Cymru Culture

Fashion and Designers / Ffasiwn a Dylunwyr

Interview with Sian O'Doherty

(December 01, 2015)

Interview with Sian O'Doherty

sian odoherty - handmade in wales


CC … How did your interest in textiles and textile design begin?

SO … Art was definitely my favourite subject at school, but the turning point for me was completing a Foundation course at Carmarthen School of Art, which completely opened my eyes to the possibilities of pursuing a creative career. I continued my studies at the college studying BA Contemporary Textiles, specializing in weaving and machine knitting, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Sian O'Doherty - workshopSian O'Doherty's workshop

CC … As an independent designer/retailer, what obstacles have you faced in reaching this point in your career, and correspondingly, what help and support have you benefited from?

SO … Saying it has been an easy journey would be far from the truth- but then that's what makes it rewarding when you start to see your business developing. You have to be determined, willing to work hard and for long hours and, most importantly, have goals to achieve.

Regrettably, when starting a business, profit is not immediately achievable ... or indeed guaranteed, which is why I am extremely grateful for all the support the Arts Council of Wales (ACW) have given me over the last two years since launching my business. Through their support I have been able to purchase essential equipment, exhibit at Made by Hand in Cardiff as well as the Great Northern this October, which I am very much looking forward to. In addition to the support from the ACW, I have benefitted from the continued backing of outlets in Wales who have stocked my work in their galleries/shops. And finally where would anyone be without the support and guidance of their family, friends and colleagues, whom I am greatly indebted to.


Sian O'Doherty - Welsh blanket cushion Sian O'Doherty - cable cushion Sian O'Doherty - cariad cushion
'Welsh blanket' cushion 'Cable' cushion 'Cariad' cushion

CC … You take inspiration for your designs from the beautiful Pembrokeshire/Welsh landscape. How does this translate into your pieces?

SO … The Pembrokeshire landscape is a constant source of inspiration; from the natural beauty of the coastline, to the woodlands and windswept hills. Every aspect, from the smallest of details on a shell to the overall landscape provides an abundance of patterns and textures to capture within my knitted fabrics. Many of my products are titled after their source of inspiration, for example 'Crag Scarf' was inspired by rugged cliffs and strata formations, and my 'Shoreline Scarves' are a reflection of the intricate patterns and textures found on the beaches.


CC … Your pieces have a very fresh and modern feel. Was it important for you to design something different to the designs/styles already available (such as long-established names e.g. Melin Tregwynt)?

SO … A desire to create fabrics that are unique, well-made and intriguing is at the root of all of my designs. I am sure that every designer wants to create work that is different and, ultimately, a reflection of themselves.

sian odoherty - cushions, in situ

CC … All your pieces are handmade. Is this design element important to you?

SO … There is a real sense of satisfaction and thrill when you create products by hand seeing individual threads come together into intricate patterns of colour and texture. It is this element of uniqueness that I love about making by hand, with no two pieces being identical.


CC … Artisan pieces are becoming ever more popular, with the public keen on handmade and bespoke items. Are people are moving away from mass produced pieces?

SO … I think we are moving towards purchasing hand made items more because we have reached a point where the market is saturated, with mass-produced products that can seem identical and soulless.

People value having a unique product. I have recognised through my own exhibitions, when selling my work, that it is the interaction between myself and the public that adds a further dimension and value to my work. Customers enjoy knowing and learning who I am, where my inspiration comes from, how I develop and create the pieces and where my workshop is.

sian odoherty - scarf & wristwarmers
Handknitted scarf and wristwarmers

CC … Your designs have featured in many home and interior magazines. What a terrific acknowledgement of your work by the industry.

SO … I am extremely honoured and grateful to have my work featured in magazines. It's a real privilege and reward after all the work that has gone into the collection.


CC … You also run workshops. It must be really enjoyable to share your skills with others.

SO … Yes sharing my skills with others is an important part of my work that I really enjoy. I hope that my workshops inspire people to continue knitting themselves and develop their own fabrics. But most of all my main aim for each workshop is to ensure that by the end of the day each individual feels that they have achieved a new skill and enjoyed themselves.


Sian O'Doherty - Welsh wool fabrics Sian O'Doherty - mood board
Welsh wool fabrics in Sian's workshop Sian's 'mood-board'

CC … You recently won 'Craft Country Homes & Interiors My Country Business Award'. Please tell us about this and how this could support and promote your business.

SO … The award "aims to promote and empower country-based entrepreneurs", by providing mentoring sessions from leading business advisors in the UK.

I am looking forward to gaining the advice and guidance that will help me develop my business from people who have this expertise. I hope that I will be able to view business opportunities from a new perspective.


CC … In addition to designing beautiful pieces, you are also a course leader at Carmarthen School of Art. How did you become involved in the scheme and what do you most enjoy about it?

SO … I really enjoyed studying at this college and I always hoped to maintain some sort of connection with the college following my degree. Therefore, being successful in gaining my present post was very exciting. Juggling the role with running a business can be challenging and requires a great deal of organisiation, but I love teaching the students; seeing them thrive and develop as creative individuals.


CC … What plans do you have for your company?

SO … My plans for the future are looking exciting! With my recent grant from the Arts Council of Wales, which I am extremely honored to have received, I am now able to exhibit at 'The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair' in Manchester this October. I am also exhibiting at 'Made By Hand' in Cardiff, and at both events I will be launching a new collection of KNITTED lampshades as well as new colourways to add to the collection.

My partner and I have also been busy converting our barn into a workshop, which we aim to have finished this year (fingers crossed!). I am very excited about this and can't wait to move in! From here I will also be able to teach a greater variety of workshops and cater to larger classes.

Another project I am keen to pursue at the beginning of next year is a new alpaca collection using the fleece from our own animals. We have fifteen alpacas at the farm and an abundance of beautiful fleece that I have slowly been collecting, which is now crying out to be developed into products.

CC … Sian O'Doherty, thank you.

Facebook: Sian O'Doherty Textile Designer
Twitter:     @Sianodoherty

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