Makers - Marram Designs
Interview + Photos - Esker
Mother and daughter combo, Marram is a textile company that couldn’t get much closer to the
ocean. From the heart of the studio you can see the back of the dunes and hear the surf.
Their beautiful textiles draw inspiration from the ocean and are created with
love and a sustainable edge -
You're English, what brought you to France?
I originally moved to France when I was a teenager with my family. After a few years of French education I wanted to return to the UK so I secured a placement at the University of Cultural Arts in Kent, however at the very last minute I decided to defer and took a job with an outdoor lifestyle clothing brand. The company then posted me to the French Alps, which is where I started working seasonally between the mountains and the coast here in Hossegor. Eventually, after eight years, my boyfriend and I decided to settle by the sea. It’s within close proximity to the Pyrenees, long sandy beaches and San Sebastian with its gigantic G&Ts which was a key selling point! Hossegor has so much to offer and all of it right on our doorstep.
How did you become a textile designer?
I come from a very artistic family. My parents and both sets of grandparents are incredibly talented so it must be in the genes! From as young as I can remember I’ve always been fascinated by textiles and loved customising everything from my school uniform to hand making birthday presents for friends.
Mum is a textile artist so growing up and having constant access to her studio and practical knowledge definitely helped. I was always intrigued by all the different creative mediums she worked with and how hands on the processes were.
Although I never took up my placement at UCA a screen-printing course I completed beforehand at Brighton University cemented in me that I had to do something creative with my spare time. With what started as a creative outlet Marram was created through experimenting with fabric dyeing, a medium Mum has always worked with and in particular natural indigo. It was from then on that we became I would say slightly obsessed with dyeing everything blue!
What does your typical day look like?
I like to start my day with some personal time either in the form of yoga, meditation or a long walk. I work from home so this acts as a reset and allows me to detach myself from the home/ work/life balance. Emails will then get answered and any current orders packaged and posted. Then I move onto the practical side of Marram and either start sewing or dyeing depending on
the tasks I have at hand that day. I’m most productive either first thing in the morning or in the afternoons, so I can often work till late. Lunch breaks are short(ish) but if I have time they tend to be taken across the street at the beach or outside on our terrace!
What’s it like having your mum as a business/creative partner?
Mum is my biggest inspiration. She has taught me the majority of everything I know when it comes to textiles and dyeing. Having someone to bounce ideas off and to have another pair of helping hands during the busy periods is invaluable. We do absolutely everything ourselves and our process can be quite time consuming so it’s great to be able to divide the workload. Mum's sewing skills are incredible so she tackles the more technical/practical products and I tend to do more of the dyeing/creative work and all the behind the scenes stuff.
Do current interior trends guide you in terms of your collections or do you follow your own aesthetic?
I’m definitely aware of current trends, I think it's hard not to when we are so exposed to them nowadays thanks to the accessibility of social media. That said however we try to keep to our own narrative and let our experimentation process guide us to products that we love. Our process is ever-changing as we continue to educate and evolve our brand through different dyeing techniques, so we kind of make our own rules up as we go along! Although I still love buying interior magazines and having a flick through the pretty pictures every once in a while.
Your dyes are natural, how do you find the colours or does it take a lot of experimentation?
Yes where possible we use natural dyes. Experiment, then experiment and then some more! There is a lot of trial and error along with a process of elimination to get the best results. Variations or ‘happy accidents’ do occur during the process and the same dyestuff can yield so many different colours. It just takes time and patience to find the correct one! We are currently working with food waste dyestuff, for example avocado stones and onionskins, which would otherwise be destined for the bin. It gives us so much satisfaction knowing that we can reuse local restaurant waste and incorporate it into Marram. We work with dyes derived from nettles, acorns or gorse flowers to name a few. We also source dyes from further afield like South America and East Asia where they are able to grow different exotic plants like logwood, cutch and madder root.
The process itself is slow and long, sometimes taking up to three weeks just to dye the fabric. This has definitely changed the way we work, meaning we have to plan ahead a lot further in advance and keep an eye on stock levels, but we wouldn’t have it any other way!
What is it about the hand dying process that excites you?
For us it has always been the spontaneity of the outcome. Nothing is more exciting than being able to turn a blank canvas into something beautiful and unique through a process you only have so much control over. There are so many variants that all play a key part in the end result (water, ph., temperature, humidity, dye origin etc.) so no two pieces will ever be identical. That’s the beauty of hand dyeing, growing to love the imperfections and let the dyes work their magic. We mostly dye in small batches, as it’s easier to manage in our home studio (dyeing yardage can be a bit tricky!)
What/who inspires you?
We draw most of inspiration from where we live and our surrounds. Marram is the name of the local sea grasses that grow on the sand dunes here in Les Landes. I live a stone's throw from the Atlantic Ocean and its ever changing blue hues, so this was definitely a starting point for my love of indigo. That along with the beauty of the countryside all around our family home in the Charente and the pine forests that stretch down the coast. Ancient art techniques and traditional methods of crafting have also played a key role in Marram. I love that we still use these techniques today.
Is sustainability important to Marram Designs?
We have always attempted where possible to move forward with sustainability in mind. We only use naturally derived fabrics and we source as much as we can from smaller businesses and factories that we have developed longstanding working relationships with. Now with our food waste up cycling and natural dye pallet we are heading towards sustainability as much as we can.
As we have just scratched the surface with our natural dye experimentation so we will be continuing our journey with more local dyes, that along with running some artist workshops here in Hossegor and also working on completing our new current quilted collection.