A self proclaimed control freak who thrives working with mediums that are impossible to control, Carly Dorrington is a woman of complexities. In fact, intricate barely begins to describe the process that goes into her unique pieces; each scrap of natural, second hand fabric is hand selected and then printed or painted on—often with hand-made dyes, to later be cut and sewn into something new. The result is Luir, an absolutely stunning collection of elegant garments and accessories.

Looking up Luir online, it’s practically impossible to find any information about the creator of the brand. Riddled with curiosity, we invited ourselves to her studio, Sonder 54 in Mitte, to find out more about the elusive Carly Dorrington.

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Tell me about yourself, and how you started Luir?

I started Luir in 2014. Before that I studied printed textile in Brighton. When I moved to Berlin eight years ago, I started working in trend prediction, which is a weird kind of job. For me it wasn’t what I really wanted to be doing, so I decided to move back into my area, and into my own world.

Preparing to talk to you, I found a website with your name with a bunch of paintings and illustrations. Is that you as well?

Yeah, that’s me. I keep that website because I do that as well, and I don’t see myself as someone working exclusively with textiles. What I really love about textile is keeping everything unique and for each piece to be different. That again is why I love to paint, and I try to translate the marks from painting onto textile. I’m very much into abstract painting, so it all goes together really well.

So your work with Luir is basically abstract painting on fabric?

Yes, but there are different aspects also. I enjoy being like a magpie and search out treasures—used fabric to reuse and recycle.

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What I really love about textile is keeping everything unique and for each piece to be different. That again is why I love to paint, and I try to translate the marks from painting onto textile.

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So you combine the dyed fabric with fabrics that you find and reuse. And the fabrics you print on are found as well?

Yes, everything’s found!

It’s all a little meticulous. It takes a lot of time to find and select the fabrics, but luckily, I also have some sponsors—factories that send me their off-cuts of silk and satin and materials that I like—which helps, because it’s hard to find everything. For me it’s about giving old fabric new life. I find fabrics that I like and then I dye, paint or print on them—or I find pieces that I like the way they are, and they get to stay like that.

Where do you go to find your materials?

I do have a few secret places! I have my favorite charity shops and markets that I visit whenever I go back to England, and here in Berlin, I have my regular flea markets and places as well. I’m always looking—all the time. To dye on top of it, the fabric needs to be made entirely of natural fibers, like silk or cotton.

Being a compulsive collector, where do you keep it all?

I have bags and bags of stuff, but I don’t keep it here in the studio, because it’s too much… But I live literally five minutes from here, so it’s easy to pop over and grab something if I need it. Often I’ll do a couple of weeks straight of just dying and printing and then I can get really into it.

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I enjoy being like a magpie and search out treasures—used fabric to reuse and recycle.

luir28luir23luir22Can you tell me about your dyeing process?

I use a few weird techniques. I dye with ice for instance, which is a method I really got into. You make ice cubes mixed with pigment that you allow to melt overnight with your fabric, creating these amazing prints from melted water. This is what I’m really into; allowing the elements—water and the passing of time—to control the outcome.

I love the fact that you can’t really control it. You can choose what colors you want, but the patterns happen on their own. It’s a surprise every time!

What kinds of dyes do you use? Have you experimented with making dyes from fruits and vegetables?

I use natural dyes whenever possible, and I’ve done lots of experiments with making my own dyes.

It’s the direction I want to go in, but it’s a lot of work to fine-tune and get the colors and shades that I want. I’ve done a lot of experiments with printing from leaves onto fabric as well.

I love the technique where you roll fabric, layered with leaves, around sticks. Have you done that?

I did a lot of that last summer. My partner is Greek, so we spent the summer there and it was perfect, because they have the exact right plants for this method, like eucalyptus leaves. So I spent the whole summer doing this.

With home made dyes, it’s difficult to get really bright colors, like yellow and greens, so I’ve also been ordering natural pigment. It’s the easier way to do it, and I need to do that as well since my process is already so complicated and time consuming. Whenever I talk to my friends about all my plans and processes, they’re like, ‘maybe you need to take it down a notch?’.

