Homegirl London pays homage to Heather Shields. Textile designer and weaver Heather creates striking lambswool cushions and lambswool blankets. Her new line of scarves will be launched at this year’s Design Junction. The designs showcase strong patterns with clean lines and an emphasis on different ratios of stripes and shapes. The mixing of complementary and contrasting colours adds to the contemporary simplicity. By using a classic double cloth technique, Heather’s blankets and scarves are double the thickness making them super cosy and reversible. I caught up with Heather Shields to find out more.
Textile Designer and Weaver
Meet Heather Shields
Heather tells me about her background – “I grew up on the west coast of Scotland and studied textile design at Glasgow School of Art where I eventually specialised in weaving. I’d never tried weaving before but quickly became fascinated with the physical practice and how this affected the design process. During my studies, I had an internship with a Welsh mill called Melin Tregwynt. This involved assisting with supervising looms and fixing any broken threads. After graduating I was lucky to gain a six-month internship with textile designer and weaver Margo Selby in London. It was helpful to have the insight of working in a rural mill and a city design studio and that’s when I started to wonder whether I could create my own business.”
On returning to Glasgow Heather was offered a position as a weave technician at Glasgow School of Art, where she still works on a part time basis. Heather comments – “Working with the students tests my technical abilities and knowledge. It’s also a joy to share my passion for weaving with a new generation of designers. In 2013 I took on the role of weave tutor at Glasgow Clyde College and wrote their first weave programme in conjunction with Heriot Watt University which was an amazing opportunity.”
Whilst working at both these jobs Heather was creating her own designs in her spare time. She reveals – “I was restless and wanted to use my textile design degree to the full. Scottish weaving is well known for tartans and tweeds but I wanted to break away from that and offer something different. In June 2014 I decided to set up my business so I participated on the Craft Council’s Hothouse programme for emerging makers. This gave me the confidence to leave my job at the college and devote more time to growing my own business.”
Lambswool Cushion and Blanket
Today Heather is the company owner, creative director, designer and weaver of her business. She divides her time between Glasgow and Kilcreggan, a small village in Argyll. This gives Heather the best of both worlds – “Glasgow is a progressive and vibrant city with a strong creative community but I love having the countryside nearby.” Being close to the family is a big plus because mum and dad can help out. She reveals – “My mother (Jane) assists me with manufacturing. She’s a keen dressmaker and interested in textiles which is useful. Dad (Robin) is a perfectionist so inspects the products before packaging them up. When I was growing up my parents encouraged my creativity. Dad took me to auctions so I was interested in paintings, sculptures and curious objects from an early age. This eclectic mix remains a source of inspiration for my work today.”
Heather Shields Collection
Heather talks me through her work – “I design and make playfully patterned, contemporary homeware and accessories in vibrant colourways. My interiors collection of cushions and blankets are woven in Scotland from 100% lambswool. I use a traditional double cloth technique, meaning the fabrics are twice as thick and the blankets fully reversible, making them cosy yet durable. Leading on from this collection we will be launching our new collection of handwoven lambswool scarves at Design Junction 2016 from the 22nd – 25th of September. I love mixing complementary and contrasting colours in different ratios of stripes and shapes. Our blankets and scarves are fully reversible therefore the colours have to work on both sides and be equally desirable. Our products are intended to be bold yet versatile statement pieces.”
The first interiors collection of cushions and blankets was called “PLAY” which launched in August 2015. Heather explains the inspiration behind the designs – “Childhood puzzles and games were an influence. Using clever combinations of geometric shapes my designs explore the intuitive way children create structures from toys such as wooden building blocks. The final fabrics were woven at Bute Fabrics, a local mill on the Isle of Bute renowned for their high quality upholstery fabrics. The cloth was then sewn by mum and I to make the cushions and blankets. Finishing and edging the blankets is one of my favourite tasks. I use a vintage blanket stitch machine from the 1950’s to give them a secure and decorative finish.”
Heather’s new range of hand woven lambswool scarves is about to be unveiled. She tells me – The scarves are a natural progression from the ‘PLAY’ collection. However, the colours are taken from photographs of objects found on our travels such as vintage cars in Cuba, mosaics in Italy and ropes and buoys from the Outer Hebrides. The lambswool we use is spun and dyed in the UK and all of our scarves are hand woven and finished in our home studio. Once woven, each scarf is hand stitched and washed to give a luxuriously soft yet secure finish.”
Inspiration for Heather’s designs come from mundane objects, patterns in nature and architecture. She reveals – “I’m also heavily influenced by the connection between people and places, identity and different cultures. My childhood days of visiting auction houses with my dad has instilled a magpie like instinct in me. I’m naturally drawn to odd objects from different periods or cultures and things that don’t belong – unusual juxtapositions and contrasts within the everyday. Modern art also informs my practice and I enjoy going to see exhibitions. My favourites in recent years being Georgia O’Keefe and Sonia Delaunay at Tate Modern and the Bauhaus exhibition at the Barbican. I admire Finnish textile design brand Marimekko particularly for the scale and bold, joyful nature of their designs.”
Buy Heather Shields Products
To find out more about Heather and to buy her products visit the Heather Shields Website www.heather-shields.co.uk. You can also buy her work from the Etsy UK Website. To give you an idea of prices small cushions are £75, large cushions £95, blankets £280 and scarves are £165. Heather is happy to discuss any ideas for commissions with customers and can create cushions, blankets and scarves in bespoke sizes. Email her via the website if you’d like to get in contact.
Author: Homegirl London. Photographs: Susan Castillo Photography. Thanks: Heather. Disclosure: This feature includes the following affiliate partners – Etsy UK (if you click through from my website and purchase items from the affiliates I will earn a small commission).