As people around the world celebrate International Women’s Day, Michelle Hanley meets the modern-day descendants of the trailblazing female textile designer who founded Mourne Textiles…
From Charles and Ray Eames to Eero Saarinen, there’s no question that the 1950s and ’60s were anointed with more than their fair share of iconic designers. One revered mid-century maven that you hear less about, though, plied her trade quietly in Co Down’s Mourne Valley. This is the scenic location where Gerd Hay-Edie settled from Norway and established her own woollen mill, Mourne Textiles.
Gerd worked with some of the most influential designers of the time, such as fashion designer Sybil Connolly; Terence Conran, founder of Habitat, and Robin Day, head designer for Hille. And sixty years on, her daughter Karen Hay-Edie and grandson Mario Sierra are working hard to uphold her valuable legacy.
A key aspect to their latest collection is the reissuing of the Mourne Milano Rug, originally exhibited at Milan Design Week 1951. Woven on the original looms and using the same materials Gerd worked with, this rug and Mourne’s fabric archive became the starting point for the collection. Mario talks me through the heritage fabrics, from the graphic grey Mourne Blazer to the vibrant Mourne Mist, “influenced by the gorse in the mountains around us”.
Describing their contemporary furniture collaboration designed as part of ID2015, Marcel Twohig of Notion design studio says that working with the Hay-Edie dynasty was a breath of fresh air. “We had loads of different ideas, considering the history of the Mourne fabric, but we wanted to present it in a very contemporary way. As product designers, you spend so much of your time drawing on paper, so it’s lovely to actually get into the texture, and experience the feel and colour first-hand. It was a lovely way to begin.”
WORDS Michelle Hanley PHOTOGRAPHY Peter Rowen, Rich Gilligan, Mourne Textiles x Notion
The Frame Chair is part of the travelling exhibition Liminal – Irish Design at the Threshold, which will resume at the National Craft Gallery, Kilkenny, from April 8 to July 3.