I get really excited about it though, that’s the thing. I’d like to meet more people who have experience with this. I’ve met some people here in Berlin and I’m excited to learn more about it.

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I love the fact that you can’t really control it. You can choose what colors you want, but the patterns happen on their own. It’s a surprise every time!

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Did your experience with trend research help you when you were establishing Luir as a brand?

Not really, but alongside my degree, I also studied business, which I resented at the time, because I didn’t want to think about business in relation to creativity. But I realized later that I did take a lot from it, and it’s been really helpful. Art can get really insular. But now I really enjoy having a proper space and a platform, as opposed to just working alone.

Speaking of this space: It’s called Sonder 54 and you founded it last year?

Yes, along with one of my closest friends Katie who’s an illustrator. It all happened very quickly, we were sharing a studio together and one afternoon we were just talking about how it would be nice to have a bigger place, where we could involve more people and host events, and then literally two days later, we found this space. It’s quite hard to find a spot in this area of Mitte and there’s a huge amount of competition, so when we found this space we were instantly obsessed with it. We got extremely pushy and tried to do everything quickly—and we got it. It was really cool—It just happened!

And now you’re a small collective of people working here?

Yes, right now we’re five: Katie and I, Meghan who is another friend of ours, Annea from PONY jewelry, and Sarah, who’s a filmmaker. Ana, who’s currently on maternity leave, found us by coincidence after settling in Berlin. She’s from Venezuela and had been marbling paper and doing workshops all over Europe. It was the perfect match and the two of us started giving marbling workshops together.

I’ve see that you offer Japanese and European marbling workshops. Which of you do what?

We both do both. We also did a fabric marbling workshop, which was really popular!

Marbling has definitely been gaining a lot of attention over the last few years. 

It has, and I can see why, it’s a really, really interesting technique. It takes you into another world; it’s really slow and meditative. Every piece you get is completely unique.

What was the idea behind Sonder 54?

We wanted a space to do our own work, but we wanted to move it in the direction of being a platform for artists, and curate special events and small exhibitions.

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[Marbling] it’s a really, really interesting technique. It takes you into another world; it’s really slow and meditative. Every piece you get is completely unique.

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What do you gain from teaching your craft to others?

This for me has been really interesting, and it’s a great way of sharing. I’ve worked with children before and I really enjoy it, but I had never worked with adults. It’s such a different experience—a completely different audience, with different questions. I was super nervous the first time, but I ended up really enjoying marbling with a big group of people. It took me back to the Japanese philosophy of marbling, where they say that the image that comes out reflects the person, or the soul of the person who made it. I never gave that much thought before, but when I saw all the different people doing it, they all had their own style that was evident instantly.

I really like the idea that everyone has their own style that just emerges!

Yes, you’re working with water, so you can’t really control it and it just happens. Almost everyone in the workshops end up asking where they can buy the supplies to continue this as home. It’s really great to know that people will continue to make their own papers and their own fabric. In a small way, it’s contributing to making a change in how people think about fabric—where they buy it from, the amount of time that things take to make and the value that it has.

This is often really abstract in a lot of people’s heads. This idea of where the print was made, how it was made, how it was transferred to the fabric. People don’t really consider this.

I’ve been noticing a huge influx of workshops over the last years. It seems like a new generation of DIY’ing is happening—a more sophisticated DIY culture, where people take away real skills.

That’s what I’m hoping will happen here. The workshops are suited for beginners, but they’re also for artists and for designers who can take the skills and apply them to their own work. Every time people come here I ask if they have any skills that they could share, and often the answer is ‘Yes!’. They’re just not used to the idea of sharing them. It’s great to have a place where people can open up and share their own special, secret skills.

Let’s go back to Luir for a moment. Tell me what it means, and—hearing it come out of my mouth, I realize that you also need to tell me how to say it properly.

LU-IR—it’s French, and it means glimmer, like sparkle on water. In French the word has an ‘e’ in the end, but visually, I like it better without the ‘e’.

