During this year’s London Design Festival, we are hosting an array of creative businesses and independents at The Makers’ Market, the first pop-up of its kind at The Royal Exchange, which will be hosted on our grand mezzanine area from Monday 20 – Friday 24 September. In a series of Q&As, we get to know the makers behind the brands.
Tell us about your brand – what do you make and how did you get started?
Studio Mito is a London-based weave studio focusing on slow design, making woven jewellery and accessories. It is run by myself, Millie Thomas, and all of our jewellery products are hand-woven on a loom using sustainably sourced silk and tencel yarns. All of the cord used is made from recycled materials and the findings are 24k gold plated.
After studying woven textile design at Central St Martins, I wanted to explore the intersection between weaving and jewellery. I have always loved statement jewellery, especially cuff bracelets, and hadn’t seen any woven jewellery in this style before. I applied and was awarded the Clothworkers’ Company Award at Cockpit Arts craft studios, which gave me the perfect springboard to launch my business.
How big is your team and where are you based?
Studio Mito is currently based at Cockpit Arts studios in Deptford and it is run by myself. I have a lot of support from my mentor and outsource people when I need an extra hand or new skill set. I am hoping to grow my team over the next few months.
Describe the style of your creations in three words:
Statement, elegant, unique.
Can you explain a little bit about your craft and what makes it so special?
Weaving is the process of making a fabric from interlacing horizontal and vertical threads together on a loom. The most satisfying thing about weaving is building a cloth from scratch, thread by thread. It is a labour of love, as there are many steps and processes you have to go through before you can start weaving but seeing a cone of yarn be transformed into a finished fabric is very special. I find the process of weaving very therapeutic, and it is so nice to see what you have accomplished (or how many products you have woven!) after a day at the loom.
Studio Mito founder, Millie Thomas
Who or what are your biggest inspirations when creating?
I have always loved the Memphis Group, their use of colour, pattern and texture has always been something I go back to. They developed a new approach to design, creating a new visual language. Everything they made seemed like it had its own soul and character, and this is something I try to replicate in my designs. If you see one of their products, you know it has been designed by the Memphis Group; they are fun and playful, and this is what I try to do with my Mito products.
What can visitors expect when they come to visit your stall at The Royal Exchange Makers’ Market?
A range of handmade jewellery products, all hand woven and made here in London. There will be a variety of new products for sale that are not available online. As a weaver, process lies at the heart of all my products and so taking part in the Makers’ Market will be a great chance to talk to customers about the process and what goes into making woven jewellery, as well as the craft of weaving itself. The atmosphere of the Makers’ Market within The Royal Exchange will be a perfect blend of established luxury brands and independent makers, both showing the epitome of craftsmanship.
What advice would you give someone looking to explore weaving further?
I would suggest doing a course as learning through doing is the best way, especially with weaving. Weaving as a craft has so much precision to it – especially with setting up the loom – that it takes years to completely understand all the elements that go into making a finished cloth or product.
Buying a small frame loom is a great way to begin to understand the basics and start experimenting. It is a great place to start and will make sure you learn all the principles and processes properly and build a good foundation.
Why do you think it is so important to keep the art of weaving going?
Weaving is one of the most versatile and widely spread crafts in the world; so many things in our everyday life are woven – from products such as seatbelts to sofa cushions to fine art pieces and so much more. Weavers are needed to make sure this knowledge is passed on. There are also so many tips and tricks that would get lost (like shaking the threads as you put them onto the loom!).
Do you have a favourite piece you have created? And do any of your creations conjure particular memories for you?
The Como Cuff is my favourite piece as it is reversible so you can wear a different colour depending on your mood and we also have a matching pair of earrings to create the full set.
One of my first jobs out of university was in Como, Italy working for an Italian mill and this was such an important part of my career and journey. It provided me with lots of knowledge of how woven designs are manufactured on a large scale and how an initial idea or concept is translated into a finished woven fabric. All of my products are named after places that are sentimental to me and Como is probably the most special.
If you could learn any other craft, what would it be and why?
I would love to learn woodworking and use this craft to design and make my own furniture. It would be great to learn how to turn a design sketch into a finished piece of furniture – learning about all the different types of wood and how they are joined together. I could then upholster the pieces with my own woven fabric, marrying the two crafts.
Studio Mito will be in residence at The Makers’ Market at The Royal Exchange, taking place on the mezzanine level from Monday 20 – Friday 24 September 2021, 10.30am – 6pm
Read more about The Makers’ Market and the exhibitors taking part here