Graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1999, Catherine Tough had a vision of turning heritage craft into playful, modern pieces which are a pleasure to wear and use. Greatly inspired by nature, travel and color Catherine now has a dedicated team behind her to support her mission and through the fusing of traditional craft practices and contemporary, elegant design, the brand creates items to be treasured for years to come. Here The LuxPad talks to Catherine about her most difficult designs and the challenges of the British craft industry…
When did you first discover your love for traditional handicraft?
My mum was always making us clothes and she had a spinning wheel and knitting machine in the lounge… it became second nature to me and my sisters to make things.
What is the most difficult thing you have ever been asked to knit?
I was asked to make a memorial cat, celebrating a recently departed pet, which was quite tricky as I needed to capture the character.
What is your greatest source of inspiration for your designs?
Walking around Hackney where I live, I love packaging and graffiti and there’s loads of both all over the place.
What do you think has contributed to knitting becoming a popular past time again?
I think it is a combination of a challenging economy, reactions against mass produced products and people appreciating the luxury of spending time on making something for yourself or friends.
Describe a typical day in the Catherine Tough studio?
I get into work at 9am-ish after dropping my girls at school, spend the first couple of hours on emails and admin, then work on designs or special projects in the afternoon. I tend to spend the evenings working on the website and planning once the girls are in bed.
How are the products created – from the original design to the finished piece?
It’s quite hands on, we often have an idea for a new animal or sock pattern, then start sampling on our knitting machines at the studio to come up with the fabric and then we work on perfecting the shape and finishing.
How do you spend your well-earned days off?
Family life is quite hectic so we try and go and do something relaxing, even if it’s just a picnic in the park.
What are the greatest challenges facing the British craft industry today and what do you do to overcome them?
Manufacturing and business development, we have brought lots of our production back in-house as it is the best way we have found to manage stock and quality. Keeping an eye on the bigger picture is hard when you are so involved in the day to day running of the business, I have been on some great training courses with the Crafts Council and work very closely with the East London Small Business Centre who really understand how craft based businesses work and how to push them forward.
What is your favorite piece you have created?
That’s a difficult one – would be between when we first did the Afro Owl Door Stops and launching the animal socks.