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October 19, 2020 —

Meet the maker: Faryal Aslam of Knottinger

Faryal Aslam’s modern macrame pieces are beautifully sculptural and tactile in form, crafted with care from sustainable materials. We spoke to the Leeds-based founder of Knottinger to hear more about her creative process, bohemian inspiration and love for knots…
Sine Fleet - contributingeditor of 91 Magazine
Sine Fleet
91 Magazine contributing editor,
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Where does the name the Knottinger originate?

When I was choosing a name, I wanted it to give a gist of what the brand entails, and a modern take on a simple word that wouldn’t be easily forgotten. Since it was all about knots and knotting, after a play on words – Knottinger was born!

How would you describe the work you do?

Sustainable, boho-chic inspired, statement pieces for you and your home.

What inspired the idea of setting up your business?

Knottinger was only set up in February this year and I have been working hard to make it a success. I’ve got an eye for fashion and design and the multitude of ideas in my head inspired me to start my very own jewellery/homeware line. Unlike fast fashion trends, I wanted to create products from sustainable materials that could be worn and used over and over again, whatever the season! This idea of ‘slow fashion’ was an added plus to Knottinger as a sustainable business. Outside my business life, I have a collection of clothes and jewellery which have lasted over a decade. I rarely shop for fun and when I do, it’s for a special occasion or to treat myself. I could say my everyday lifestyle was also an inspiration behind my brand.

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What did you do before setting up your business?

I was born in Sri Lanka but grew up in hot and sunny Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. I went on to complete a university degree in biotechnology, but I didn’t feel it was quite the right path for me, so I didn’t actually pursue a career in it. During my journey of ‘finding myself’, I found my lovely husband who has been my rock ever since! I moved to the UK with my husband in 2010 and I’ve never looked back. I took up some temporary volunteer work in a charity shop while I settled into a new life, and worked as a part-time sales consultant in a leading fashion and homeware chain. After the arrival of our two beautiful girls, I needed some sort of creative outlet to call my own as I was caught up in mundane tasks every day. This led me to start up a card making/papercraft business in 2017. I still run that alongside Knottinger.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

I love to travel! Most of my colour and theme inspirations comes from things I’ve seen during my travels and my experience living in quite a few countries. These include both traditional and contemporary design and architecture.

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How would you describe your style?

Definitely boho-inspired. I’m naturally attracted to textures and warm tones. Having said that, I admire contemporary form and aesthetics, which I try to incorporate into my designs.

Are there themes that run through your work?

I’m quite drawn to earthy colour palettes and minimal themes – like neutrals, mustards and blush pinks. However, I try to offer some popular colours and styles as a special collection that may be sought after in a given season.

How did you first discover your love for what you do, and realise the direction you wanted to take?

That’s an interesting one… I caved in to my desperation to try out some macrame knots by ordering a sample piece of rope from Amazon. It definitely was not the right sort of rope, but it didn’t stop me wanting to learn more. A couple of tutorials later, I was creating items from traditional knots. This is when I knew exactly what I wanted to do, as I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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How does a typical working day look?

My day starts quite early with prayer and a sit down with a cup of tea. I catch up on some emails and look at my diary for the list of things that need to be fulfilled. I usually plan my days so I can manage work and family life better. Each day is different – I could be making orders one day, designing new products the next. That’s why I enjoy what I do – it’s the flexibility it gives me.

Is there an ethos behind your business?

I believe in simplicity and comfort. Statement pieces don’t have to be uncomfortable and worn only once. I’m passionate about the sustainability of my products and the fact that all rope products are made from 100 per cent recycled cotton. Cotton from garments which could otherwise end up in a landfill. Minimal waste is Knottinger’s key ethos in production. All materials are carefully measured out and used. However, should there be any offcuts, they are turned into beautiful earrings!

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Describe your work process…

Turning traditional knots into jewellery and homeware is a creative process in itself, which leads to new products. Once I’ve learned a new knot, I draw up some sketches of ideas that the knot can be used in. All products are rigorously tried and tested and only the best idea makes it out!

What sort of space do you work in?

My work with ropes is such that I can take it anywhere! I do not have a fancy workspace, however, I do have a dedicated space at one end of the spare bedroom. I’ve got a desk and a pegboard with some of my work, and pictures from my brand board to inspire me on a daily basis. I would love to have my own studio space sometime in the future!

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How has your work evolved since you began?

I started with simple necklaces and now I have expanded into homeware such as wall knots and ring bowls. It’s a constant learning process and I quite look forward to what the next knot can bring!

How valuable is the online community to your work?

Invaluable so to speak! Online presence has been vital to the success of Knottinger and the clients have been even more fabulous. The online community has been a support from day one, and one thing that is equally important to me is finding other small businesses to support.

What are the joys, and challenges, of being an independent maker?

It makes it all the more pleasurable when people buy or comment on the quality and style of my work. It stills brings me so much joy every time an order or feedback comes through! Just to know someone out there really loves your product gives you that sense of elation! The most challenging part about being an independent maker is having to keep up with supply and demand. I handcraft every product in small batches to avoid wastage, but it can get really busy at times. At these times, juggling work and family becomes quite the task!

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How do you approach marketing and PR?

Social media has definitely been a God-send in this respect. I make sure I’m regularly updating my customers and potential ones, especially on Instagram where they’re the most active. I’ve also participated in collaborations with other businesses: for example, swapping skills in photography for product. Paid advertising through Facebook is also occasionally utilised.

What have been your business highlights so far?

That would be setting up a brand new website! Having only launched in February this year, Knottinger was becoming quite popular so I thought it best as a step forward in my business to create my own standalone website.

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Which pieces do you most enjoy making?

At present, I enjoy making our ring bowls. They are a brand-new product which I designed out of a traditional Chinese knot. The weaving process can be quite meditative too!

Do you have time for any creative pastimes or hobbies?

I love anything creative! I have indulged in acrylic painting for quite a while now. Paper crafting, still life drawing and poetry writing are a few others, too.

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Any tips for makers who are just starting out?

You need to work hard to see results! Everyone starts out as an amateur, so never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle!

What does the next 6 months hold for you?

I’m currently stepping into the world of wholesale with a couple of wholesale orders up my sleeve. It’s a new and scary thing for me to do but I know it can be done. I’m also going to be introducing some new colours and designs to my existing collections.

Quick-Fire questions:

Describe your work in three words?

Sustainable, textured, warm.

What are your making rituals?

Cup of tea, glance at to-do list, slightly panic, calm down and complete them! It’s not hard at all!

Tea or coffee?

Tea always! Preferably Twinings English Breakfast or pure Ceylon tea!

Mountains or sea?

Both.

Night owl or early bird?

Early bird usually, but I can be a night owl if needed.

I wish someone had told me…

It’s never too late to learn something new!

Find Knottinger at: knottinger.com and on Instagram

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