A small piece of Norwegian design history has been hidden in a weaving room in the rural areas of Northern Ireland. Nestled in the foothills of the imposing Mourne Mountains in County Down is a third-generation weaving company, started by late Norwegian design pioneer Gerd Hay-Edie, born Gerd Bergersen in Trondheim, Norway in 1909.
Gerd started her design journey aged 17 making tapestries. The young designer went on to study design and hand-weaving at the Home Industries School for Women in Oslo. At 20, she was invited to set up a weaving workshop in northern Spain. She moved to England a year later, in 1932, and was appointed head designer at Dartington Hall.
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Mourne Textiles in County Down
By January 1933 she was designing for the Welsh woolen mills and, through the Rural Industries Bureau, launched Holywell Mill’s double cloths. These cloths would become some of the very first double-weave furnishing fabrics to be used by Gordon Russell.
After marrying an English expatriate in 1938, Gerd Hay-Edie moved around Asia, but in the late 1940s she and her four children settled in the Mournes.
Since the early 1950s, Irish heritage brand Mourne Textiles has been weaving fabrics and designing furnishings at the foot of the Mourne Mountains in County Down, using traditional weaving techniques on custom-made handlooms.
Three generations weavers
Gerd handed down her weaving techniques to daughter Karen Hay-Edie, a master-weaver in her own right, who in turn passed the baton to her grandson, Mario Sierra. Working with his mother, he began to produce some of his grandmother’s iconic designs, using the same looms she had imported from Norway.
“There was a real similarity between that landscape and the fjords,” says Mario. “It must have struck a chord.”
The relaunch of Mourne Textiles
In 2015 Mario Sierra, took his family company’s helm to relaunch its distinctive textured weaves.
“The emotions of the weaver are captured in the subtle irregularities of the fabric. In a world over-filled with machine-made objects, provenance is becoming increasingly important; we love history, heritage and the idea of buying something with a story,” he says, and adds, “Growing up, the workshop was my playground, and the clack of the shuttles was my background noise.”
All of Mourne’s textiles are handmade in its remote Northern Ireland workshop; even the yarns are custom-spun for that “lumpy” quality that gives the pieces so much texture.
A Norwegian Design Pioneer
In 1937 Gerd designed for Nydalen, the largest textile mill in Norway. Gerd’s talent went on to secure her the title of Advisor to the Norwegian Home Industries. Her impact was instrumental in starting Roros Tweed and the Norwegian Tapestry Yarn Company: quite incredible for a young woman of 27. This was to be an early indication of Gerd’s outstanding practical talent and leadership in the field of design
A Norwegian Design Pioneer, written by Tor Kjolberg