In Conversation with Catherine Sinclair, founder of Cove

Earlier this month, we spoke with founder of Cove, Catherine Sinclair. Knitted textile designer Catherine, with a background in teaching, ceramics and hospitality, talked with us about studying at the Glasgow School of Art, relocating from busy Edinburgh to the far north western coast of Scotland, and the processes and inspiration behind her environmental and sensory inspired lifestyle products. 
‘I’ve just finished studying Textile Design at Glasgow School of Art, specialising in Knit. Prior to going to Glasgow I had various careers including teaching, ceramics and most recently hospitality. Cove is inspired by the hidden, secret places discovered within nature and our desire for escape and adventure.
Two years ago we moved up from Edinburgh to the far north west coast of Scotland. We sold our home and bought the side of a hill, with an edge of coastline and an inlet, or cove. The hill had ten holiday A-frame cabins on it and together, my husband and I, took over a holiday business, Kylesku Lodges. Living on the side of a sea loch surrounded by the most dramatic scenery has inspired me to work in a bolder, more instinctive manner, working with materials and technology to create designs with a sense of fluidity and surprise. It was a deliberate decision not to use my own name as I believe the name Cove evokes more about the types of products I will be selling, and enhances the branding of our holiday homes.’

Catherine’s use of materials in her products are concise and true to her design and inspiration. ‘I use 100% Super Fine Geelong Lambswool, spun and dyed in Scotland, and elastic. The performance quality of the lambswool is matched by the supplier’s exacting environmental and animal welfare standards and this level of traceability is personally important, and something I believe customers value also. Experimenting with elastic brings a level of spontaneity to my designs and I am particularly drawn to the randomness of the effect. Deliberately restricting the materials to lambswool and elastic enables me to be more courageous with colour proportions and experimental with the technology.’

On Catherine’s sources of inspiration..

‘Moving to the remote Highlands, having lived in Edinburgh for over forty years, has meant that the natural forms, textures and colours that surround my life now inform what I find inspiring. However the influence of urban environments still have a significant effect on my drawings and collage work. I also have a keen interest in the human condition and concepts of shelter, protection and intimacy play a sensitive role in my engagement with the surroundings and my design process.’ 

The notions of the intimacy of shelter and protections are clear through her tactile and simplicitly expressive products, with assured use of colour and texture.

How does lifestyle and environment affect Catherine’s design process?
‘Despite living in a place where there are more deer and sheep than humans, and where the scenery is unspoilt and spectacular, I am drawn to the micro details that make up the space, the language of a surface. I enjoy the contradictions of textures and colours that arise through the rhythm of changing seasons.
Having gone to art school later in life, I feel my process is very different to how I would have approached this had I started earlier. Currently juggling running a holiday business, being a parent and a grandparent means although the time given to the process of research, drawing, design development and colour choices is still considerable, it is often interrupted. Fortunately this way of working has enabled me to work more instinctively, and the results have been more satisfying and surprising.’
The Cove products originated from Catherine’s work with a small knitter in Leicester during the sampling process of her final collection at Glasgow School of Art. Catherine is now in the process of sourcing a manufacturer closer to home in Scotland, as she explains that ‘the environmental authenticity and sustainability of Cove is as important as the designs themselves.’  
What is the purpose of Cove products?
‘Homes are shelters; a space to retreat to, but also a place of possibility and discovery. For a long time I have been interested in the personality of spaces and how the decoration and layout can influence the effect on the person visiting or staying. Now that I also run holiday cabins, the idea of creating a ‘home from home’ is something that rattles round my headspace! The inclusion of my luxuriously tactile blankets and cushions will, I hope, add to the experience of hiding out in a remote cabin in the wild.’
‘The scarves, blankets and cushions will be for sale through from my studio in the Highlands and online. Each holiday cabin will also have a selection to allow guests to experience the quality and hopefully encourage the purchase of a memento. I also want to sell some select pieces through lifestyle stores in the UK and abroad, and believe my collection can be incorporated into different styles of homes, from nordic-inspired dens to those looking for some quirky colour and texture to their personal shelters.’
‘My designs lend themselves to be worn on the body as well, so I hope to sell some of my design work at Première Vision this September. Being part of TexSelect 2018 is an incredible opportunity to meet other creatives and industry experts. I am really keen to work with a business mentor who can help me make timely decisions and consider other ways of taking Cove forward, in this crucial beginning stage. I love the discipline of print too and am keen to develop other surface designs that can compliment my knitted designs.’
On a final note, Catherine gave her views on the current ‘landscape’ of textiles consumption..
‘The trend towards fast fashion and overconsumption is thankfully sitting less comfortably with more people now. I am keen to adopt the benefits of a slower pace into my business model, creating high quality products that can be treasured and passed down through generations. It is also exciting to see people’s response to an over reliance on technology. Living in the Highlands, we see a lot of guests wanting to escape their constant need to be available, coupled with a desire to reconnect with the surprising elements of nature. I believe the textiles industry in particular is well placed to provide consumers with a tactile, interactive experience that technology so often removes.’ 
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As a practicing knitwear designer based in Nottingham, UK, Charlotte works as a freelance knitwear consultant for designers, brands and manufacturers, having trained extensively in knitwear and knitted textile design at Nottingham Trent University. With a deep, historical love of and background in textile and knitwear design, Charlotte is inspired by the engrained traditional context of textiles across the world and takes her greatest inspiration from immersing herself in new places and cultures. Charlotte approaches knitwear design holistically, working collaboratively with suppliers and mills to ensure sustainable and ethical design and manufacturing practice.