Connecting you with the people of Scotland by sharing their stories
Hi Jonny, can you please introduce yourself and your business to our readers?
My name is Jonny MacKinnon, I’m a 33yr old woven textile designer from Glasgow. I recently opened my own design studio in Uddingston not long after I graduated in 2021. From here I am trying to build my brand and find my feet in the industry.
Your background is very different from what it is that you do today, can you tell us about what it is that you used to do, and what led you to textile design?
At high school, I loved science, namely biology so when I left, I went to college and gained an HND in Biomedical Science. I then went to work in a food microbiology lab in 2009 and stayed there until 2018. During my time here I enjoyed my role but didn’t see room for progression and began to lose my passion for the job. I decided in 2014 to drop my hours to part-time and go back to college to retrain, to give the other subject I enjoyed a go – Art. I applied to Edinburgh College with a very basic portfolio and no formal background in Art. I was gifted a chance to prove myself in the entry level BTEC First Art & Design course. I loved every minute of that course, touching on sculpture, painting, installations, mark-making and came out of it with top marks. From there I gained entry to the HND Textiles programme, and the rest is history!
Since graduating with distinction in 2021 as a Master of Design, you have opened your own design studio. Was this a natural next step for you, and what are your goals for the business?
I hadn’t considered the prospect of having my own studio until the pandemic hit. I was in the final few months of my BA at Glasgow School of Art and had two potential job opportunities lined up for when I left. Then we went into lockdown in March and not knowing when or how we would come out of it, the job prospects disappeared. Not knowing what was next, I decided to go back to university and study for a Masters in Fashion & Textiles at GSA. If I was going to be stuck in the house, then I may as well carry on learning! Attempting to work from home in a creative discipline was difficult, it was this which led me to taking my own studio space. I won a top scholarship from the Worshipful Company of Weavers which gave me the funds to take a space and buy the equipment needed to begin work.
As I said earlier, I am still trying to find my feet in the industry, currently I am working on The Tennent’s Light SpotLight Project which will take me to September. From there I am aiming to release a few products in time for Christmas and then take it from there. Within the next couple of years, I want to be a well-known brand, weaving lengths of cloth, designing commissions and creating new and exciting products!
What sort of products will you be selling on your website?
My aim for the end of the year is to have a few different options for sale to showcase my textile designs and their versatility. I will be beginning with simple designs – a few scarf variants and possibly some interior textiles; cushions, throws, wall-hangings. Potentially the garments created for the Tennent’s Light SpotLight Project will be up for sale at some point also!
What other services do you offer?
I offer commission design services; these services range from simple CAD drafting and design to small run varied textile sampling to large scale meterage runs of cloth designed either by myself or by your own hand.
I also offer 1-2-1 consultation services for anyone wanting to discuss textile design, issues they may be having with looms or studio equipment or even students who need a second opinion on projects or feel like they need help pushing work forward.
You mention workshops, what type of workshops do you offer, and what can people expect when attending one?
Workshops are currently on hold at the moment due to a few different reasons – mainly being too busy! Although I have hosted a few in my space, it is not something I overly advertise. I am open to hosting workshops if anyone contacted me privately. I have given career workshops to primary school children, talking to them about careers in the industry and teaching them the basics of weaving using paper and small frame looms. I have given workshops to older beginners where the fundamentals are taught, and people are introduced to various types of floor loom and equipment. And I have also given 1-2-1 workshops with intermediate designers who want to explore advanced techniques or need to use my large dobby loom for weaving longer lengths of cloth.
Can you tell us where you get your inspiration from?
My inspiration mainly comes from my Scottish heritage. I have always loved history and exploring the past and I really love being Scottish. We have such a long and rich history of invention and innovation that I feel lucky to count myself a part of it. Also, although born in Lanarkshire I feel very much Glaswegian, it is a city steeped in industrial history and that excites me! I work part time in a factory in Whiteinch, on the Clydeside called Albion Automotive which first opened in 1899 and still exists today. Walking around the area with its rusted iron, imposing buildings and colourful characters inspires me to no end. Our industrial and textile history are probably the two main reasons I became a weaver.
Responsible design is at the heart of all of your work, can you explain the importance of this for Scotland’s rich textile industry and beyond, and what it is that you do as a designer in order to achieve this goal?
