Cally Booker is a handweaver, textile designer, writer and teacher. Having started her career as a mathematician, this comes as a daily surprise! But in her mid-thirties she found herself in front of a small table loom learning to thread the individual strands of yarn through loops of polyester string, called heddles. It was slow and fiddly to her clumsy unaccustomed fingers. And it was utterly absorbing.
Before she knew it, Cally was back in college and her home in Dundee was filling up with looms. Now she is based in a studio on the top floor of a refurbished jute mill, where she creates one-off pieces, bespoke yardage and micro-collections of homewares and accessories under the Bonny Claith label.
Her work is exhibited around the UK and abroad, and she actively seeks to promote the craft of weaving through workshops, demonstrations and talks.
“The process of turning yarn into cloth is rich with opportunities for experimentation and happy accidents. Weaving can be meticulously planned or improvised at the loom, and a combination of these approaches appeals to the different parts of my nature.
“I like to work in series, planning in detail the warp I will put on my loom, which may form the basis of five or six different pieces. Then I begin to improvise. I choose unexpected colours, I adjust the pattern, I respond to what I see taking shape in front of me. In this way I build a micro-collection of individual but connected pieces.
“Much of my inspiration comes from the cityscape of Dundee, from the grandeur of its waterfront setting to the small details of quirky buildings and everyday living.
“I am passionate about making things by hand. Handweaving is not a single process but a sequence of processes, and each step has its own pleasures and challenges. I find a deep satisfaction in handling every individual thread, discovering surprises in the interaction of warp and weft and, ultimately, realising my vision as woven cloth.”