Weaver Emily Mackey talks us through how she makes each of her hand­cra!ed creations

In­spired by her bu­colic sur­round­ings and im­pres­sive fam­ily tree, the Bri­tish weaver cre­ates hand­made blan­kets, cush­ions and rugs from her back-gar­den stu­dio

When Emily Mackey de­cided that she wanted to be an artist, it wasn’t weav­ing but paint­ing that en­ticed her the most. ‘ I loved paint­ing, it was what made sense to me,’ she ex­plains. ‘ But I knew that I needed to ex­plore other op­tions.’ She ! rst laid eyes on a loom dur­ing a visit to Mid­dle­sex Univer­sity, where stu­dents on the Con­structed Tex­tiles course were run­ning an in­ter­ac­tive weav­ing work­shop. ‘I im­me­di­ately felt like I was at home,’ she smiles and, un­sur­pris­ingly, it was the only univer­sity course that she ap­plied for. To­day, she weaves stylish pieces from her back­gar­den stu­dio – each one as in­tri­cate as it is beau­ti­ful.

What’s your back­ground?

I come from quite a large mul­ti­cul­tural and mul­tira­cial fam­ily line: from sheikhs and barons, to farm­ers, lace­mak­ers, painters, hu­man­ists, po­ets and horse grooms. As I’ve lived in so many places, I can’t re­ally tell you where I’m from. Iden­tity and ex­plo­ration in­form much of my work, along with the sto­ries passed down through my fam­ily. My main dis­ci­pline is weav­ing, but I also em­broi­der, paint, il­lus­trate and work with pho­tog­ra­phy. I love to make things with my hands and to see some­thing de­velop right in front of me.

How did you get into weav­ing?

A "er com­plet­ing a de­gree in Con­structed Tex­tiles at

Mid­dle­sex Univer­sity, I bought my own loom and started to work on pri­vate com­mis­sions. It hasn’t been an easy ca­reer path and, at times, I’ve had to sup­ple­ment my in­come with other jobs. I o!en won­der where I might have ended up if I’d fol­lowed other routes, but weav­ing and cre­at­ing is where my heart is.

What in­spires your de­signs?

Na­ture and my en­vi­ron­ment, mostly. Whether it’s trees tough­ing it out in crowded ci­tyscapes, lu­mi­nous or­ange lichen on roo!ops, rock faces, sky­scrapers, moun­tain slopes or roads. Some­times I turn to po­etry, sto­ries or mem­o­ries, and the images and colours they evoke. There’s an end­less sup­ply of in­spi­ra­tion when you start look­ing for it.

What is your process?

The "rst stage is de­sign­ing, plan­ning, cal­cu­lat­ing ‘ends per inch’ and sam­pling. I work out yarns and pro­por­tions ac­cord­ing to what my cho­sen theme is based on, and then try it out. It ei­ther works beau­ti­fully, or takes some tweak­ing to get to the next stage. Then I make the warp us­ing a warp­ing mill, which keeps all of the threads of yarn in a speci "c or­der, so that once they are wound onto the loom there are no tan­gles. Once the warp is threaded through hed­dles, the ends are guided through a reed that’s made up of evenly spaced gaps, like a closed comb, with a speci "c num­ber of gaps per inch, de­pend­ing on the thick­ness of yarn I’m us­ing ver­sus the den­sity of fab­ric re­quired. I then weave the fab­ric, us­ing the "rst bit to trou­bleshoot and

! x any is­sues. Once I’ve wo­ven the length I need, I’ll cut it o" the loom then qual­ity check it, re­pair­ing any missed ends that might have passed by un­no­ticed dur­ing the weav­ing. De­pend­ing on the yarn com­po­si­tion, I may give it a light press be­fore mak­ing it up into the ! nished piece.

De­scribe your stu­dio for us

My work­shop ar­rived as a ba­sic #at-pack shed, which I put to­gether in my back gar­den with the help of my fa­ther and some friends. I then in­su­lated it, clad the out­side, painted it and gave it power. I was able to change the di­men­sions to !t in all of my equip­ment and choose the po­si­tion of the long win­dows. It’s lovely – when I work in there I feel like I’m in the wilder­ness.

What are you work­ing on at the mo­ment?

I’m cur­rently mak­ing up my Bed­ford blan­ket de­sign into a large rug. I’ve had to adapt it for heavy use with li­nen warp in­stead of ! ne wool, cus­tomdyed rug wool and nat­u­ral Swaledale rug yarn. It’s been fun to sam­ple it and try to get as close to the blan­ket fab­ric as pos­si­ble.

What are your fu­ture plans?

I have some col­lab­o­ra­tive projects planned for next year with Ma$hew Paré of Pe­trel Fur­ni­ture, which will in­volve both weav­ing and hand em­broi­dery. Now that my child has started school, and time is on my side again, I’m go­ing to see where the wind takes me. See more of Emily’s de­signs at emi­ly­

Emily’s work­shop is beau­ti­fully light and airy, with her old-fash­ioned looms sit­ting in the cen­tre. ‘I’m lucky to have my own pri­vate work­shop – it’s a sa­cred space for me,’ she ex­plains. BE­LOW Emily’s Bed­ford cord and sateen heavy win­ter blan­ket costs £1,800.

Emily’s wo­ven de­signs of­ten echo the nat­u­ral el­e­ments that sur­round her. ‘It’s the things that stand out to me in what­ever en­vi­ron­ment I’m in, whether that’s ur­ban or wild,’ she says.BE­LOW RIGHT Win­ter Tree cush­ion, £50.50.

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