Interview With Holly Berry

Written by on July 18, 2011 in Interviews - 9 Comments
Holly Berry weaver

Sitting in Holly Berry’s home come loft studio on Morocco Street near Borough Market is like being on a film set. The bare brick walls are hung with colourful prints and sketches, old biscuit tins are piled up on cluttered shelves, no doubt filled with all kinds of vintage treasures. The room is dominated by her two hand looms – one is a working antique that she inherited from a museum. Her main loom sits atop a large circular table and is threaded with an acid spectrum of coral, burnt orange, magenta, turquoise, violet and pale grey yarns. When I visit, it has three part-woven scarves on it, lying taught and proud, and looking absolutely stunning. We sit with the huge barn-style windows wide open, surrounded by tins of bright cotton reels, rustic leather-bound swatch books, guides to UK sheep breeds and overspilling baskets of wool so soft you could use them as pillows. I never want to leave.

Holly hand weaves blankets, scarves, shawls and wraps using high quality yarns. She only went into production with her luxury blankets a year ago, but they are now stocked in Liberty London. She’s not shy about telling me that it’s the most exciting thing to ever happen to her. Oh and if that wasn’t stupendous enough, she’s about to open a craft cafe in New Cross Gate. LULR has a crush.

Holly Berry blankets Liberty London

How did you become a weaver?

Before I learnt to weave I was accepted onto a masters in design studies at St Martin’s College, which was multi-disciplinary. I was planning to focus on sustainability, which is what my background is in, but I couldn’t weave on the course, so I used the funds I saved to go into production instead. I learnt to weave a few years ago, using traditional practices, then last year did a residency in the Shetlands, where I learnt more about the historic craft.

Where are your blankets produced?

I have everything made in the UK by British mills. I’m working with a mill in Scotland at the moment. But there’s also one in Lancashire and one in Wales that I want to work with. I love being able to promote traditional UK manufacturing with the work I do.

What are you obsessed with at the moment?

I can’t stop reading about sheep farming! I’ve met a man at the British Wool Board who is letting me choose a sheep breed that he will find and then turn its wool into a cone of yarn for me. One day, I’d love to get my own sheep herd and produce something from their wool. I want to do it in London, by buying an old car park and turning it into a farm. There are so many sites where people have started building and haven’t had the money to continue. I’d love to buy a bit of land and have a farm on it, and start making my own London cloth.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Most of my inspiration comes from rural areas. Every year I go to a coastal town called Ullapool in Scotland with my mum, and I love all the natural colours and textures up there, like lichens on stone. Next year, I’ll have three different ranges using 100% British wool. One will be a menswear range of scarves, which will have a mainly red and grey palate, and for this I was inspired by the Shetlands. The landscape is very bleak but every now and then it’s punctuated with these strong dashes of red from a phone box, a post box or a cattle grid. They are like lifelines after miles of nothing.

Holly Berry scarves

Do you feel there is a large crafting community in London?

I do. Eighteen months ago I started a programme with the Crafts Council called Hot House, where they bring together emerging makers, and we’ve all really stuck together. We’re putting on an exhibition together for Design Week in Ealing. Even just around the area I live, there’s the patchworker on the other side of the park, and a rug maker who lives below her. There are so many craft shops on Bermondsey Street selling hand made stuff. It’s a very supportive world. All the weavers I’ve met share their contacts and their suppliers, which would rarely happen in other trades. It’s a small industry, so I guess the bigger it gets the better we’ll all do.

How did Liberty come to stock you?

Every year Liberty does an open call for new designers, so I approached them and had to do a three-minute pitch. It went really well. When I applied to do the Hot House course, you had to write down what your crazy ambition would be, and mine was being stocked in Liberty – I’m still in shock.

Why would you rather be based in London that in the countryside, where your craft originates?

It’s a fine balance with me. I’m from Yorkshire and I go to Scotland a lot, so I have my rural retreats. I find my imagination really comes to life in the countryside and I’m hit with inspiration all the time. But I feel so much more excited in London. There are so many things to interact with, and I think by being here it’s easier to make my dreams and ambitions to come true.

Talk to us about the craft cafe

It’s a joint project between me and my boyfriend and it’s going to be called The Cottage. We’re a cottage industry, and when we were coming up with the idea we were we really inspired by Andy Warhol and his 1960s Factory as an iconic place where artists met and made work. We wanted to create something similar, but without the dark undertones that the Factory had. So we thought about what the opposite to factory is, and came up with The Cottage.

