You’re from Staffordshire, but you have a Glaswegian accent and you want to move to Finland—tell us the backstory!
I headed north to Glasgow in September 1999 to study Communication Design at The Glasgow School of Art. I’m still here twenty years later! I fell in love with the city (and my Glaswegian husband). It’s a vibrant creative scene with a real sense of community that can be felt throughout the city, and it’s near to incredible countryside. I had a studio in the city until 2019 when I moved just outside the city due to a new arrival in our family. Now I work from my garden which is very different but I love change! I’d love my next big change to be a move to Helsinki. I’ve visited Finland every year since 2013 (except for this year) and really love the people, their way of life and design culture. Plus I’ve been lucky to experience Finnish sauna by a lake in the summer and there’s nothing quite like it.
You have an obvious love of bold colour and pattern. Does the dreich of northern climes like Glasgow and Helsinki create this urge?
I suppose it must! I’ve often felt the longer I’ve lived in Glasgow, the brighter and bolder my work is. I think these kind of environments are perfect for creating colourful work as it feels like an explosion of colour is needed to combat grey or ‘dreich’ days. I love stepping out of a wet, dull, dreich day into the bright, uplifting mood of my studio. It definitely cheers me up! Light is also an important aspect of my designs which is why my Solstice rug is named after the longest light-filled day of the year.
Tell us about your Solstice rug.
I designed Solstice as a flatweave rug in collaboration with Floor_Story. My inspiration came from my 2015 Finnish residency at Arteles Creative Centre near Tampere. Finland is even further north than Scotland and I immediately noticed how daylight extremes influence human behaviour. There’s such a stark contrast between dark winters and endless summer daylight when the sun in Finland is up 24/7 for two months in the summer, or even longer further north. The light at night is incredible—glowing reds and yellow. I wanted Solstice to represent Finnish daylight throughout the year and mark the increase and decrease of light. So the pattern is a bit like data visualisation where I had to work out the maths and make measured, small increments to the rectangles that represent the changing cycles and volume of ‘light’. I wanted Solstice to have perpendicular lines sympathetic to the way the rug would be woven and to further represent this idea of the mathematical formula I used to calculate how the blocks of colour grow and shrink over the design.
What sparked your interest in Finnish Täkänä weaving?
A few days before I was due to fly home to Glasgow I was at a Finnish flea market. A woven image on the cover of a catalogue caught my eye. I paid a couple of euros for the catalogue, but it wasn’t until months later that I pulled it out and did some internet searches about what the weaving was. It’s basically a handwoven textile with two or more sets of warps and one or more sets of weft. When woven they create a two-layered ‘double’ cloth. I was really excited to discover Täkänä weaving has a similar sensibility to some of my own work in that I often use only two contrasting colours to create a pattern, and Täkänä is also mainly based on two colours.
There was a surge of interest in Täkänä double weave during the 1960s and 70s (a period with some wonderfully bold fabric designs!). I wanted to learn more. I quickly realised researching something like this over the internet in English was not going to be that rewarding. I’m an avid lover of hunting through an archive so I requested further Creative Scotland funding to return to Finland to research and study with a Finnish weaver. The research is ongoing although in 2017 I completed a collaborative Täkänä with a Finnish weaver.
My objective is not necessarily how I incorporate this technique into my work, but more about how I incorporate ideas that emerged through researching Täkänä. It’s a technique that’s been around for hundreds of years, but it’s largely fallen out of favour in recent decades as trends come and go. The technique is so complex and time consuming that it makes it quite inaccessible to many would-be weavers. It wasn’t easy for me to find a Täkänä weaver to work with, and I continue to question and find solutions to how we keep crafts like this alive.
What are your future plans?
I’m not long back at work after maternity leave so plans have been on hold, but now I’m back with fresh eyes and new momentum so although there’s nothing official in the pipeline for a new rug I’ve been mulling over lots of things while looking after my baby. I’d definitely love to pursue more rug designing!