and sometimes you know there’s something you want to do or a decision that needs to be made and it’s hard to explain why but you know it’s the right thing for you, so my advice is to always listen to that voice. It’s really important in a highly competitive industry to remain true to yourself, it will keep you focused, in love with what you do and I think, make your company stronger.
I would also say that I’ve also learnt that mistakes are inevitable so it’s important to learn from them and move on in a positive way. No-one knows everything, sometimes it can be painful – financially or emotionally but the recovery is the most important thing and how you handle it, so be prepared to fail and have the courage to do things that might scare you and make you fail, but it will lead to better things, I’m sure of it! Staying in your safe place is never a good idea in my opinion so be brave!
What has been the most exciting project you’ve worked on?
I actually feel incredibly lucky to have a few projects to choose from in regards to this question. Without doubt India Street (a project curated by Katy West) was a total highlight as it involved working with a small group of amazing designers from Scotland and India and then being taken over to India to learn how to block print with an incredible team of crafts people. The two weeks we spent in India were so rewarding and enriching for me as a designer. The exhibition at Tramway last summer was a delight to be part of and I think told the story of the project so well and I’m excited to be continuing the project with a workshop on Mull shortly.
What kind of projects or plans are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a project that has very kindly been funded by Creative Scotland and has been developing in my mind for the last eighteen months. I took part in a residency in the summer of 2015 at Arteles in rural Finland and came across some old catalogues about a particular type of Finnish weaving known as Täkänä. The catalogues really caught my eye because of the graphic nature of many of the designs and also the way the cloth was woven using only two colours which is something that really resonates with my work. I was recently back in Finland exploring the history of this technique, visiting archives and speaking with curators and experts in this area.
I’m now working on pulling my thoughts and findings together into a new collection and new work to be launched at designjunction in September this year. It’s been really interesting for me to explore weave as potential way to work and has opened up so many interesting conversations with people already. It’s kind of what I meant in the earlier question about trusting your gut and taking yourself out of your comfort zone, as a print designer trained initially in graphic design, my knowledge of weaving is very limited but it is so exciting to explore this new technique and dream of new outcomes and collaborations…
What words of advice do you have for the next wave of upcoming talent?
Look forward, don’t try to imitate what’s happening right now, you want to be part of what’s happening next. Be nice to people, so much of what we all do is about building relationships and without the help and support of good people around you, nothing will happen.
What do you do to unwind from your busy creative life?
I love being outside. I love the silence of a forest and the chat around a campfire…away from computers and emails!
Final question, what do the next five years hold for Laura Spring?
Hopefully continuing to build on what I have now, working on projects that excite me with people who I love to work with.
You can find Laura at lauraspring.co.uk and get a look behind the scenes at @lauraspringstudio.
Laura Spring interviewed by Kimberley White
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
Kate Davies interviewed by Kimberley White
Michaela from Scott & Fyfe had a cup of tea with Kimberley this month to chat all things innovation.
First up, can you tell us your name and a wee bit about yourself and your business?
My name is Michaela Millar and I am a business development officer at Scott & Fyfe. A 150 year old, employee owned company. The company manufactures and supplies technical textiles to a global market using processes including stitch bonding, warp knitting, coating and weaving for markets including abrasives, flooring, composites and cured in place pipe. Based in Tayport, we are not your typical manufacturer, for our offices imagine a cross between Google HQ and Teletubby land! This is because the company has completely transformed itself over the past five years with a design and innovation led strategy.
I graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone having specialised in woven textile design, and in all honesty I had almost zero knowledge of technical textiles! However, whilst showcasing our work at the annual degree show I met Michelle Quadrelli, Business Director at Scott & Fyfe, and as a result I was offered a 3 month internship. I thought this was a great opportunity to learn new skills and was curious to see what type of textiles the company produced. Whilst at University I was obsessed with pushing the boundaries of textile structures and seeing what they could do. Many of the textiles produced by Scott & Fyfe are extremely innovative and are in markets that I had not even considered utilised textiles, so I was intrigued to find out more.
As an innovative and forward thinking company, who do Scott & Fyfe look to for inspiration?
When looking for inspiration Scott & Fyfe tend to look in unexpected places. For example, Glasgow School of Art inspired the company to approach business in a completely different way through applying design skills and an innovation approach. Also, Scott & Fyfe hire many interns from different areas and locations around the world as each has a fresh pair of eyes and different way of looking at things. This provides a constant inspiration to employees.
From an Employee Ownership side, S&F look to other EO companies for inspiration. Employee Ownership is a great model and we fully embrace it however, it has many challenges so we are constantly looking to share experiences and best practices with other companies. Through the EOA network I was fortunate enough to attend an event hosted by John Lewis recently and on a personal level I was utterly blown away by the level of detail that they go to in order to ensure that employees are engaged throughout all areas of the business. After the event I came back to the office with tons of ideas for our employee forum, as did my colleagues.
What exciting projects do Scott & Fyfe have in the pipeline for the near future?
Amongst many others, we literally have exciting pipeline related projects coming up as we are soon to be launching the Alphashield range of trenchless repair materials for the cured in place pipe industry. This is actually one of the things I love about Scott & Fyfe and technical textiles in general. This product range is for the sewage market. Not a market you would normally associate with innovation but here, our new product range is used to repair pipes without any requirement to dig up the existing pipelines (a process that is often called trenchless technology or cured in place pipe). The product is in simple terms, pushed through the existing pipe, inverted and injected with resin. Once set this flexible, glass knitted liner creates a pipe within the pipe with ultimately better characteristics than the original.
Definitely the innovation culture and all that this encompasses. Every morning I come into work and see a brightly coloured open plan space with grass on the ground and great areas to work in. It is a very inspiring working environment.
