Mel and I popped over to Lilith‘s for some dyeing and some secret planning (oho! what fun!) Visiting West Kilbride gave me the opportunity to drop in on Lorna Reid again. If you haven’t heard about Lorna, it’s time you did. She’s the inspiring hands and brains behind independent design business, Chookiebirdie.
Lorna has a successful background in commercial textiles: she spent fifteen years creating sought-after floral prints, and counting some of the biggest names in the fashion industry among her clients. But, in 2007, she set up independently in her West Kilbride studio, where she now designs and makes beautiful hand-stitched accessories, toys, and textiles.
I love Lorna’s work. There are several things that immediately strike you about what she does: her use of colour, the quality of the materials she uses, the precision of her stitching and, in every piece, the same incredible attention to detail.
There is a pleasing simplicity about Lorna’s designs — in her bold use of both shape and shade — but this apparent simplicity belies the careful and thoughtful nature of her hand-stitched creations. You can see how she loves colour: how the pinks and blues in this Matryoshka are exactly the right ones. She also obviously has a very precise feel for the properties of fabric: how jersey might lend itself to the shape of a particular creature, or how felt enhances another design’s rounded edges and saturated hues. Every piece is individually made and because of this, each of her designs is singular, and full of character. From the largest hand-stitched panel to the the tiniest tree decoration, there are evocative details that draw the eye. I love how the dotty button on this jolly horse speaks to its neighbouring hand-stitched patches.
Many of Lorna’s designs have a nostalgic, wistful feel — compounded by her use of found or recycled vintage materials. I particularly like how she transforms old golf sweaters into her signature Scotties.
Lorna and Lilith (who we already know is brilliant) are what makes West Kilbride such an inspiring and interesting town: a place full of life, bustle, and creativity. At a moment when the media are gloomily sounding the death-knell of the town centre, and when to some the only answer seems the weird fantasy that’s being enacted in Poundbury (with apologies to Dorset Cereals), West Kilbride provides an instructive example. Here is a small town which, due to the presence of independent craftspeople in its once-empty shops, is starting to thrive again. (Also, it is probably just some sort of strange anomaly, but I swear that every time that Mel and I have visited, the weather in West Kilbride has been amazing — clearly the town is some sort of perpetually sunny craft oasis). However, the recent visit of the Scottish Culture minister only serves to highlight the question mark that currently hang over the future of its status as Craft Town Scotland. It is an initiative that deserves strong support — and especially that of anyone interested in independent craft and design. I suggest you go and see for yourself.
If you like Lorna’s work as much as I do, you can commission hand-stitched pieces from her, or just pop into her studio to buy something she’s stitched up already. Can you guess which creature I found impossible to resist?
it’s perhaps hard to tell from that detail . . . I shall pan out to its wee felt feet . . .
. . . indeed yes, it is an owl: stoic, inscrutable, self-contained. And beautifully hand-stitched, of course.
I know I am very foolish, but how I heart my owl.