What originally drew me to Holly Berry’s woven textiles were her snuggly scarves – so colourful and graphic. Furthermore, creating something using declining traditional techniques takes a lot of patience and dedication and once I saw that they spell out cute words in Morse code, I knew I needed to find out a little more about the woman who creates these heirlooms. Read on for Holly’s views on using social media as a crafter, and how she came to be such an incredible weaver.
Could you introduce yourself please?
Holly Berry. Weaver, Maker. Twenty …no I’m not, I’m thirty! I keep thinking I’m 29 but I’m not, I’m 30!
Can you tell me a little bit about your work?
Well, it’s woven textiles. I try and approach it as an heirloom craft. It’s one of the oldest things that we do in this country, and I try and make it really contemporary – that’s where I’m coming from. I’m obsessed with colour and pattern. That’s what any weaver will tell you – that they’re obsessed with colour and pattern!
How did you get into weaving?
I studied fashion. I worked in fashion for 7 years and then I did an apprenticeship with Margo Selby that was filmed for a BBC programme called ‘Mastercrafts’ which is about saving dying UK crafts. And I just loved it! I just haven’t stopped weaving since then. I set up a small business and get a couple of my pieces batch-produced in a UK mill. I do hand weaving and I’ve got a little studio. One thing leads to another and all of a sudden you’re a weaver.
‘Love’ blanket // £380
That’s amazing, living your dream. What’s it like having a mill doing some of your work? Is it quite difficult? Do you feel like you’re relinquishing control a little bit?
Not at all, it’s a brilliant relationship. I go up to the mill once a year and see them. If you look on my blog you can see images of the ‘Hold’ wrap coming off the loom, it’s really exciting. I love it. I could never just do that or just do hand-weaving, it’s really important to me to have the two aspects. I love hand weaving, but for the bigger pieces, it would just take me all year to make, you know, ten blankets. It means that I can do more, I’m more free, I can concentrate on new designs, experimenting and playing, making small hand-woven gifts.
So how long would it take to weave something like the ‘Hold’ wrap?
It would take me about 4 days to hand-weave this. It would also take me about a day to make the warp and maybe a day or two to set up the loom, and you can’t charge for that time.
‘Hold’ wrap // £150
Do you ever find that you’ve spent a lot of time and energy making something for somebody else and then think, ‘Maybe I’ll just keep this one for myself’?
No, I want to sell it so I can get the money and get paid for all the work I’ve done (laughs).
How easy do you find doing self-promotion?
I find it quite boring. Sometimes I find it’s just something that you have to do as a maker. What I really like doing is communicating with an audience and letting them know my inspirations. I’m trying to use my blog more to document my experiments, my learning and my playful testing. It’s great to tell people that I’m doing a show but I hate feeling like I’m trying to sell something…but then you’ve got to let people know what you’re doing. Especially if you’re in a studio on your own for the rest of the year, you’ve got to let people know what you’re doing. I’m getting better at it.
That’s one thing I’m particularly interested in – getting to know the people behind the products.
Yeah, it’s just finding a way to do it that’s not annoying, I don’t want to plug up people’s inboxes, I don’t want to keep telling them the same thing. You want to keep it interesting and you don’t want people to think you’ve disappeared either.
Have you ever found yourself in a completely ridiculous situation doing this? Something’s gone wrong or you’ve thought, ‘What am I doing?!’
It’s definitely not easy all the time. I think the thing with weaving is it can go from a set of threads all behaving in a certain way because you’ve put them in that order and the magic of turning that into a piece of cloth – it can be incredibly euphoric. When you feel like, you know, the world is in order. But then something can go wrong, with the tension, or one of the fibres can snap or it doesn’t do what you’re wanting it to do. I’m a very emotional person, anyone will tell you, and I shed a lot of tears. But if something goes wrong I get into a real flap, but then next minute I’ll be euphoric again. I find it a very emotional process. Very up and down. I’m very dramatic! (laughs)
What made you start designing using Morse code?
I went to India years ago and I bought this bit of textile that had been embroidered by a family and it embedded all their family history, all their emotions. I started researching about Ancient Inuit’s and found they did a similar thing. It was just really important to me to embed some emotion and connection. My work’s very expensive so I want it to strike a chord and it needs to be as special as it can be. I hope to make things that will be part of someone’s family and be passed down through generations. I think it’s definitely that kind of work. Yeah, I mean it makes me connected with my work. I mean, that’s one idea (morse code), one project, I’m not going to be doing that for the rest of my life.
At what point do you say,’ OK, I’ve come to the end of this project’?
Well, the ‘hold’ blanket is really successful and popular so I’ll keep making it as long as people want it. But my new pieces are hand-woven and they don’t have morse code in them, they have more colours and they’re really playing with the colour and the balance and the rhythm of the patterns that I create.
Are there any other crafters, magazines or blogs that you follow or recommend?
I get ‘Crafts’ Magazine & ‘Oh Comely’ – I love them. All my friends are makers too. It must make it so much easier when you’re round people with a similar vision. My friends all get it. We all go to each other’s private views, help each other out.
Do you have any advice for people thinking about starting their own craft business?
Just go for it! When I finished learning to weave, instead of an apprenticeship, I went on this course the Craft Council run called Hot House – it totally taught me how to set myself up in business. It helped show how to turn an idea or a hobby or a skill into a business so I would advise people to do that.
Thank you ever so much for your time.
Have you considered giving weaving a go? Tell me in the comments.
Catch up with Holly Berry below:
(images via Holly Berry website. Portrait by Verity Inett)