Selvedge Talks to... Mario of Mourne Textilesby 30
What made you start working with textiles?
From as far back as I can remember I have had looms in my life. From the age of 7 we lived in a small house attached to the workshop and after school the workshop would become my playground. I’d build dens in the yarn store, make spaceships out of old cardboard yarn cones, generally getting in the way of the weavers.
Ever since I left school I have wanted to bring the workshop back to life, fill our yarn store full of beautiful yarns like it was when I was a child, and get the looms weaving again. I have always been fascinated by the structure of the tweeds and rugs woven on our looms. Wool, in all its various forms spun and un-spun has been a huge part of my childhood.
Like my grandmother and my mother, I would like to see our traditional looms and methods of production used to create contemporary designs. I hope to encourage the growth of hand weaving as a complementary industry to Industrial weaving. As with most industries when loom technology changed and more efficient looms came on the market the old technology became commercially unviable. Many looms were scrapped and skilled handloom weavers were forced to retrain.
We want to bring production hand loom weaving back to the Mournes, retrain a new generation of handloom weavers and encourage people to see the skill, value and importance of the craft. I look forward to developing my grandmothers designs from our archives and bringing these back into production. As the workshop finds its feet again and the looms find their rhythm, I also look forward to introducing new materials and new designs, taking the traditional craft of weaving and evolving with current times.
There is nowhere I feel more at home than in the workshop surrounded by our looms, piles of yarn and the unique smell of the lanolin in wool.
What inspires you?
The Mourne landscape inspires me. The workshop is situated at the foothills to the Mourne mountains which share a similar geology to the Highlands in Scotland. The mountains are covered in combinations of heather, fern and grassland and will change colour through the seasons. The changing texture and colour found in the landscape is also found in many of the yarns we use in our designs.
For our tweeds we use Merino Wool which has been traditionally spun in Donegal on the west coast of Ireland. Nepps and burrs are used to add texture to the yarn, in some cases these might be of a different colour or shade which when woven adds another dimension to the fabric. It gives an almost organic feel, which flecks echoing the spots of colour found in the landscape made from protruding granite outcrops, patches of ferns, heather and gorse and of course the all important roaming sheep.
What is your favourite part of the process of sourcing/ making/ doing what you do?
I love how we are able to produce beautiful rich complex woven fabrics using relatively simple looms made of wood and cord - not a screen in sight. Since getting more involved with the workshop I have been introduced to an industry full of people with a similar passion for woven textiles as myself. It is like a large family, it makes you realise that weaving for many is not just a pastime but rather an integral part of their lives, part of who they are. It is this passion that I love the most, this ambition for perfection, this drive to master the time honoured techniques of weaving passed down from generation to generation.
I believe that traditional crafts whatever their medium are vital to our culture, as production methods change over the years and economics drive production abroad we should be careful not to overlook the value in keeping these crafts alive closer to home. I have met many weavers who have spent their lives perfecting their craft, this knowledge gained through experience is not found in books and needs to be passed on to the next generation so that it is not lost. I feel immensely privileged to be able to meet and learn from these master weavers, my mother included.
Make sure to visit Mario's stall, along with a carefully chosen collection of others at our Maker’s Fair this Saturday.
St Augustine’s Church Hall, Highgate, London N6 5BB