October 27, 2015
Christabel Balfour is one talented lady. Her designs in weaving and paper cuttings are some of our favorites around, and we are so thrilled to have these goods showcased at our London Holiday Fair.
Have you always been passionate about design?
I come from a background in contemporary art, and studied sculpture at art school. It’s only been recently that I have focused more on design, but looking back I can see it influenced a lot of my work. I have always been interested in the structure of things, and the practical aspects of making.
When/Why did you start working in this particular craft/field?
I took up tapestry weaving around two years ago. At art school I made woven sculptures and installations, and only tried tapestry after I graduated. It started as an experiment and soon became a full on obsession! I taught myself from scratch using books and the internet, and make all my weavings on frame looms that I build myself.
What do you think sets your designs apart from others?
I think what is different about my work is the balance between minimalist design and intricate detail. Although at first glance they might seem simple, upon closer inspection you can see the amount of work that goes into each piece. Often there are subtle colour changes or finely balanced compositions which encourage you to keep looking. I want to create pieces which draw you in.
Have you had any major failures? If so, what were some important insights gained?
I haven’t had any failures I would call “major” just yet (knock on wood) but I have struggled quite a bit with pricing my work. I’ve definitely put work up for sale or online and later realised I wasn’t actually making any money because my work is so time-consuming to make. Learning to value my time and skills has been the toughest thing to do.
What has been your proudest/favorite moment since creating your business?
My proudest moment was the solo show of my weavings that I held in May. It was called “Simple Cities” and showcased my work from the last year. It was a bit of a nightmare getting everything finished in time, but so rewarding to see it come together.
How does the city you live in influence your work?
I’m very influenced by the contrasts of London. You have all these old buildings right next to new skyscrapers, along with so many green spaces and pockets of nature. The Thames is my favourite place in the city- my studio is right beside the river and I walk along it on my way to work. The tranquillity of the water in the middle of the busy city is something I’m always trying to capture in my designs.
What valuable experience/knowledge did you have before starting your business?
I was fortunate to work as an administrative intern for a designer/maker for about 18 months before I left to start my own business. So I learnt everything about running a creative business- manufacturing, shipping, website sales, wholesale, promotion, social media, the list goes on. It was a great introduction to the challenges and joys of working for yourself.
What made you take this leap into being your own boss?
I’ve always wanted to be self-employed and it got to the stage where it was “now-or-never”. Plus you can’t be an intern forever…
What are some inspirations for your work?
There are so many other weavers that I look up to- Sheila Hicks, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Mimi Jung, to name a few. I’m also very inspired by architecture, particularly the Japanese architects Tadao Ando and Shigeru Ban. But a lot of my inspirations I just find online, mostly through Instagram which has an amazing creative community.
What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?
Don’t underprice yourself! If you’ve worked hard to make something beautiful you deserve to be paid properly for it. Also it’s really worth seeking out creative communities of people working in similar fields to you- I’ve had so much helpful advice and useful tips from friends or fellow designers online.