Making a silk purse from a sow’s ear is one thing. Making silk scarves from ancient rock is quite another, but at Weston Earth that’s what we set ourselves the challenge of doing for Stonehenge with the help of the latest digital technology.
I have had a life-long passion for nature, but only with the arrival of digital technology was I able to turn a passion, particularly for minerals, into a business. It’s that business that made a middle-aged Professor of Architecture into what Vogue described as ‘the most unexpected new talent in British fashion’, and what they called the ‘break out star’ of the BBC’s Britain’s Next Big Thing with Theo Paphitis.
Digital scanning has enabled us to see ‘inside’ nature in a way that had never previously been possible, and it transformed my mineral collection into a whole new world of miraculous design and beauty. Minerals that looked like stone or coal on the outside were found to be full of colour and pattern on the inside when viewed in high resolution.
My friends and colleagues were amazed by these ‘new world’ discoveries that made me feel a little like a Columbus of the mineral world – yet the challenge was how to get a wider audience to see and enjoy such stunning images. After trying them as art (hanging large images on the wall) and as dresses among other items, I hit upon satin silk scarves. They were beautiful, natural and showed off the images with a fluidity and style that really did them justice.
With a long-time collaborator, entrepreneur Martin Price, I set up Weston Earth Images, and decided to take the scarves to a Liberty Open Day for designers, which was about the most fortunate thing I’ve ever done – despite queuing for hours in the pouring rain! The BBC were there filming for the Britain’s Next Big Thing programme, and the Liberty people loved the scarves.
Within months they were among the best-selling scarves in Liberty, and have now been stocked by Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Fortnum and Mason, Fenwick in the UK, and stores in France, Italy, USA, Australia, Japan etc.
But Stonehenge was something completely different! For some reason, English Heritage is not very keen on people chipping bits off Stonehenge, so I went to the British Geological Survey, which has a massive archive of rocks and minerals including samples taken from Stonehenge by the great Victorian mineralogist, Matthew Forster Heddle. With the help of the Open University, these chips were then digitally scanned to produce images that could be used for scarves.
Not as easy a process as that makes it sound, but some wonderful images were obtained - it’s not difficult to see why the scarves are now best sellers in the Stonehenge store as well as online from English Heritage.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you turn ancient rock into silk scarves!
You can buy a selection of Stonehenge silk scarves created by Weston Earth on the English Heritage Online Shop.[ssba]