Hello I’m Mhairi, aka Paper Houses Design, I’m a textiles designer creating lifestyle products and running workshops. Inspiration for designs come from the everyday, overlooked, mundane and often thought of as harsh elements, like a brutalist staircase or phone wires. Consciously designing in a sustainable and combining modern technology with traditional techniques I would say are key elements to my style. I feel that textiles is an accessible craft and I enjoy sharing skills and experiences through workshops. Through my practice I have worked with individuals, groups and organisations to create engaging workshops involving screen printing, embroidery, mark making and mixed media. I thought I’d share an average studio day with you!
7am – Get up, get ready and get Finlay to school. Then it’s all about planning the day whilst keeping Edie (my youngest, only 14 months old) happy. I always have a note of what needs done in the month but to be honest my days usually determined around how Edie’s doing. That’s why I plan it in the morning or the night before!
9:30/10am – Go to the studio! I’m based in the brilliant Deemouth Artist Studios in Torry, Aberdeen. I moved her from a smaller studio last Summer and it’s been a great move. Now I’m surrounded by other creatives, close to public transport and can hold group workshops. Win win win! The kettle always goes on first thing, a bottle for Edie and a cuppa for me. Then it’s all about getting prepared. Hopefully Edie will then nap but if not I get her some toys out. Then I get out my materials and equipment set up. Recently I’ve has a lot of screen printing to do so I’ve taken some snippets from making a wall hanging
10:30am – The picture above is mono printed design on Scottish linen/cotton from the last linen mill in Scotland, which was Peter Greig & Co in Kirkcaldy. This mill was only ten minutes away from where I grew up but in 2021it closed its doors for the last time. Some places are now selling this fabric for three times the original price. Sadly, I only now have thirty meters of this beautiful and once it’s gone its gone. I feel like everything made with this fabric holds a little piece of history in it. That’s why I even keep the smallest offcuts in case they can be used in something.
The fabric on the table this day has already had a couple of layers printed. Screen printing can be a lengthy process. Cleaning screens between each print to avoid damaging the screens with paste drying in, waiting for printed layers to dry and marking up where you next need to print. I always hope to get at least two layers done in a morning. Depending if the printing process goes well it will affect if I meet this target!
11:30am – Lunch! Yes, it’s a pretty early lunch but Edie eats early and I’ve kind of gotten used to it. Plus, it gives a good chunk of time in the afternoon.
12:30pm – I will either go back to screen printing of move on to something else like embroidery. This gives me time to think about the print. On this day I had finished printing so it was time to set the print. For the pigment print pastes you use dry heat to set them so I use a heat press. Then I wash the fabric out to get any excess colour and binder away which makes the fabric feel softer. A cold rinse followed by a warm wash with metapex (it’s like a mild ph neutral detergent) then a final cold rinse to get the excess detergent out. With the linen I pop it in a spinner to get the excess water off then leave it to part dry but not fully dry. If you iron linen damp it gets the creases out easier.
2:30pm – Before I head off to pick up Finlay from school I update my list of what’s to be done in the studio. I need to sew up the printed fabric to create the final wall hanging, put the specially carved wooden rod in and add the linen rope with the sailor’s knot and tie. I’m really proud of these wall hangings. Not only are they made with Scottish linen/cotton but they also have a hanging rod that is carved from waste oak. Each one is unique and individual. When a wall hanging is sold, I donate to a charity for a tree to be planted. I want to give back materials to our planet not just take them away. My new wall hangings are also sewn with cotton thread meaning that ever material is natural.
3:30pm – School bus pick up and snacks all round! I always say a good day involves three to four cups of tea. Getting the kids settled in then it’s time to squish some admin in. This can be Emails, accounts, PR, funding application, social media, newsletters, whatever needs done really! When I graduated, I thought my days would be spent creating but a big chunk of it is planning and admin. Sometimes a whole studio day might end up being prep or admin it really just depends what’s needed. It’s difficult not to get caught up chasing your tail and try to keep the bigger picture of what you are doing in sight.
4:30pm – Time to stop for the day and make the tea!
This is just the average day in the studio. It will totally change in the school holidays when Finlay is off or if Edie’s in nursery. It is good being able to be flexible for the needs of my family. Sometimes this just means not moving forward as quickly as I would like but there’s always plans on the go and a big idea to work towards. My practice is balanced between teaching at the local college, working as a facilitator on external projects, my own projects, workshops and my product line. I enjoy this mix as it allows me to keep each of my interests and often one area informs the other.
Once the kids are in bed I finish off the day with some stitching or sketching and a bit of telly. Sometimes I’ll plan the next day or I’ll leave that until the morning.
Hope you’ve enjoyed a day in the life of my studio! If you would like to see more behind the scenes make sure to follow me on Instagram at @paper_houses and sign up to my newsletter!
Thank you, Joanne and Tea Green, for letting me pop on to your blog!