Makers & Brothers

Claire-Anne O'Brien

Claire-Anne is an Irish knitter-designer. We are big fans of her work and contacted her when we thought of developing a range of friendly hand knitted Irish animals. Fionn the Fox, Liam the Hare and Brigid the Sheep are made exclusively by her for us. From Cork, Claire-Anne has a studio in Hackney in East London. We decided to pay her a visit and collect some custom stools she designed for Makers & Brothers. Her workspace is in an industrial building that was originally built as a nail factory in 1924. Her space is laden with colourful spools, textures and samples. While there, we talked to her about her beginnings in making, inspirations and influences, and her design process.  

When did this all begin? When did you start designing/making?

I was always drawing as a kid…lots of Fashion Wheel and Spirograph! I learned to knit in primary school and made some jumpers for teddies, but that was it. I rediscovered knitting whilst doing a diploma in fashion and then went on to do a degree in Knitted Textiles at Central Saint Martins in London.

Is the process of making important to your work?

I would definitely consider myself a designer/ maker. The making part is crucial to my design process as I mainly design through making and playing with the materials. It’s always exciting to get a new yarn or piece of knitting and to see how it performs, it’s all very hands on! At the moment I am processing every part of my work, but as things progress I will need to outsource. Time has become more of a defining factor as well so I have broken the process down into different stages which I continually refine. 

I enjoy the assembly part the most, once all the pieces have been made, as this is when more ideas come. I also like the fact that no two pieces are ever the same.

What is your thinking as you start out on a project?

I would say I approach textiles in quite a sculptural way, exploring form and texture through the properties of knit for example circular and tubular knitted fabrics. My textiles samples have always been quite 3D and suggestive of forms so it seemed natural that they would be for product and interiors.

Can you make us a little sketch of your wonderfully overloaded desk?


What are your influences?

I take inspiration from lots of different sources. I look at sculpture, architecture and vintage interiors a lot. I really like the Memphis group for their colour and form and also traditional textiles like Irish lace. As a textile designer, I am always inspired by the tiny details from my everyday surroundings - urban and nature - and translate these into fabrics.

Do you have a favourite tool or a tool you use a lot?

My favourite tool is a darning needle. I use it all the time for joining and grafting pieces of knit together. I've had the same one for over six months now, which is a bit of a record!

Thoughts on design/craft, and knitting in your chilly warehouse?

As a knitted textile designer I am definitely between two worlds. Knitting has so many associations with craft and hobby that as a designer I really need to be pushing the boundaries of knit! There are scores of ladies out there with amazing knitting skills which is a great resource to have - it keeps the production local, provides employment and keeps the industry going on a small level at least.

An easy question, a favourite colour?

Favourite colour is definitely yellow. I am a bit obsessed with yellow and am always drawn to it. I have quite a collection of yellow yarn now having spent a lot of time trying to dye the perfect shade. Yellow works great in interiors - a ray of sunshine!

I have quite a collection of yellow yarn now having spent a lot of time trying to dye the perfect shade.

Along with stools we asked Claire Anne to produce a fine, knitted, bow tie.

As we are talking about bow ties can I ask if fashion is an influence in your work?

I do look at fashion, especially fashion knitwear. There are lots of great knitwear designers out there like Sandra Buckland, Mark Fast and Vikprjonsdottir and Irish designers like Tim Ryan and Inis Meain Knitwear. I love looking at 80’s knitwear in vintage stores as well as they are always pretty wacky!

What next after the stools, would you like to grow the collection?

I am working on some poufs and cushions at the moment. I think the next natural step is to explore form more. I am hoping to have a large extended family of knitted forms in the future.

Are these our stools ready to go?

Yep, wrapped and ready!

Good stuff.

Welcome. Keep up to date with our news, events and exclusive offers.