Alice Milivoyevich on Bernat Klein—
Alice is the granddaughter of Obren Milivoyevich, who was Bernat Klein's Patternhouse Manager at the High Mill in Galashiels in the 1960s.
Growing up in the Scottish Borders, textile design has always been a topic of conversation throughout my life. However it wasn’t until my fifth year of high school that I took a greater interest.
My grandfather, Obren Milivoyevich whom I unfortunately never got to meet, worked in the industry alongside Bernat Klein. My mother was always a very creative person and I grew up drawing, colouring and quite frankly making a bit of a mess, some of which were stuck onto the kitchen fridge.
Friends and family would always say that design was “in my blood”, but it was my art teacher who really inspired me to study textile design for my Advanced Higher in Art & Design. Also during this time I took part in a screen-printing class at Heriot-Watt University, and trying this I knew it was what I wanted to do in carrying on my studies.
My grandfather, who had been a Captain in the Yugoslavian Army came to the Scottish Borders and got involved in the textile industry. He saw it as a secure job that would allow him to bring up a family in the Borders where the industry was, and still is, very concentrated.
Coming into a small town like Galashiels at this time did not offer too much mixing from locals to “foreigners”. And it was here that my grandfather crossed paths with Bernat Klein.
To my knowledge, they worked together in the High Mill before Bernat Klein started his own independent company. Obren (my grandfather) was asked to join Klein in his new venture in the design world. However my grandfather declined the offer as he wanted to keep the secure career to support his family - but they stayed in touch and were friendly.
Growing up, my grandmother who I called ‘Omi’ was always wearing these fluffy, but scratchy jumpers and she also had these fluffy, but scratchy blankets around her home. It wasn’t until I was older that I recognised that these were Bernat Klein designs. Quite often these were 'seconds' or designs that maybe didn’t quite make the final cut.
— But mohair is now how I remember Omi.
Fast forward a few years and I’m in my final year of university at Heriot-Watt University on the Scottish Borders Campus in Galashiels, specialising in woven design (and in Bernat Klein's High Mill). In my second year it became obvious that I was not as much of a screen-printer as I thought - and in fact I discovered that woven design came more naturally to me.
The summer before my final year, I took part in a placement in the design and marketing department at Lochcarron of Scotland in Selkirk. My eyes were opened to how the textile industry works, and it heightened my passion for design, pushing me to really perform in my final year.
— initial drawings and collage
In my initial sketchbook studies I used mohair to mimic the rhythms of sound and textures that reminded me of family memories and stories.
Although not taking immediate inspiration from Klein, it was his way of using his surroundings that I followed, and this way of working helped me develop my ideas.
For my final collection I designed three different warps - the vertical threads pulled through a loom.
These warps differed in colour and proportion, but all held the same construction - a mix of worsted merino and mohair boucle.
— setting up the loom
In the weft - the horizontal threads inserted through the warp to intertwine the threads - I experimented with velvet ribbons, wool, mohair, reflective yarn and even wire to create shapes and textures I had developed in my sketchbook work.
These ideas were developed to create my final collection of eight decorative blankets.
— my final collection
Despite the challenging circumstances surrounding Covid-19, I completed a small collection for my design portfolio, a selection of which I have been invited to showcase for this article.
Alice is currently working at Lochcarron of Scotland, assisting in design and marketing.
In his recent interview, John MacKenzie, Bernat Klein's Head Designer, talks warmly of Obren Milivoyevich and describes his work as the Patternhouse Manager at the High Mill in Galashiels.
'John Mackenzie Interview' (30.40s)