Weaver: Mourne Textiles

At the helm of the business set up by his grandmother in the 1950s, Mario Sierra produces hand-woven fabrics and rugs prized for their natural beauty

Meet Mourne Textiles

‘At the foot of the Mourne Mountains in County Down sits an unassuming workshop originally conceived by Norwegian textile designer Gerd Hay-Edie. Nurtured by her daughter Karen and subsequently her grandson Mario Sierra, Moore Textiles remains a family-run business, famed for its collaborations with designers including Terence Conran and Robin Day. Original techniques are still in use to produce fabrics inspired by the dramatic landscape as well as Gerd’s archives.

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Mourne Textiles

Mario weaves his grandmother’s Mourne Blazer fabric on one of the handlooms that she imported when she arrived in the UK.

For as long as I can remember, looms have been part of my life. When I was seven, we went to Rostrevor at the foot of the mountains to live with my grandmother and I spent hours playing in her workshop. My mother taught me how to weave using scraps of tweed and coloured yarns and later, when I was at Winchester School of Art, my grandmother showed me how to create her Mourne Check fabric. However, at that time I wasn’t ready to take up the mantle – I needed to explore the world first.

Mourne Textiles

Unbleached linen, grey un-spun fleece and a box of bobbins waiting to be loaded into shuttles to peace Mourne Textile’s grey Milano rug.

I am constantly inspired by my grandmother. At the age of 18, she left her home in Norway and travelled alone to Spain where she set up a small weaving workshop. She moved to the UK and then the Far East before settling in Norther Ireland. Many of the looms we use today were imported by her in the 1950s. Gerd was a creative visionary whose work caught the attention of designers and brands such as Liberty. We’re currently revisiting her wonderful archives.

Mourne Textiles

A Mended Tweed cushion and tactile collection of fringed blankets from the Monochrome range, made to Gerd Hay-Edie’s designs.

After travelling in Europe, Africa, America and Asia working in TV production, I was ready to join the family business. It had slowed during the 1980s but, a few years ago, the time was right to revitalise it. Along with my mother, Karen, I returned to the archives to source yarns and bring the designs back into production. We are upgrading the looms, training a new generation of handloom weavers, finding new markets for our fabrics and designing fresh collections.

Mourne Textiles

The Mourne Mountains.

I think there is an honesty to handloom weaving that people appreciate. The looms themselves are relatively simple machines, yet they can produce fabric that is complex and luxurious. My mother is still very much involved in the workshop, mostly focused on training apprentices and deconstructing my grandmother’s designs.

Mourne Textiles

One of the warp books from Gerd’s archives.

Today, with a team of seven weavers, the workshop is incredibly busy with warp making, bobbin winding and fabric weaving, but at nights and at weekends it becomes another world. I love to spend time in and around the looms when no one else is here, appreciating a sense of creative calm and selecting on the designs being produced.

Mourne Textiles

Salthill; sample swatches.

The ever-changing shades of textures and the Mourne Mountains are reflected in our textiles. They are covered in heather, fern and grass, their colours altering throughout the seasons. Likewise, our yarns have an organic feel with natural flecks that echo the landscape.

Mourne Textiles

Changing the bobbin in the shuttle.

At times it feels like we are being led on an exciting journey. Every month brings new prospects and collaborations with interior and fashion designers. We’ve just launched a new range of scarves woven with yarns that combine a luxurious blend of merino, silk and cashmere, as well as a children’s range of blankets and cushions. I think my grandmother would be proud. Knowing her, she’d be itching to get involved. That’s a good feeling.’

Mourne Textiles

Cushions from the latest range.

Mourne Textiles, 020 7274 5664, mourntextiles.com.

Photography/ Tara Fisher