It’s a beautiful word, and it really fits your work! I was instantly attracted to your aesthetic—It has a very soft, feminine side to it. Did you plan what you wanted it to look like before you started, or did it just happen, the same way marbling and ice-dyeing works?

I think it just happened. It’s the aesthetic that I’m into and it reflects how I work—it’s how my paintings translate over to fabric. I wanted it to be this way, and I wanted all of my pieces to be unique. Using water as a main element in my process, it gives it a certain mood. So, no, I didn’t plan it, it evolved.

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I ended up really enjoying marbling with a big group of people. It took me back to the Japanese philosophy of marbling, where they say that the image that comes out reflects the person, or the soul of the person who made it. I never gave that much thought before, but when I saw all the different people doing it, they all had their own style that was evident instantly.

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On your website, you talk about telling stories through personal explorations and observations. Is there a specific story, or stories, you have in mind when you’re working?

The fabric already has a story in itself. There’s the story in my head, of where I found it and what I decided to do with it. Often I live with a piece of fabric for a while before it becomes clear to me what to do with it. With my clothing pieces, the stories are formed throughout the process, because each item are made with a variety of different prints from many different pieces of fabric. So you end up with a little bit of this and a little of that, and it forms a new story all together. That’s what I mean when I talk about stories: They’re a combination of memories, processes and how each new piece comes together.

A collage of stories. I love that!

It’s funny, some people don’t see that. They ask, why is it like this, and why does it cost so much. The value side of things is tricky.

To me, the process is what makes an object special. I feel the same when I look at other people’s work; When I see how something is made and the process is beautiful, I want it. I want a piece of that!

The positive byproduct of that is that you end up having less, but more special things. You collect stories and objects with meaning rather than simply ‘things’.

That’s the way I am with what I have in my house. I have things that have a story. I don’t have many things, but what I have is special. I like to be surrounded by things that are special to me.

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With my clothing pieces, the stories are formed throughout the process, because each item are made with a variety of different prints from many different pieces of fabric. So you end up with a little bit of this and a little of that, and it forms a new story all together.

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What are some ideas that you’re working on for the future?

I have this large piece that could be a scarf and also a wall hanging. I’m working on creating these multi-purpose pieces. I like this idea of creating work that can be both a piece of art, and a piece of clothing.

The clothing I’ve done so far has been very complicated in terms of their patterns, but I’d like to do more simple pieces with focus on the printing, like a plain silk dress or a very simple bag, where the emphasis is all on the technique.

Lately I’ve been focusing heavily on large scale marble prints on paper and on recycled fabric. I’m also in the process of doing my new website and online shop.

Do you sew your clothes yourself or do you work with a seamstress?

I do work with a seamstress sometimes, but with everything I make, I always cut the pieces myself, because such a huge component of the process is deciding what part of the fabric and what part of the pattern to use for what. I would feel weird letting someone else do the cutting, because it’s such an integral part of the design. But that also makes it really hard, because I need to do so much of the process myself.

It’s the kind of work where you have to be a bit of a control freak—you can’t let it go.

I guess if I found someone that really got it—it’s hard to find someone who gets it! But it’s great to work with a seamstress. I can let it go a bit…

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It’s the kind of work where you have to be a bit of a control freak—you can’t let it go.

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What’s your favorite piece that you’ve made?

My favorite is this large scarf. I really love the combination of colors, and how it all comes together with patterns and blocks of color, in a square format.

Do you have a specific person or women in mind when you create your pieces.

I did, but it changed! That’s the great thing about selling your own work. After dong the Japanese market last year, it completely changed my perspective because of all the different people who liked my work—people of all ages, from really young, to much older ladies—it really appealed to so many different people. I think what ties them all together is the affinity for the feminine qualities in my work. I think anyone can wear it differently, but it seems to appeal to anyone who likes the more dreamy aesthetic. And guys can wear it too!

Find Luir online, and check out Sonder 54’s amazing worshops here!
Photos by Tabea Mathern.