The unseasonally damp, windy and chilly evening of 23rdAugust did not deter the Crea team from sallying forth to the inaugural MAKEMORE craft festival in Victoria Park, Hackney, London. A very good thing it was too, because here we met weaver Claire Whelan busy at her loom, and she kindly agreed to tell us about her lovely work.
When did you first become interested in weaving?
I’m originally a Leicester girl via two Irish parents and moved to London 11 years ago to complete an internship with weaver Margo Selby. Margo sparked my interest in weaving and it’s always been on my mind since.
Where did you study the craft?
At The Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design in East London, where I now work part-time as a constructed textiles technician.
Tell us about some of the work you’ve been commissioned to do.
I mostly receive private commissions. Currently I am weaving a cashmere and lambswool baby blanket designed within my own style and inspired by the family tartan colours of the baby’s father. I enjoy combining my WhelansWeaving style with a custom colourway – these are my ideal commissions.
Tell us about the Cloth Workers Foundation Award you received. How did this help with your business?
The Cloth Workers Foundation Award firstly gave me confidence, but more importantly gave me access to a wonderful studio space at Cockpit Arts in Deptford. Before winning the award, I had a very small studio on my own in Walthamstow where I live, which was a wonderful starting-point for my practice but it didn’t provide me with the creative community I so greatly desired. I am now part of a much wider creative community and I believe my work has seen much improvement and advancement in technique and design.
What advice would you give anyone setting up a business?
Understand what it is that drives you. If it is your practice or a simple love of making, is that enough to motivate you to work long days and weekends without much initial financial gain? On the financial side, always be aware that it takes time to organically grow a business, and always seek advice where available to you. Finally, always help others who cross your path, and be willing to pass on any knowledge or good fortune you have fortuitously gained.
Claire also described her practice and work. ‘My pieces are constructed on various types of loom, with various amounts of shafts. The more shafts you use, the more complicated the design you can create. All my designs are essentially variations on the same woven structure and inspired by a mix of London housing estates and Mediterranean architecture.
The most important element to me is that I am not designing for any particular gender, I like my work to appeal to females and males equally.
I design and weave by hand in my East London studio – rugs, blankets, extra soft baby blankets, cushions and a variety of scarves. I also create large and small art pieces.’
View Claire’s work on Instagram @whelansweaving