Meet Laura Rosenzweig of Laura’s Loom
I already knew I loved the ethos and designs of Laura Rosenzweig’s weaving business – Laura’s Loom. But when I read her answers to my interview questions, I quickly realised that Laura is definitely a woman after my own heart. I love how she has followed her own path inspired by the surrounding landscape and her passion for the weaving process first ignited as a child. Forging ahead in the wild and windswept fells, mountains and lakes of Cumbria and Yorkshire. I hope you enjoy reading Laura’s answers and immersing yourself in the beautiful landscape she shares with us as much as I did. X
Tell us a little bit about your story
I am a weaver. I first learned to weave a little over 25 years ago, taking Saturday morning lessons for several months. It was love at first sight. I particularly enjoy the technical challenges involved in weaving and the mechanics of the looms. I started to weave with British wool after moving to the Yorkshire Dales in 2002.
Looking at the sheep in the fields around us I thought I should be using local wool rather than importing yarn from Europe and America. That set me off on a journey I’m still taking – to make more of British wool, showcase its merits, make beautiful products from it and try to sell them!
Please describe what you do
I produce yarn from fleece which I collect from local farms. My yarn is spun in West Yorkshire and dyed in the Scottish Borders.
I sell the yarns I produce as well as turned my yarns into blankets and scarves with the help of small weaving mills in the Scottish Borders and in Sedbergh.
I work with the natural colours of the fleece to produce different shades of white, grey and brown. Some of this is over-dyed into a palette of subtle colours that are very much inspired by the northern landscape.
I work on sample designs in my studio. Once I’ve decided on a design I then have it produced in small quantities. I began by having a single batch of 20 blankets woven on an historic Dobcross loom at Farfield Mill in Sedbergh, where my studio is based.
Farfield still weave for me, but when I decided to add scarves to my repertoire I began to work with another mill in Scotland – Drove Weaving – which has more modern looms.
I love the neat woven selvedges produced by the Dobcross loom but there are fewer of these looms operating now, and even fewer people who know how to work them.
One year I had rather a lot of yarn left over and a friend suggested I try socks. Living in the countryside I chose to have walking socks made. They’re produced in Leicestershire and have proved to be very popular.
Could you talk us through your creative process?
Creativity is a funny thing. I have always enjoyed trying to break the geometry that is natural to weaving but I always end up making products that have highly geometric patterns! I like simple things, subtle colours. I’m a quiet person and I don’t like things (or people) that shout. I shy away from shiny stuff too, although it’s not unknown to find the odd bit of glitter in my bespoke pieces.
An art teacher once gave me a palette of very bright colours to try to break me out of my toned down preferences. It didn’t work! I’m much more inspired by the muted tones found in the northern hemisphere. I find them peaceful.
I can struggle with new designs. When I have a product that is successful it’s tempting to keep making it but eventually it’s time for something new but making that commitment can be quite daunting. When you work with a mill you can’t just have a few blankets or scarves made, you need to commit to a longer length (which means using up a lot of my lovely yarn), so I might weave things by hand for a while to see if people like the colours or the designs and then I’ll turn those ideas into a larger order if the feedback is positive.
The thing that keeps me going is the weaving. I think of myself as a weaver rather than a designer or an artist. I’m a practical person but I do like an intellectual challenge. I like to break rules and can end up in a pickle with tangled yarn all over the place, but that’s how I learn best. I don’t like the word ‘should’! I get more pleasure out of winding a warp than sketching so I often set off with an idea in my head and a lot of cones of yarn on the floor, pulling colours as I see fit. The physical act of setting up the loom and throwing a shuttle never gets old. It demands a lot of concentration but you can lose yourself in the process.
Favourite way to start the day ?
A cup of coffee when I wake up and a cuddle with the dog. I start work when I’m ready. The best part of working for yourself is choosing your own hours!
What’s your morning routine?
I don’t have a routine, although it would probably be a good idea. I have a studio at home but my main place of work currently is my studio at Farfield Mill. The Mill is a lovely four storey stone building on the banks of the River Clough. It has a history stretching back over 150 years old and was once a fully integrated woollen mill, weaving horse blankets for Queen Victoria amongst other things. Nowadays it is an arts, crafts and heritage centre owned and managed by a community benefit society and open to the public 7 days a week (www.farfieldmill.org)
What keeps you going through the day?
