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19 May 2023

Meet the Makers: April Hay from Agate & Ayre

April Hay from Agate & Ayre
The Trust is proud to support talented makers and craftspeople from across Scotland, by selling their products in our physical and online shops. This time, we meet April from Agate & Ayre.

Please introduce yourself and your business

My name is April Hay, and I’m a textile designer who creates bold and eye-catching patterns inspired by my passion for the geological landscape of Scotland.

Where are you based?

Originally from Aberdeen, where I lived up until 2018, I now work from my studio in the heart of Glasgow.

When and how did you start your business?

Agate & Ayre is the name of my brand and was founded in 2021 after losing my job during the pandemic – which would end up being the catalyst for me being able to do what I truly love for a living.

What products do you make/design/create?

My product range is predominantly scarves; the infinity scarves are what I’ve become most known for. Their unique looped style means they won’t blow away in our wild Scottish weather! These come in velvet, bamboo and silk. I make a whole range of accessories for your home and your wardrobe, functional yet beautiful products that you’ll love using every day.

What makes your business unique?

Agate & Ayre was founded from a desire to create meaningful, sustainable products which tell the story of our stunning landscape and inspire viewers to get out and explore it for themselves. My happiest times have always been spent on the beaches of North-East Scotland, hunting for rocks. Texture, colour and tactility are key themes throughout my work – taking a stone on its journey from being a cold, hard object to a touchable, fluid textile.

For as long as I can remember art and design has been my biggest passion. I graduated from Gray’s School of Art in 2016, and for my final year I explored the relationship between science and design. I wanted to take a scientific subject and make it as visual and accessible as I could, and geology was what I was naturally drawn to. I photographed minerals and geological sites around the country and used these as the inspiration for my collection, a creative process which I continue to use today.

Are there any interesting materials that you use?

Uniqueness and sustainability are the two most important things for me when designing my products. Before being able to kickstart my business full time in 2021, I had a string of retail jobs and was both shocked by the volume of fashion which moved through the stores and bored with the repetitiveness of the designs used. Everything I design for Agate & Ayre is something I would wear myself and could see myself wearing for years to come.

The manufacturing processes I use all create as little waste and environmental impact as possible. Digitally printed textiles not only allow me to capture the incredible detail within my designs, but by working closely with selected printers I can ensure all inks are eco-friendly. I manufacture almost all of my products myself which allows me to keep the very little amount of fabric scraps produced. I upcycle these into one off zero waste products, which always get snapped up quickly whenever I launch a collection of them!

What’s your favourite thing about your business/running your business?

There is no feeling quite like being your own boss. I sometimes joke that I left my 9 to 5 job so I could start a 9 to 9 one but I can’t imagine it being any other way! I really am so passionate about what I do, so it sometimes doesn’t really feel like work. As a wee girl, I dreamed about being a fashion designer and although the reality is less catwalks and more walking to the post office, I feel like I’m really living my dream and couldn’t be happier.

April on set for a photoshoot of her scarves

What’s the proudest moment of your business career?

In the summer of 2021, Scotland’s Trade Fair created a competition named ‘Launch with STF’ to discover their favourite ‘new to wholesale’ small business and I was delighted to win this. I really felt like this was the moment that made me look at Agate & Ayre as a serious, viable business and not just something that I thought I would try and launch after losing my job. This was the start of my great relationship with STF and I regularly attend their trade shows which have resulted in me stocking work in many iconic institutions and beautiful galleries.

Running a business was never an option presented to me at university, and there are still times I feel like a bit of a fish out of water, but I look at all I’ve achieved in a short few years and know that I’m doing something right. I still get goosebumps every time someone chooses to spend their money on something I’ve designed and made with my own hands!

What is your favourite Trust place?

I have so many fond memories of all the National Trust for Scotland locations around the North East. Our summer holidays were filled with days out to Crathes, Drum Castle and Haddo House – but Pitmedden Garden will always hold a special place in my heart. I have vivid memories of visiting with my family, including my late dad and it was one of the first places we went back to after he passed away. I will always remember the joy we felt when we came across Ben the cat snoozing in a flowerbed!

Pitmedden Garden

How did you/your business start working with the Trust?

The ‘Launch with STF’ competition had an esteemed panel of judges including the National Trust for Scotland’s own Gemma McQue who had so many positives to say about my designs. It really was a ‘pinch me’ moment to be able to get my work in front of her eyes and even more so to have my work stocked by the Trust.

What’s your favourite product that you supply to the Trust and what was the inspiration behind creating it?

Crathes Castle has a selection of my products in a print I designed called ‘Granite’ which is probably my favourite design I have created (so far!). Being from ‘Granite City’ I wanted to put an Agate & Ayre spin on the rock that put Aberdeen on the map. The print itself is made up of microscopic images, or thin sections of granite and I secretly always dreamed it would end up being sold in a North-East Trust location!

What do you love about Scotland? #fortheloveofscotland

The obvious answer here is the unique geological landscape we are so lucky to have! I’m also a huge lover of wildlife and we have the most incredible species here in Scotland. Even in the heart of Glasgow I’ve spotted a family of otters in Pollok Park, dippers along the River Kelvin and even a kingfisher or two. I feel very lucky to live in Scotland where you can be outside in nature in no time at all, and especially during lockdown I think I realised the positive effect on mental health that being outdoors has. That’s why I’m so delighted to be working with the Trust who do an incredible job of protecting our heritage whilst making it accessible to all.

A selection of Agate & Ayre’s Granite collection is available to purchase at Crathes Castle. Plan your visit

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