Today we catch up with weaver Nick Ozanne, the man behind the luxury brand Leto & Ariadne. He’s an award-winner, a workaholic, and a 1980’s film buff. Like his scarves, he is also something of a timeless piece, full of old-school elegance and charm. We wanted to find out more about Nick’s working life and how he manages his growing business.
1. Hello Nick. So tell us, have you always been a weaver of beautiful things?
I can’t say that I have always been a weaver of beautiful things or a weaver at all. I did elect to study weave at the Winchester School of Art but at the time the subject hadn’t really gelled with me and I just never hit my stride during my three years of study. I actually graduated declaring that I was never going to weave again.
2. How did you rediscover the joys of weaving?
Years later when I was working in London in a very different career I woke up one morning feeling that I would like to try weaving again. This came on the heels of a fairly traumatic time in my life that culminated with the death of my Father. With everything up in the air I started to question if I had made the right choices. After discussing this with my mother she offered to buy me a loom for my birthday as I was hitting 30 and so ‘Eric’ (my first loom) arrived and after about 2 years of trial and error everything clicked with my work and ‘Leto & Ariadne’ was born.
3. How do you describe your work?
I like to think of my work as heirloom pieces and something that you can wear year after year. I only weave in natural fibres that improve and soften with use and feel both comforting and luxurious against the naked skin. In terms of design I am inspired by anything, from something seen on the street to a favourite book. My signature design ‘Evelyn Waugh Stripe’ is actually inspired by his 1945 novel ‘Brideshead Revisited’ and I like to think that it blends classic style with a bold sense of colour. All my work is meant to be unisex. I do not at present design for a man or a woman and prefer to think of my pieces as being suitable for all, and only dictated to by the taste of the wearer.
4. Tell us about your work space: studio or kitchen table, caffeine-fueled or herbal, loud or quiet?
My workspace is in the ground floor of a Victorian building in a mill complex that dates back to the 1600’s. Although most of the mill is now taken up with industrial companies I like the space as it is a little off the beaten track. I have three looms in the studio, two of which are fairly large, with numerous desks and workbenches that are all earmarked for different stages in the weaving process. An unlikely cupboard in the corner of the room houses the kitchen which is decked out with the kettle and much more china than a small space will ever need. I drink coffee in the morning and then move on to tea in the afternoon. It’s usually builders tea for most of the year apart from the Autumn when I drink Lapsang Souchong as it’s smoky taste seems to suit my mood in that season. I play films while I work and people laugh when I tell them that their silk was mostly woven to the sounds of ‘The Towering Inferno’ or the ‘Poseidon Adventure’ as I have an irrational love of 1970’s disaster films…… and 80’s films…… and period drama…… actually the list is fairly long.
5. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people.
I have a condition called Synesthesia, which in my case means that I hear colour. I only discovered this when in hospital a few years ago where I was treated with morphine for a long period of time and everything had a sound to it. I was quite glad to finally have everything return to normal but I am now much more aware of getting a low tone or even a kind of hum from colours. When you look at my work you see a range of colours but to me it is a kind of melody, a chord of notes that just happens to sound right.
6. Describe an average day for you – are you running around like a headless chicken high on espresso, or are we talking endless hours of serene weaving with Pride & Prejudice playing in the background?
Every day is different as, although I would love to just spend all my time in the studio, I find that I have to also give time to e-mails, paperwork, finance, advertising, research etc. Being a weaver is like being a duck…. I look all calm on the surface when people see me at the studio as I am usually on the loom weaving away and looking pretty smugly happy. What they don’t see is me furiously peddling away underneath the surface of the water; the hours that I am on the phone talking with suppliers, or e-mailing furiously to try and keep on top of my inbox, or working out calculations of how many threads of each colour go into a new design and in what order. Whatever I am doing there is always a cup of something by my side and always a DVD playing in the background. That is my preferred working style at the moment and the one that I am most relaxed in. But don’t be surprised if you drive past my studio at 2am and see the light on, as when a man’s got to weave, he has got to weave and nothing can stop that.
7. What is really inspiring you at the moment?
I am currently watching a lot of Hitchcock films as I am putting together some ideas for a new collection and at the same time am continuing the work I started during a recent collaboration with a milliner. This led to a much more textured body of work using paper yarns, Irish wools and even Kevlar yarn which is also used in body armour.
8. We all know the maker is the last person to get anything out of the production line and if you do get something, it’s often a wonky sample. Do you ever make things for yourself? And if so what?
I decided a year ago that after making possibly several hundred scarves it was ridiculous that I did not yet have one of my own. So I sat and wove a large one in black and petrol blue herringbone that I immediately started wearing. Within a week a pen had leaked ink over it and it now has two large stains on the silk. I cannot help but think this is the Universe reminding me to be humble. I still love my scarf and am glad to say that it still feels amazing to wear.
9. What’s the last thing that made you say ‘Wow!’?
The last thing that truly astounded me was Alexander McQueen at the V&A. I am still awed by the memory and don’t think that I will ever see anything more astounding. I remain full of admiration for a designer who was, in my opinion, quite simply a genius at what he did. I have liked and appreciated other things since then but nothing comes close to touching the impact that exhibition made on me.
10. You have already exhibited at Top Drawer this year; what else do you have planned for 2016?
I am already back in the studio getting ready for the British Craft Trade Fair in April and the Contemporary Craft Festival in Devon in June. I am also showing work with the Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen at their 2 shows in the Cotswolds as well as the run of back to back shows around the country for the Autumn and Winter season that I love doing, although they are a little exhausting. I am working on new collections which will be launched later this year, and I am also planning to add new products for interiors that have been in development for a while. It is already shaping up to be a very busy year and I would not have it any other way.
Follow @letoariadne to keep up to date with all his work and events. Expect nostalgic styling, handsome selfies and breezy day trips!