My boyfriend is a designer and furniture maker, so we wanted somewhere that we could showcase our work, without it being intimidating or snobbish. We’re going to sell coffee and grow carrots, courgettes and beetroot to make cakes with. It’s going to be a space where people can come and hang out, work and also see how we work, so we can educate in a non-patronising way about the craft of making and manufacturing using British materials.

Tell us a secret

All my blankets have secret messages woven into them using Morse code – this one I’m holding says love.

Watch this space for an exclusive look round The Cottage before it opens later this year.

www.hollyberryprojects.com

Tagged: , ,

Pin this!

About the Author

Rachel Bull

When I'm not looking after the three men in my life - Mr LULR and our two tabbies Cosmo and Murray - I spend most of my time crafting, growing, writing and exploring the city to find inspiring LULR content for you to enjoy.

View 's profile.

9 Comments on "Interview With Holly Berry"

  1. Rachael Sarah Jayne July 21, 2011 at 12:17 pm · Reply

    I have a Holly Berry Morse Code Scarf and I love it. It was the most wonderfully warm and cozy thing to wear all winter this year. Original, Sustainable, Beautiful, High Quality Deliciousness. What could be better.

    • Rachel Bull
      Rachel Bull July 21, 2011 at 2:16 pm · Reply

      Hi Rachael, aren’t they just the most amazing blankets ever?! Great to know you love Holly’s products too. I hope you continue to enjoy the site! Rachel x

  2. ROY POSEY July 21, 2011 at 4:20 pm · Reply

    I’m lucky enough to have commissioned Holly to weave a beautiful bespoke scarf as a gift to my new wife on our first morning together.
    It is so lovingly made and such a special piece, that it will be part of our Posey family for many many generations to come.

    This scarf not only celebrates our coming together, but represents the promise to my wife that I would always keep her protected and warm. The message woven in is a reminder to her of who she is to me and how much I love her – it literally wraps her, hugs her and reinstates my vows and my promise every time she wears it…
    It is a work of art, it is a show of brilliant skill, it is a future heirloom, it is beautiful, it is Holly’s wonderful concept – lovingly woven into your own message………

    Holly, we love you xx

    • Rachel Bull
      Rachel Bull July 21, 2011 at 4:39 pm · Reply

      Hi Roy,
      What a beautiful message, thank you for sharing that with us. Holly’s scarves are something very special, that’s for certain.
      If you continue to enjoy LULR half as much as you enjoy the scarf, I will be happy!
      Rachel x

  3. Nicki Robilliard July 23, 2011 at 3:41 pm · Reply

    I adore these Holly Berry throws and scarves…they’re so luxurious, soft and warm. The colours are great and I love the hidden morse code messages in the weave :)

    • Rachel Bull
      Rachel Bull July 24, 2011 at 10:13 am · Reply

      Hi Nicki, thanks so much for your comment. Wow, the response to Holly’s interview has been amazing- and rightly so! More inspiring stories on LULR coming soon! Rachel x

  4. Abigail @abigail*ryan August 12, 2011 at 4:53 pm · Reply

    I first remember seeing Holly’s work on a TV programme my partner and I watched (BBC, I think…with Monty Don about reviving Craft skills) last year – we LOVED the work that Holly produced on the loom, especially her flair for colour and balance – she really stood out… so delighted to read this interview and see her doing so well!

    I completely understand how shocked and delighted she is to be in Liberty – it was a lifelong dream of mine, too. My partner Ryan and I also attended the Open Call and were sucessful this year, so huge congrats and I know only too well how great the feeling is! ;)

    Hope to own one of her lovely blankets one day… I think they would look gorgeous alongside our cushions in our living room. Best of luck for the future, Holly, and thanks for this great interview Rachel :)

    Abigail@abigail*ryan homewares

    • Rachel Bull
      Rachel Bull August 12, 2011 at 5:09 pm · Reply

      Hi Abigail, great to read your lovely comment! And WELL DONE on getting your products into Liberty too – amazing! Glad you liked the interview; Holly’s an inspiring girl.
      Rachel x

Trackbacks for this post

  1. Today’s Pinterest Pick «

Leave a Comment

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.