It was a chance conversation with a friend in China that led Gerd Hay-Edie to Ireland. She was living in the Far East with her family (her husband worked in shipping and his job meant travel was inevitable) when she got chatting to an Irishman who told her about the Mournes, a mountain range in County Down. She identified with the place immediately. The similarities between the Celtic landscape and the fjords of Norway, the country of her birth, won her heart and persuaded her to set up home and business in Ireland.
Today, Mario Sierra, Gerd’s grandson, is the third generation of the family taking Mourne Textiles into a new phase. Mario’s mother Karen remains at the weaving workshop and design studio; both she and her son are master weavers, taught by Gerd, with the craft in their blood.
Gerd remains the heart and soul of this incredible business. Although she died in 1997, her designs are still being made at the County Down workshop. For Mario, it’s difficult to separate his family from the business, the two are so completely entwined. “The workshop is exactly the same, with the same looms and equipment as it was then,” he tells me. “We want it to be as authentic as we can get it.”
You can understand why Mario and Karen would want to imitate what Gerd established: she was a pioneer; a trailblazer with single-minded focus. Born in Norway in 1909, this enterprising, wildly creative and intelligent woman learned the art of tapestry at the age of 17, and went on to study design and weaving in Oslo. When she was still at college, she was asked to set up a workshop in Europe, so she headed, alone, to Spain. From there she travelled to Britain, where she cut her teeth at Dartington Hall’s tweed mill. She later went back to Norway, where she took up the post of head of Industries at the Rural Bureau.
This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 242-246, issue 103.
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Photography Mourne Textiles
Words Catherine Coyle