Maker Spotlight April 2021

Each month we'll feature a blog from one of the fabulous designer - makers we stock in FOLD.

This month...Mhairi Allan of Paper Houses Design

I’m Mhairi Allan of Paper Houses Design, a textiles lifestyle studio based in Aberdeenshire. We make bold products with a purpose and share textile skills through workshops.

Mhairi Allan Founderand Designer Paper Houses Design

Mhairi Allan

From the start being part of the positive change in the textiles industry has been central to me. I’m in no way saying that everything is perfect but I’m constantly trying to do the best and always looking to see how to do better. This starts with conscious design; I feel that if you design with purpose and consider all elements this is the best way to make a product. At the moment I’m also looking at the journey of what I make and how to sustain or extend the life of the things, either by repair or by reusing elements into new pieces. This is still at the very early stages of research, especially since many of my designs will not be anywhere near the end of their lives yet, but it is exciting to think ahead and plan for a positive outcome.

The inspiration for the designs often come from man made structures in our everyday landscape. The electric wires that run into the homes in my village or the brutalist staircase in the court of a high rise in Aberdeen (a now A listed high rise). These things are associated to our everyday lives yet often are overlooked or considered an eye sore. Many times, there is call to rip them up or knock them down but just like with items we own if we care for these structures and see the forms they take in our everyday life they will last. Each design is not created for a season in mind and I work with digital printers and batch manufactures as well as sewing away in my own studio to make small runs of items or to order pieces. Meaning that collections will be available for as long as I wish instead of being left behind and forgotten at the end of a season. I wanted my designs to be treasured by their owners and kept for years and year, I feel that designing trans-seasonal products promotes this.

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Since the end of 2019 I’ve been focusing more on my first loves of screen printing and embroidery. I’ve been bringing them back in to my main practice by creating one off or limited run pieces such as wall hangings. These offer me the dedicated time and control over a design, creating a textiles art piece which adds to my wellbeing but also creates an art piece which in someone’s home will add to their wellbeing. As I’ve been creating these, I’ve been looking more into the effect’s art in our home and places of work have on us. It’s sparked some great conversations. I really enjoyed hearing about the art space in the BP building and its positive effects on the people there. I feel that art in the home, whether made by yourself or someone else adds soul to a space. This was also one reason for creating the FORM Modern Embroidery Workshop Kits. I could share the skills of stitching with people and they could take part in the calming repetitive movements and sounds of it. Then they have a textiles art piece they have created to enjoy at the end of it all.

Designers like Lucienne Day, Enid Marx and Frank Lloyd Wright have always inspired me as well as the contemporary craft makers, designers and creatives in Scotland. With other designer makers I have been part of some great events, including raising over £10,000 for the Grampian Women’s Aid last year in the first lockdown. Together with Rachel from Hackley, Helen from Helen Ruth Scarves and Fiona from Camban Studios we organised a fundraiser online raffle bringing together over 50 makers and small businesses. This led me on to wanting to do more, including 15% of all online workshops and kits sales going to The Make Bank and planting one tree for every Wall Hanging sold via eForest. These elements have really added to my enjoyment of running my own business and its definitely something I want to grow. Ideally, I want to open a textile hub and gain support so I can offer classes to help people who want to get into the creative industries but don’t have opportunities to do so at the moment. Having these elements alongside my everyday running of Paper Houses Design definitely adds to it in a positive way, expanding my practice. I feel that the creative industries are an open and nurturing environment and anyone wanting to gain skills with in it should have an access route that is suitable for their circumstances. This year has been pretty exciting step forward on that front as I am in talks with a space to trial a Textiles Hub over the summer.

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