Araminta Campbell is someone we have been following closely over the last few months. Her ethics, standards, quality and craftsmanship are very much in line with ours. A weaver by trade who uses an artistic approach to her work, developing her own designs taking inspiration from nature using the Scottish landscape, she fuses the old with the new and is making this traditional craft super chic and highly desirable.
Araminta offers a service called ‘Heritage’ which is commission based for the design and production of bespoke tweeds and tartans. The fabrics are woven and finished in Scotland using world famous skills and expertise built up over generations and use naturally sourced, ethical raw yarn from UK farms.
We caught up with Araminta in London to discuss specifics for creating our own bespoke Featherstone London tweed and got the opportunity to ask her a few burning questions we had regarding her work:
Weaving is an unusual trade, where did this passion start?
My weaving journey began with a passion for textiles which was fostered by a wonderful teacher I had at Secondary School, which lead onto me taking a degree in fine art embroidery. In the final year of this degree I stumbled across the weave room and was completely captivated!
I loved the extra dimension that weave requires, the way precise mathematical workings are combined with artistic vision. I have always had a natural way with numbers and I had never realised that this could actually have a place within my creative practice.
How long has it taken you to fully learn this trade and become proficient in the craft?
It took me around 3 years to get my weaving skill to the exacting standards I expect of my products, however the learning is never done! I am constantly building on that knowledge, creating new designs and experimenting with new ways of doing things.
Where do you look for inspiration to come up with new concepts and designs?
My greatest source of inspiration is the Scottish landscape. I am at my happiest when I am out for a walk in the hills, and this love of the natural world translates into everything I do.
When I am designing a tweed, this is reflected in the colours I choose, and the woven patterns and textures I combine to create an impression of the land it represents.
My handwoven alpaca pieces often spring from a specific natural detail or motif I have noticed, whether that is the bark on an old Scots pine or the delicate structure of a feather. I often describe them as my ‘woven paintings’ – as they are my way of capturing the world I see, and have the same consideration and unique quality as a work of art.
How long does it take you to hand weave one of your bespoke pieces?
Usually my Handwoven alpaca pieces take around 5 days to create. This includes several days of preparing the loom and hand weaving, as well as all the washing and finishing. People often forget about this last part, but the difference that it makes if huge! Once a piece is woven, it is handstitched, cut off the loom and then put through a 6 stage hand washing process before being brushed, steamed and brushed again.
Although machine woven, the bespoke tweed process also takes time. Once I get a brief and I have discussed with the client what they are looking to achieve, the concept for the new design usually bubbles away in my mind for two weeks. I need a while for the ideas and inspiration to come together, as often it is my creative subconscious that gives me my most original designs! However equally, I can sometimes be driving through the countryside and have to pull over as a tweed design has popped fully formed into my head!
Once I have an idea for a design, it takes up to a month to develop that alongside my client, incorporating their feedback until we have something they love. The weaving process can then take several months depending on the yarns, finish and weaving mill we have selected.
There are a few cloth weavers in Scotland, what makes you unique?
I guess you could say that it starts with me approaching weave design from an artistic perspective.
With my handwoven pieces, the complexity of the patterns I create isn’t seen very often as they would be considered impractical for large production runs. However this was never my intention as they are my woven artworks –each one is a unique one off piece.
They are also woven completely by hand on my two old looms. These are beautiful objects in themselves, and have such character and history. They haven’t been modernised in any way so take a lot of TLC and patience, but it really means that the skill and aptitude of the weaver is laid bare and each piece is that much more connected to the hands of its’ maker.
For the bespoke tweeds I create, my artistic approach is also something I believe sets me apart. I love the idea of a design being able to tell a story; to speak of the people and places that it represents. As such, I work closely with each client to create something that is really unique to them, rather than just having a few options that they can adapt or customise. I then collaborate with other highly skilled manufacturers around Scotland to produce the woven fabric – which is unusual as most designers are connected to a single mill or don’t provide final production. This allows me to offer clients a wider range of options to cater to their every need, as well as meaning I can support small rural mills.
We are seeing a huge shift from fast fashion, mass produced items back to UK, locally sourced and bespoke/luxury goods. Why do you think this is and how has that impacted your business?
I think we are seeing a backlash against the exploitation and waste that has been highlighted in the fast fashion industry in recent years. People are becoming more widely aware of ethical and environmental issues and this has impacted the way people think about the things they buy. Customers are demanding to know more about the way goods have been produced, and are increasingly looking for quality items that last.
Being a small luxury brand we have come into the market at the right time, as actually being small and able to trace every single stage of our raw materials and making process is really valued. We are also able to offer people the personal experience and story behind each item, which gives them a lasting connection and appreciation for each piece. They become conversation pieces and future heirlooms rather than just here one season and gone the next.
What’s your biggest achievement to date?
Meeting prince Charles at a showcase of the best of Scottish Textiles at Dumfries House. Really inspiring to speak to someone who has such an appreciation and knowledge about textiles.
Any exciting projects coming up planned that you can reveal to us?
I am currently designing for the Fife Arms Hotel, which is a luxury hotel currently being renovated in the Scottish Highlands. It has been my biggest project to date, and I can’t wait to see how it will look when it opens in 2018.
What’s the most creative/unusual request you have been asked to create?
I think that would probably be taking a tweed design back in time – without knowing what it looked like before!
A few years ago I was commissioned by the Glen Tanar Estate to redesign and manufacture their estate tweed. The Estate tweed they had – over time and many contemporary reproductions – seemed to have moved away from it’s original colours and design. I was asked to bring it back to its former glory.
I started with a visit to the Estate. Situated in Royal Deeside, it is an area I know and love, full of dark Scots pine forests, rocky crags, heathered hills and the mighty River Dee. Working with a few examples of what the tweed had become, I returned to the colours and textures of the landscape to breathe life back into the design.
We were all really pleased with the finished result – and just a few months later I heard from the Estate. They had just stumbled across a hand woven Glen Tanar tweed blanket from around the 1930s and it almost exactly matched the design I had just produced for them! History had been recreated.
What’s the dream/future for your brand?
Become a destination Scottish textile brand, where people come to experience our unique combination of design, quality and craftsmanship.
We often host international visitors at our hand weaving workshop in Edinburgh, and I love sharing what we do as well as adding to their appreciation for Scotland’s culture and textile heritage.
I also always want us to maintain that personal quality, the direct connection with the designer and makers that makes our pieces so unique.
Over the coming months we are planning to bring you updates documenting the production of our own tweed which we will reveal via this blog! We hope you enjoy following its progress and would love to hear your thoughts!