Share this Post

We spoke to local textile designer Julie Williamson about her work and inspirations.

Julie lives and works from her home on the island of Whalsay, Shetland. Her main inspiration is the local culture, imagery, wildlife and folklore. Julie is fascinated with the decorating patterns of Toile-de-Jouy and Fair Isle knitting patterns, and combining this with personal memories and local stories, she recreates scenes and designs for digital and screen printed fabric.

Her work can be seen at Bonhoga until Sunday 9 September.

Where do you do your work?

Wherever I can find a space, currently out of my parents’ loft! But often at the kitchen table!

What made you choose the materials you use?

When I was studying the textiles course at the Shetland College I really enjoyed screen printing because you got to see the finished result instantly! I do enjoy knitting hand or machine but I wasn’t patient enough to wait for things to knit. I like to get fast results, which is why screen/digital print works best for me.

When I studied at Galashiels for two years while doing my honours degree and I was very homesick, so I started to incorporate my home in my work drawing images relating to Shetland and my memories of home. I was doing a greeting card range at uni for the designer Mark Eley from Eley Kishimoto for that project, that was when I first started drawing Fair Isle patterns and started to develop my current style of drawing, including the Shetland Starling greeting card range.

How do you work, what is your process? What's your favourite part of the process?

I tend to have a rough story/memory in my head then I start by drawing each individual image that would relate to the story before scanning them on to the computer, then that’s when I get to play! I play around with scale and patterns on the computer until I achieve a design I am happy with, then I will add in the colour. That’s my favourite bit, playing around with the design on the computer. I currently get the fabric digitally printed or items directly printed ready for use. I hand make a lot of things still like the cushions and lampshades.

What is your favourite piece?

I really like the lampshades, they’re probably my favourite pieces to make, they take me quite a while to create but they’re very satisfying once finished.

How long does it tend to take you to complete a piece?

Depending on what I am making, I have done one off pieces for folk, to their design, I did one for a lady who wanted lilies in the colours of the aurora and it took me the whole day to get the design done from the initial idea through to being ready to be sent away to get printed.

What does your craft mean to you?

It is a good way to get my stories out of my head and express my creative side. I found it comforting when I was university, something that still felt homely. Now I enjoy creating a story and a picture and seeing people’s responses to the stories and how they can relate to it.

A lot of folk really like the design ‘Aff At Da Eela’ and like to get it for family, they’ll say “my grandfather always went to the fishing or peats so we’ll get him that one” I really like hearing that kind of thing, knowing that my own personal design will be something personal to that person also.

Do you craft full time?

I have another job working part time with my special needs sister, I just craft when I get time, and now with two bairns it’s even harder to find the time.

What are your most popular pieces?

The lampshades, they’re the most popular product and the most popular design is ‘Aff At Da Eela’, I sell a lot of that, I think it’s the most relatable to Shetland’s fishing.

Craft aside what do you like to do in your spare time?

Before the bairns I had a horse and I spent a lot of my spare time with the horses, I like spending time with all the animals we have. My partner and myself did like to travel but we don’t have so much time now maybe again when the bairns are older. But right now I’m just happy if I get peace to read a book or watch some TV!

If you could own another artist’s work, who would you choose? Why?

I’ve always liked Andy Warhol, I can’t explain what I like about it but I really like his work. And Timorous Beasties, they relate a bit to my work. I Love Louise Gardiners older embroidery work, and I aspire to be like Bluebellgrey, her designs are lovely!

What constitutes a successful piece for you?

When the person gets it and they’re really happy about it.

Yesterday I got my Auntie to drop off lampshades and the person emailed to say they were fabulous and they couldn’t wait to get them displayed, I’m pretty happy when I hear reports like that.

Related Posts


With your continuing support, we can do more.

Find Out More

Sign up to our mailing list

Find out about the latest news by email.

Find Out More

Become a Member

Go further by becoming a member to receive discounts and deals.

Find Out More

Shetland Arts Venues