Scotland’s textile industry was sustainable before it became a necessity. All of our yarn was farmed here before being shorn and spun and sent to the mills for weaving or knitting. As the industry grew and materials became cheaper to ship in, the Scottish industry fell into decline. People began to want silks, cashmere and luxury fibers which unfortunately we do not have the climate for. We now simply have to get back to a more sustainable and responsible way of working in the industry. The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world and it has to change. At the current level of my studio, I can take responsibility over where my materials come from and how I go about using them. There are many British mills weaving and knitting who purchase large quantities of yarn for their collections, so this is where I source material from. My studio is stocked with yarn which has been donated from mills as surplus or I have purchased as deadstock, and this limits the amount of virgin materials going back into the economy. When making clothing I source old garments and re-use as much as I can from them, sleeves, waistbands, pockets, collars buttons, zips etc. This helps me two-fold; a) it saves clothing from going to landfill and b) it means I need to weave less which cuts down on potential pattern cutting waste. I have also been working with cashmere selvedge waste for the past few years trying to find a viable use for it. The selvedge is a piece of fabric which is cut off either side of woven fabric in mills. It cannot be recycled due to polyester thread running through it which holds the material together before it is cut from the loom. This selvedge waste is abundant in the industry, and I am sure there must be a way to re-use it and add value back into something seen as worthless.
Your design studio may be a fairly recent part of your journey but since starting your education in textile design in 2017, you have gained many accolades. Can you share some of these moments and how they have helped progress you as a designer?
Each and every award has humbled me and kept me on the right track. They always came at a point where I was feeling low or questioning what I was doing. One of my favourites was being chosen by my peers to take our 3rd year fashion show all the way to Taipei, Taiwan for another catwalk show. I hadn’t long turned 30 and got my first ever passport for my birthday. For the first stamp in it to be Taiwan was unbelievable. I was treated like royalty and the cultural experience was unforgettable.
One of the latest was being commissioned by the Worshipful Company of Weavers in London to weave a wall hanging for their offices which eventually will go on to become part of the permanent textiles collection in the V&A London. I created a 5ft x 5ft piece woven from the waste selvedge spoken about earlier. The waste came from several British mills, all who are members of the Worshipful Company. This was the weft yarn (the yarn which runs horizontally in woven textiles), and the warp (the vertical yarn) was denim. This denim came from salvaged pairs of old work jeans from family and friends which signified my upbringing in a post-industrial community. The idea behind it was to create something which brought the textiles industry and my own personal history together into the one piece. I got to see it unveiled at an awards ceremony in front of over 100 high ranking members of the fashion and textiles industry.
The award I hold in highest regard though is the very first at the end of my BTEC year in 2014. It was for academic excellence and showed me that I had made the right choice and so will always be the one which means the most. I have and always will be humbled by any recognition I receive as I never expected to get this far in my journey or to have continue as it has.
As well as this, you have recently been selected as one of the first recipients of a new mentoring programme, along with funding from Tennent’s Light which will support, develop, promote and celebrate Scotland’s grassroots creative talent. What does this mean for you and your business?
Being selected as one of the Tennent’s Light SpotLight Project recipients means the world to me. There is such a diverse range of talent in our country and to have been selected as one of five was amazing. The financial boost was great as being a start-up and working part time, money isn’t always available, so it allowed me to buy better equipment and make repairs and improvements to my looms. But the money is only a small part of it, the visibility which will come from being a part of the project will be tremendous, Tennent’s has a massive reach and I hope that it will give my business a huge push. It all culminates in an exhibition in September which I am really looking forward too. The mentorship was what I am most excited about. I have already spoken with Bash The Entertainer who gave me lots of moral support and guidance on getting myself off the floor. Keeping my head down and pushing through and eventually something will come of all the hard work. My next session is with Nightwave, a DJ whose career is so multi-faceted that I’m looking forward to picking her brains on how to wear so many caps at one time and not get snowed under. And lastly Hayley Scanlon, being a successful fashion designer, she has worked tirelessly to become one of Scotland’s best known fashion brands whilst remaining true to her two children. My wife and I have a daughter of our own and it can be difficult at times trying to create a business whilst not letting it affect your home life. Hayley’s mentorship will be vital in helping me see how much effort goes into both, whilst keeping your head above water. That and some fashion branding advice!
What’s next for you in 2022?
The Tennent’s Light SpotLight Project will take up most of my year and from there on who knows! I am quite laid back and like to take it as it comes, I have spent so long on this journey that I am just learning how to enjoy it; not many people can say they get up each day to go do something they love, for themselves. Even the hard days when things don’t go to plan are rewarding. But I will still be weaving, working and learning how to grow my brand and build a life for my family we can be proud of.
Where can our readers find out more about your work, shop, and follow your onward journey?
You can follow me on Instagram this is where you will gain the best insight into my work and process.
Visit my website here.
And my Facebook page is Jonny MacKinnon Designs.
You can also drop me an email at jonnymackinnon@googlemail.