Suffolk has a centuries-old association with weaving.

During the medieval period, the Wool Towns, as they became known, grew prosperous through the production and trade of cloth made in the county.

So, it’s somewhat fitting that Alex Daniels, who lives in Sudbury, is one of the new generation of makers who are giving the traditional craft a modern twist.

Sudbury Mercury: One of Alex Daniels' woven wall hangingsOne of Alex Daniels' woven wall hangings (Image: Contributed)

She fell in love with weaving at art school.

During lockdown she bought her own loom and started making textured wall art.

And when she ran out of space for her pieces in her own home, she founded Cowrie Textiles and began selling through the online makers’ platform Etsy.

“I studied textiles at Manchester School of Art, and as soon as I saw a loom at university I fell in love with the concept of weaving, and how some strands of yarn can be combined to form a piece of fabric,” explains Alex.

“There are also infinite possibilities, and a lot of my work is made from re-used yarn from the local textiles industry, so it’s a joy to give the yarn a second life.

Sudbury Mercury: Alex takes inspiration from the colours and textures around herAlex takes inspiration from the colours and textures around her (Image: Contributed)

“Weaving was a great distraction during lockdown,” she continues. “I ran out of wall space in my own home, so I thought I would take a leap of faith and see if anyone else would like my work for their homes.”

They certainly did, as she started receiving orders from as far away as America.

“I started off with some of the simpler artworks which I framed, and then started to expand into wall hangings with lots of tassels and texture,” she says.

“I really love texture, and use coral reefs as an inspiration for some of my latest three-dimensional pieces which I really enjoy making.”

Alex chose the name Cowrie Textiles because one of her favourite childhood memories is of hunting for cowrie shells on Clacton beach.

“To me and my mum the cowrie shell was a tiny piece of treasure,” she says. “I hope that people stumble on my wall hangings and think of them in the same way.

“I am inspired by painted artworks and interior schemes, and first choose a colour palette that I think is really beautiful. I then translate this into my never-ending collection of yarns, and play with proportion and texture to create a unique piece.”

Sudbury Mercury: The name, Cowrie Textiles, was inspired by childhood trips to Clacton beach to look for shellsThe name, Cowrie Textiles, was inspired by childhood trips to Clacton beach to look for shells (Image: Contributed)

Other inspiration is to be found in the Suffolk landscape.

“The Suffolk houses are all painted in a rainbow of colours, and I love to incorporate the Suffolk Pink colour. I also love looking around the local antique shops, and finding inspiration in the traditional colour palettes,” she says.

“I like to name my pieces after places I visit which I really love, and my collection features Melford, Ballingdon and Aldeburgh.”

When it comes to sourcing her yarns and packaging, sustainability is at the heart of what Alex does.

“I work in a local textiles mill, and save as much yarn as I can fit in my flat as possible,” she says. “I then re-use as much of this yarn in my artwork as I can.

“I also try to save packaging from other orders I receive, and then re-use it for my despatches, so although my packaging isn't consistent, at least it is also re-used.”

She says that selling her pieces to customers in America was a real ‘pinch yourself’ moment.

“I can’t believe my little Suffolk business has such a broad reach,” she says. “It’s also been a highlight to have my pieces listed in the Sudbury interiors shop Prudent Nellie, and to receive the support from the local community.”

Sudbury Mercury: Alex's pieces have been sold as far away as AmericaAlex's pieces have been sold as far away as America (Image: Contributed)

She says that running a small creative business is a steep learning curve.

“Marketing is really important, and you can get a wealth of exposure from free or cheap platforms like Instagram and Etsy.

“Just make sure your shipping charges cover the costs of postage to the States,” she says.

“I didn't charge enough for my first order to the USA, and so I actually ended up paying the customer to have my artwork from the shipping costs!

“Finding the time is the most challenging thing. I am lucky to have a role in the textiles industry, and to be a captain of the Sudbury Ladies 2s hockey team, so then fitting in any time to weave is difficult.

“But my boyfriend sits and watches football, and I can sit and weave, and it makes the perfect evening!”

Sudbury Mercury: The natural world is a huge influence on Alex's workThe natural world is a huge influence on Alex's work (Image: Contributed)

Find Cowrie Textiles at Prudent Nellie in Sudbury and Alex’s Etsy store online. You can also follow on Instagram @cowrietextiles