Meet the Maker: Beatrice Larkin
Welcome to Hope and Story's Meet the Maker Series, where we chat to some of the people behind our favourite independent British brands.
Beatrice creates modern woven textiles that are designed in her London studio. She turns her intricate sketches into jacquard weaves. The fabrics are woven at a jacquard mill in Lancashire and then washed and finished in the Yorkshire Dales.
I chatted to the wonderful Beatrice over a cuppa and got to know a little bit more about her craft. We managed to drag her away from doing what she loves for half an hour to chat product sourcing, sustainability, future plans, surviving a pandemic and lots more....
You come from a family with experience in the textile industry, do you think this inspired your career path?
‘Yes, to an extent. My dad has an interior design business and a shop based in Canterbury; he’s had this for over thirty years now. My mum is also a textile designer. She studied embroidery and continues to make her own textiles. She buys vintage textiles and makes her own products that way. Both are kind of small scale, particularly my mum -she always handmade products whereas I now work with manufacturers. Being a weaver is a slightly different skillset. But, yes, 100% their influence has got me where I am now.’
What inspired the line drawings? Where do you get your inspiration from?
‘It’s a mixture of places. I’m really influenced by the Bauhaus kind of look, also Brutalist Architecture, and I really love African textiles too! So, lots of different influences come together to create these geometric patterns with that hand touch.’
Would you consider applying your designs to other formats like textiles and print? Print would be one I think your designs would really lend themselves to, is that something you’d consider?
‘I am just in the process of trying to begin creating a printed collection, so it is on my mind. I am just trying to understand where that would fit into my business and what application I would like that to have because I think it needs to fit in with what already exists.’
You mentioned that the mill you use is based in the UK, how important is it to you, that your products are completed made here in the UK, or as much as possible anyway?
‘Well, it’s crucial to me really because it means that I can go and visit them and speak with them if needs be. I am quite controlling when it comes to my business so it would worry me to produce overseas. For these products, we have such amazing mills in the UK.’
We love the Merino jacquard Cut Throw from the Beatrice Larkin collection.
You spent lockdown in your family home in Whitstable, is that right?
‘Yes, I was living with my brother there.’
It must be wonderful, living so close to the sea?
‘I’m going back there next week because I miss the sea, I am very torn between Whitstable and London now.’
How have you found it, moving back to bustling East London from sunny Whitstable?
‘Good and bad. There are elements that I like and elements I dislike. Whitstable is great but there are not many people my age or in my position. In London, outside of my professional life I love to go to galleries and to see live music, I’m not sure I want to apart from that right now. However, being able to go to the beach everyday was also amazing so I am a bit confused right now.’
What challenges have you faced as a UK designer in the textile industry?
‘I studied design, I’d love to be spending a lot more of my time designing and producing textiles under my own name, but I can’t afford to just produce and produce. Also, I don’t have a huge amount of space and because my fabric is Merino wool, which is quite expensive, I can’t afford to hold many lines. When you manufacture, you want to keep standards up. You want to maintain the quality because that’s what your customers are buying into, but your cost price is very high as well. When I was younger, I dreamt of being a stockist for certain stores such as ‘Heal’s’ - that was my dream, and I’ve done that. I’ve been in ‘Heals’ now since 2017. When you get to that place, you realise the reality of running a business through selling wholesale is very hard and so I think over the years I’ve been trying to restructure where I’m selling and look at the realities of how I’m selling, whether its wholesale or direct on my website.’
The Merino Jacquard Cut Dark cushion from the Beatrice Larkin collection.
Your aspirations from when you started out to where you are now - have they changed very significantly?
‘As I mentioned, I am very controlling of what I do and how I present myself, and what I present out to the world, but equally I’ve understood a bit more about running a business. In order to survive you must do some jobs to be able to afford to do the passion projects. I have learnt to become more open to that aspect.’
What advice would you give to someone looking to start out in the creative industry?
‘You’ve got to absolutely love it, really stick at it and not think its going to come straight away - I hate to sound negative here. Just understand that your goal posts will move. I’m always so hard on myself, always looking for the next goal, so when you do reach those goals just try and appreciate them when they do come. Its very difficult as a creator to teach yourself the business side of things - it can take a long time and require a lot of business support. I would say, the creative side can be very small and the business side very big so just get as much advice as you can.’
Can I ask, how did the pandemic effect you over the last 12 months?
‘I was outside of London and before this I had a separate job where I received furlough pay for the year - these things combined gave me the opportunity to go full time with my business. It allowed me to put 100% of my time into it and gave me a lot more headspace. It’s given me the chance to think about where I want to take the business, what new products I want to create, designing a new collection, and so on. Personally, for me it has been quite positive, but the shops closing did have a knock-on effect due to buying less. I was lucky as I don’t have any huge overheads. I ended up purchasing an overlocker and manufacturing the product myself - this isn’t something I plan to continue doing but its good to know its something I can do.’
What is an overlocker?
‘It’s like a sewing machine but it finishes off your edges. It means I can create more professional edging on products. It allows me to manufacture my product myself.’
So, what’s in store for you over the next 12 months?
‘So right now I’m focusing on the Upholstery collection. I’ve just finished the fabrics, but I need to market that so hopefully I will get a photographer in and upholster some furniture and push that to the interior design market. I’ve also just finished, well I’m in the last stages of designing a new collection so that’s coming back from the mill. Currently my work is monochrome, this was never intentional, it just naturally went that way because my designs are intricate and so my yarn is expensive, but I would love to not just be known for monochrome.’
Finally, what attracted you to Hope and Story?
‘I think the focus on being manufactured and made in the UK was very fitting as that’s the core thing that I do. Also, I find them very responsive which isn’t always the case when working with other people. In the last year I’ve been really trying to expand on my platforms to ensure I’m being seen; this seems like a great place to do that.’
You can shop Beatrice Larkin products here.
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