I love what I do, it’s the most enjoyable ‘job’ I’ve ever had. But it means much more to me than being just a job. I can’t really describe the feeling but I know I’m in the right place when I’m working at my loom. It can be physically challenging at times but the satisfaction that comes from having made something with my own hands is a never-ending source of joy.
Top tips for enabling creativity?
These days I would say go for a walk. I find the act of walking allows me to think more clearly, it stretches out my aching muscles and makes me feel better in myself. The wind blows away the cobwebs. And I can talk out all my problems to the dog, who knows better than to answer back.
Autumn – the changing colours of the trees, the earthy smell of decay, the sun is lower in the sky which creates beautiful light effects on the hillsides. And the weather around here can be lovely in October!
What do you love best about each season?
Lambs in spring; the long laying down of the days in summer; autumn fruits; cold crisp winter days.
What do you do when struggling for inspiration?
Go for a walk or go to a museum. I am very much inspired by paintings, usually quite abstract ones. I like to see how colour is used by painters, how it keeps the eye moving across a flat surface, how it ‘speaks’ to me or how it makes me feel.
Favourite flower (or flowers) from each season?
Snowdrops – everlasting life, the first to herald the spring; Apple blossom;
Summer roses – but only the old-fashioned single ones with lovely delicate scents;
Rowan and hawthorn trees with their clusters of bright red berries in autumn;
Dead plants of winter, especially grasses that haven’t been cut down. I love their skeletal structures, seed heads, how they move in the wind and especially when they are rimed with frost.
Greatest simple pleasures?
I love the feel of the wind in my hair and on my face. It makes me feel alive. Even better if I’ve climbed a hill in the wind and the rain. It’s just so satisfying!
Any guilty pleasures you’d care to share?
I’m an Outlander fan. The drama is great but the books are fabulous.
Do you have a real hidden gem to share with us?
A self-catering cottage on the side of a Scottish loch which can only be reached on foot or by boat. If you read the blog on my website you can probably work out where this is. It’s one of the few places I’ve returned to again and again. It has a magical combination of mountains and sea that makes my heart sing. From the front door you can look across the water into the setting sun. There’s nothing there and yet there’s everything that matters.
Most treasured possession?
So many to choose from, but it’s probably my first loom. I could never sell this loom. It helped me change the direction of my life.
Favourite walk and why?
Lots of local walks in the Dales but the walk that will always be with me is the time I hiked from Kinlochhourn to Inverie on a glorious late June day. It was my first time in the mountains alone but the weather was on my side and when it doesn’t get dark until 11pm it doesn’t matter if you can only manage 2 miles an hour. The feeling of climbing to the top of a 2000’ pass from sea-level then descending back to sea-level is one everyone should experience.
What are you passionate about right now and why?
Pierre Soulages. I’ve just seen a retrospective of his “outre-noir” paintings at the Louvre. It was fabulous and set off a whole cacophony of ideas for future work.
Can you sum up your ethos and what inspires you?
I care about doing something that benefits people, about giving back to the community which supports me, about making things that have meaning and longevity, that people will treasure and not just throw away. If they do throw it away then I care that I will not be adding to the burden of pollution.
Best place to unwind/escape to in the British Isles?
My hidden gem, or Papa Westray in the Orkneys.
Best piece of advice you could share?
Have the courage to be yourself and to follow your own dreams even when everyone around you thinks you’re crazy. This is how I found my ‘calling’ and all the places in the world that inspire me.
Favourite book of all time and why?
The book I’m reading right now (my favourite books change over time, I don’t have an all time favourite) – Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon. It’s a fabulous piece of landscape writing – both the landscape we look at and the landscape of our minds.
What do you think is the secret to being happy?
Accepting that you are who you are and being true to yourself.
What are your goals for the future?
To keep on weaving, to travel more, to read more, and one day to learn to sail well enough that I can take a small yacht island-hopping, or at the very least find someone with a boat who’s willing to take me along and teach me what I need to know.
Are you a maker, grower or creative course provider? Like to list with us and benefit from joining our supportive community? We’d love to hear from you. Check out the packages we offer on our Join Us page and get in touch…