Interview with Siobhan Martin of Shiv Textiles
Siobhan Martin brings sustainability and creativity together in her fine homewares, weaving kits and other products. We learned all about how she discovered how to rescue textiles and other materials from landfill when she founded Shiv Textiles. Read on to discover the process behind this eco-friendly brand on a mission to put a halt to our throwaway culture.
How did you start your journey towards creating your label?
Shiv Textiles was born in my bedroom in 2017 after I finished university and moved back in with my parents. As an intern for big-name brands in the textiles and fashion industry, I was shocked by the amount of perfectly good materials going to waste. And I knew there had to be a better way. Fast fashion needs to take its foot off the pedal.
So I began contacting mills and factories, buying their yarns, zips, threads, buttons – all destined for landfill – by the kilogram. And it’s from this that all those cushions, scarves and weaving kits are created. This process never gets beige-and-boring. You have to think on your feet. Design with what you have. Every box of upcycled materials that lands in my studio feels like a small victory.
How did you get into your craft?
I've love art and design since I was a child, and I was very lucky that my parents understood this. I took all art and design subjects at A-Level, even though my secondary school wasn’t very happy about it. After school I did an Art Foundation Course at UCA. This was the best option for me as I didn't really know if I wanted to do photography, fine art or textiles. If you have the opportunity to do this year course before going to university, DO IT! I fell in love with textiles on this course, but it wasn't until I went to the University of Brighton that I fell in love with weaving! I spent 4 years, with a year placement in my 3rd year, specialising in woven textiles.
Can you tell us a little bit about the process behind your practice?
I work with mills and factories across the UK, rescuing their deadstock materials destined for landfill – yarn, zips, selvedges, buttons and more – and handcrafting it into fine homewares, lifestyle accessories and sustainable weaving kits for you to give a new life at home.
All products are designed, woven, sewn and finished by me in my Brighton studio. Most are handwoven 4 to 16 shaft loom, while fabric samples are developed further and woven on a Dornier Rapier loom.
We work hard to make our supply chain as low-impact as possible. My business carbon footprint is really important to me. Our weaving kits are laser cut locally from environmentally friendly plywood. The whole process of warping, weaving, finishing and processing, all takes place within a 1-mile radius. I am proud to make my products locally in Brighton. Our cushions' inners are custom made by a family run business on the outskirts of North West London. We also offset our carbon footprint by supporting tree-planting programmes through Ecologi.
What inspired you to start your brand?
I’ve always wanted to have my own business and work for myself since I was really young. I interned for a range of different sized businesses whilst in university, well-known brands and independent businesses. I saw what was possible if you work hard and follow what you love from the smaller and independent businesses and thought it was definitely for me!
Describe Shiv Textile’s mission.
We are on a mission to throw away our throwaway culture.
My studio is about weaving sustainability into the textiles industry. By putting a modern spin on a traditional craft, I want to show that it’s possible for us to enjoy pieces you cherish while minimising the impact we have on the planet too.
What is your favourite project that you have worked on to date?
My most recent collection and favourite of woven textiles is “Time Warp”. It was dreamed up in the grey days of lockdown. This cheerful graphic collection was like a break in the clouds. It was a time of departure for me, and that really comes across in Time Warp, as she steps away from pared-back, rustic designs in favour of a fun, fresh twist on 70s style. Guaranteed to make you smile.
What are your favourite materials to work with?
Deadstock yarn is my best friend. I love sourcing materials from British mills and factories. I love the process of finding, talking to and upcycling British mill waste. I work with a lot of lambswool as its natural, durable and biodegradable.
Do you have a favourite work you've made?
I created the weaving kit I sell today after being made redundant from my fashion job as we went into the first Lockdown, so it's close to my heart. I wanted to introduce people to the art of weaving, to why I love it so much and how they could enjoy the craft too. I wanted to highlight the processes behind fabric production, getting people to be creative with a weaving project and helping them to value their clothing and textiles and the work that goes into making them. This kit has been designed to inspire and help get your creative juices flowing, whether you’re embarking on a new hobby or looking to hone your skills. Some aspects of woven textiles can appear tricky to get your head around. So I teamed up with one of my best friends who is an illustrator, who was in Lockdown on the other side of the world, living in Yangon, Myanmar at the time. I wanted to make weaving accessible and fun for everyone.
Another reason I wanted to share my love of weaving is the positive effect it can have on mental wellbeing. Crafting has been proven to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, loneliness and even dementia. Not everyone is able to visit workshops or join courses, so I wanted to create a weaving kit that is suitable for all ages and abilities to use from the comfort of the home.
What’s in the works for you?
I fell back in love with colour during lockdown down, so I’ll be working more with colour in 2022. I would love to develop more face-to-face weaving workshops and host more craft events and pop-ups going forward as Covid has stopped me from meeting the public and sharing my love of sustainable textiles in person.
What is some advice you have for aspiring makers?
Rome wasn’t built in the day! Making and learning a skill takes time and effort, enjoy the processes and celebrate your successes!