I recently sourced some gorgeous cushions from Welsh Otter for an interiors project and was keen to learn more about her work and what drives her. Kim welcomed me into her beautiful home near Llandeilo, set amongst the rolling green hills and a stunning aspect over the Tywi valley. In this interview, I discover more about her love of Welsh Scandi design and textiles, what she finds inspiring and asked her about her own interiors style. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did hearing from Kim.
Some of my earliest memories as a child are of my grandmother’s whitewash cottage in a small village just outside Tenby, Pembrokeshire. I loved the thick stone walls and rooms full of welsh antiques. I remember the smell of the wood on her open fire and the freshly-baked welsh cakes. I have very happy memories of spending days at the beach and coming home to the cosy cottage.
Fast forward many years later, my husband and I found ourselves returning to Wales to live. We bought a Welsh farmhouse in Carmarthenshire which needed a lot of modernisation. I was inspired by my Granny’s house and started looking for local Welsh crafts, textiles and vintage items for the interior. I was interested to learn more about the story of Welsh design but found there was no-one telling that story. The idea for Welsh Otter was born.
I set up my business in response to my own desire to find out more about Welsh design and make this accessible to others.
I love everything about Welsh textiles – the patterns, the yarns, and the history behind them. I love learning about the techniques used in production of these textiles. I want my home to be filled with these beautiful things but not at the cost of our world and future generations. It was a natural step therefore for me develop our sustainable product lines. I am excited by the innovation in this area at the moment, there are new techniques being used and I want to harness them for my own business where I can.
We produce lambswool blankets and cushions, and our organic cotton products with our own illustrations. We are also developing a homeware range that uses recycled plastic bottle yarns, which will be available very soon. We are committed to supplying products that meet sustainable textile standards e.g. the Global Organic Textile Standards and the Global Recycled Standard and Life-cycle Assessment.
It has been 4 years since I launched Welsh Otter and I now have customers all over the world. I work with people locally to help them furnish their homes within the Wales, and also the Scottish Highlands, across UK, the Channel Islands and Ireland. I have supplied to customers based in the USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Singapore, Dubai and across Europe. The opening or our small showroom in Tenby 2020 has meant that I can work with so many customers local to Tenby, or who are there on their holidays.
My overseas customers tend to have links with Wales, they may be expats living abroad or have ancestral connections. They are drawn to my business because of their interest in heritage textiles and love of the Welsh Scandi look. Hireath is a powerful thing!
Being featured in the Observer Magazine Ethical Homeware feature was an enormous moment for the business. I was also particularly proud of winning the Best Retailer Award for Wales and NI at the Rural Business Awards in 2021. It feels wonderful to get that recognition and makes some of the hard work and late nights worth it!
I describe my style as ‘Welsh Scandi’ The Welsh part relates to Welsh interiors which has evolved over many centuries to be warm and comforting as a way of dealing with the harsh winters, cosy furnishings, fireside, candles and heritage textiles. The Scandi element is simple functionality, a clean look and an emphasis on textures. Welsh Otter style is a mix of the two, which I try and reflect in my products and my interiors styling.
I am inspired everyday by the natural environment where we live. I love the colour and texture inspiration derived from nature, by the sea or countryside, the beautiful river and rolling hills. I really enjoy a visit to St Fagans museum in Cardiff where you can see our Welsh heritage preserved. I love a day out to National trust properties too, which are frozen in time. I always come away with a fresh insight or snippet of information to inform my business from those. Most recently I have stayed at Portmeirion in North Wales and found that an inspiring place to be.
You can find Welsh Otter at https://welshotter.co.uk or follow on social media @welshotterhome
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