By Roz Skinner
What does a Harris Tweed business on the Isle of Skye and the Japanese art of Kintsukuroi have in common? At first glance, nothing at all.
But a deeper look shows that the philosophy behind the Japanese art, which means "golden repair" and consists of mending broken pottery with powdered gold, embraces the breakages. The belief is that the object becomes more beautiful after the repair.
The knowledge that a setback can be turned into something valuable is the inspiration behind Louise White's business, Lou Lou Designs.
Louise explains how she came to form her business, saying: "I was unwell with fibromyalgia. I didn't want to go down the route of benefits, but I wanted to pay my way with a job that didn't soak up all my energy. So, I started making handbags out of Harris Tweed. I still get spells of being really unwell, but I don't have to sit at home and feel sorry for myself. Sometimes, I'm actually grateful – because that illness was the catalyst to doing something amazing and creative that I love. I always try and turn anything negative into a positive."
These days, Louise runs a thriving business out of her pop-up shop just outside Carbost and from her online Etsy store. Thanks to her location, inspiration is always just around the corner. "I take my two dogs out every day and that is how I relax my mind. A lot of my embroidery designs are inspired by Skye scenes," reveals Louise. "I might see a tree and think: 'That would look nice on a bag!'" Louise skilfully embroiders several of her bags with colourful designs, including butterflies, trees and even Highland cows!
As well as creating handbags, brooches, scarves, bespoke skirts and keyrings, Louise loves to take on commissions. "Customers can come up with some amazing ideas that really inspire me," Louise enthuses.
Although Louise has fallen in love with a fabric steeped in history, her designs are anything but traditional. "I don't work from a pattern – I believe creativity comes from within," she explains. "I'm trying to tell a story through everything that I do and every one of my works contains a little piece of me."
Mid-2017 should see Louise expand her business when she moves to a new home. Although located very close to where Louise currently lives, the new house will allow her to, one day, build a studio where she looks forward to welcoming in fellow Harris Tweed aficionados. Before planning a visit, be sure to check www.facebook.com/louloudesignsonskye for up-to-date opening hours.
Louise is living proof that something beautiful and precious can be born out of something traumatic. Visit her pop-up shop and see how Louise has turned something negative into a positive that everyone can enjoy!