After graduating with an MA from the Royal College of Art in 2013, Beatrice Larkin established her label with the desire to create design-led textiles for the home. Working from her London studio, she uses a web of highly skilled mills and finishers in the UK to weave fabrics made from the softest merino and lambswool. Passionate about honest craftsmanship, her collections are woven in small runs with a focus on quality, texture and the individual characteristics of each piece of cloth.
Today we’ve put Beatrice in the hot-seat to see what makes her creative process tick.
Were you always set on designing textiles or is it something you got into through your studies?
I think I was probably always headed in this direction having been surrounded with fabric from an early age. My mum is a textile designer and my dad runs an interior design business so you could say it’s in the blood. Studying textiles and specifically woven textiles at The Royal College allowed me to find my own direction and aesthetic, which eventually led me to start my own business.
During your studies you took a placement at Wallace Sewell – how did this experience feed into your own practice?
Working at Wallace Sewell was my first experience of a woven design business. I began thinking about the business of textiles, costing, pricing, margins and the reality of designing fabrics for wholesale and retail. It was a bit of an eye opener as a young textile student as hand weaving is a long and laborious process so understanding the limitations and possibilities of production was really valuable. I guess it was here that I first wanted to get to grips with the business side of design and making.
What inspires the linear style of your textiles?
Inspiration comes from a number of sources. Perhaps most evident is my love of the bold block geometric style of the Bauhaus weavers Gunta Stolzl and Anni Albers. I like geometrics with a human touch so I work that into my designs, often trying to build in a ‘flaw’. I use my hand drawings to create spontaneity, which I then apply to fabric designs. These sketches are taken from a number of sources such as hand painted buildings from Tiébélé, West Africa. The paintings are refreshingly honest and beautiful and I attempt to convey the same spirit in my fabrics.
Traditional weaves are also a great inspiration, manipulating structures to form the design and composition of the cloth. I play with scales, placing block patterns alongside smaller designs in the fabric structure. It is important that structure and design have equal importance resulting in a uniquely balanced fabric.
“It is important that structure and design
have equal importance resulting
in a uniquely balanced fabric”
Tell us about your studio?
I’m based at my home studio in Hackney. It’s a great location and I enjoy working from home. At the moment I’m surrounded by cushions and fabrics so I’m thinking about moving my studio somewhere else in the coming months. It would also be nice to be working alongside other designer makers.
Every day is different for me but it usually starts with checking and replying to emails whilst having breakfast. The rest of the day might include going for meetings, following up production, dealing with stockists and marketing my products. If I get a chance there might be some designing in there too but at the moment the business side of things seems to be taking the lead.
Talk us through the process for translating a design from paper to finished product?
Most of my designs start from sketches or developments from previous designs. I work on these on the computer and then figure out the scale and repeat of the design. The jacquard loom I use has certain restrictions so I have to plan my design to fit these. I work out the structures I want to use for the fabric and these are usually a very weft facing weave so the softer merino wool is more prominent over the cotton warp.
I then work with the mill and adjust designs to fit the right pick rate for the fabric, making sure the finished fabric is the right weight and the design is looking right. I order my weft yarn which is delivered to the mill, the fabric is woven and then sent to be washed and finished somewhere else. After this, the fabric is sent to a seamstress to make into cushions and throws
“Honesty and integrity in my work are crucial.
It allows me to deliver a quality well-made
piece knowing exactly how it was made.”
As a former exhibitor at Ethical Fashion Forum, why is incorporating ethical practices important to you?
It is important to me that the product I am selling comes from a reputable source. I can control all elements in the production line as I can go and visit the mills and talk to the weavers first hand. My products are luxury pieces and I want my customers to know how and where they’re investing their money. If I wasn’t as in control of the production line I wouldn’t believe in my product and so I wouldn’t be able to pass that on to the customer.
Honesty and integrity in my work are crucial. It allows me to deliver a quality well-made piece knowing exactly how it was made. It was difficult when I moved from hand weaving to a small production line as I was worried I might lose something in the design and fabric if it were scaled up. Being in control of all stages and knowing the highly skilled British weavers I’m working with has been key to keeping the quality high.
Does working with a third party producer impact the design process?
I often have to change parts of production and sometimes this can be frustrating when you have a finished look you’re wanting to achieve. I try to work around these and often those changing aspects might lead to an unexpected and more exciting outcome.
If you had to pick a favourite piece from your new collection at Heal’s which would it be?
It would have to be the Lines throw. This design, taken from a hand drawing, is one of my most organic geometrics. I’ve worked into it to make areas look worn and brought in an undulating twill structure. All of these elements give the fabric a depth that I love. I think this piece really represents my aesthetic.
Part of our new Spring Collections, discover Beatrice Larkin’s contemporary cushions and throws at one of Heal’s stores or shop anytime online.
Part of our Heal’s Modern Craft Market: Made in London, this loom weaving workshop offers a basic first lesson in the principles of hand-weaving and mastering simple structures such as plain weave or twill and a fancy structure such as a twill or honeycomb. Each guest will weave 4 different fabric swatches on a table loom, with expert guidance and instruction.