Then there is the way that we actually work and the responsibilities it brings. Instead of sitting in a board room for meetings and being overshadowed by colleagues with a higher status, we use round tables and tools such as mind mapping and dotocracy allowing all employees to have a voice and say in matters. This has applied from the minute I began work here as an intern to the stage I am at today. Coming from a design background I have to say it is fantastic to be able to use the design thinking skills in a business environment.
What advice would you give to other manufacturers in your field?
To consider an innovation and design led approach. We have embraced it over the past five years and will continue to do so as we are seeing real benefits. I am under no illusion that Scott & Fyfe is the most innovative manufacturing company out there, but we are constantly learning and adapting what we are doing and slowly but surely are seeing the company grow and become more innovative.
A key piece of advice I would give to other manufacturers is to embrace failure. There have been plenty of failures since we took on this approach but so long as you learn from them and are ready to adapt then it is not an issue.
Overall, we would really like to see more collaboration in the industry. It would be fantastic for us to work on more projects with other textile companies. I think there is a huge wealth of experience and expertise out there that companies could be sharing to mutual benefit. In the same strain, I think there could be a lot more textile company / university partnerships developed and this is something that we would welcome.
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Michaela Millar interviewed by Kimberley White
The wonderful Solii over at BeFab Be Creative took an hour out of her busy day to sit down with Kimberley of Textiles Scotland, and have a chat about her business.
We are Solii and Zoe, we’re sisters and we run BeFab Be Creative Digital Fabric Print Studio.
We’re both very creative although in different ways, my background is originally in design, having worked for Habitat in both training and management capacities. Zoe has a science background, she chose the more sensible career option of Business Analysis and project management, within the banking sector. So we cover a good skill set between us, whilst sharing some pretty important key values of wanting to provide a great service whatever it is we do.
At BeFab we print for small to medium size designer makers, specialising in runs from 1-5m, working with reactive dyes onto natural fabrics like silk, cotton and linen, with two linen options. We’re proud to say are woven here in Scotland.
Honestly, it was a bit of an accident! I was made redundant whilst Zoe had just had her daughter Izzy and we were both trying to work out what we wanted to do when we ‘grew up’.
I was trying to get some of my own designs printed on to fabric and it seemed a bit of a horrendous and complicated process. The main problem seemed to be the requirement to print on far longer print runs than any small designer would want to work with. So after a little research, and some gentle persuasion of Zoe on my part, to look over the numbers; we got started. Having worked together before, we knew it was something that we could do again and with what some might say is a reckless attitude we believe that there isn’t much between us we can’t learn. We decided with an obvious gap in the market that we could surely make this a much more enjoyable and simple process for new and up and coming designers looking for high-end short run printing. So that was us, after a whole lot more research meetings and conversations round the kitchen table (like with all good businesses start-ups)! Nine months later Bertha (our printer) arrived and we got to work finding out quite how hard the world of Digital Fabric printing really was, and haven’t looked back since!
We could say some really amazing designer, successful business person or philosopher but really, the people who inspire us the most are the people around us; especially the designers we print for, their work is incredible. Also, the technical support we have in all different guises: friends and family, to the creative community in general. There are so many inspiring, hard working, passionate people working in Scotland and beyond.
We absolutely love Fi and the MakeWorks recourse, and the guys behind Creative Edinburgh; oh and its members are superstars. Put simply, it’s the little people just like us who work late, strive to do good things and help those around them to do the same, who we are really inspired by.
What exciting projects does Be Fab Be Creative have in the pipeline for the near future?
We’re really excited by Printed and Co which we launched earlier this year. Printed and Co is a curated collection of some of the very best designers we’ve worked with at BeFab. We wanted to create a home where new and emerging talented could sell their designs on a range of different fabrics options without any initial outlay themselves; so with Printed and Co we’ve created that home. So we’re looking forward to working more on this and seeing it grow from strength to strength in the next few months.
The people – our client’s reaction when they receive their orders! It’s a bit like being Santa, they seem to forget they paid and just act like we’ve sent them lovely gifts. It’s pretty awesome knowing you’ve made someone’s day.
We also love promoting and hearing about our designer’s successes, it’s great to see that we’ve had a small part in them making their business successful. That’s what is so nice about working at this end of the market: we get to know the people we work with very well, even though more often than not we’ve never met them.
What advice would you give to up and coming designers / makers / manufacturers in your field?
If you’re looking to print fabric – sample. In fact if you’re looking to have anything made, always sample if you can, it may take a little longer in the short term but this usually pays off in time and money in the long run.
If you’re starting out in anything, do your research, then however much research you’ve done accept you will still probably not know half as much as you’d like to, but you’ll learn, and most importantly that’s OK, it’s par for the course!
Make sure you have a good support net work around you, tap into a relevant networking organisation too, no one likes to network but it is invaluable and say yes to opportunities but trust your gut when something’s not right for you or the direction you want to go.
If you do nothing else, ‘work hard and be nice to people’, those two things go a long way no matter what you’re doing in life but starting out even more so.
What are you looking for from the textile industry currently?
Training and funding opportunities are always good to hear about, it’s hard to find the time to work through all the different organisations to find what opportunities are available to you, so something that made that simpler would be amazing. We are always looking for quality seamstresses that we can add to our existing offering; it seems to be a dying art in Scotland (and the UK in general) and this desperately needs to be addressed before it’s too late!
We’re really proud to be able to say we manufacture in Scotland, though our clients are all over the world. To see the designers we work with be able to add a ‘Made in Scotland’ label is such an important thing to us and we’re really optimistic about the growth of the Scottish Textile sector with so much talent still to tap into.
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