SHETLAND DIALECT FOR 'DECORATION'
Established in May 2020.
Inspired by the Scottish landscape, wildlife and culture; but particularly influenced by the Shetland Islands and its neighbouring Scottish archipelagos. Creating homewares to bring these unique places into the home but also accessories to carry with you, no matter where you are in the world. Variorum also pays close attention to being eco-conscious with reused/recycled/biodegradable products and packaging where possible.
I'm Helen and I am the designer behind Variorum. I am originally from Lerwick, the capital of Shetland, where I completed an NC in Art and Design after school. This allowed me to discover what aspects of art I was good at and what I wanted to explore further. In school, I only knew fine art, but doing the NC made me realise that I was not as good as I needed to be at fine art to pursue it. I did enjoy textiles though, so I decided to leave Shetland for some new experiences and studied an HND in Textiles and Fashion for two years at North East Scotland College. This taught me the basics to textiles in knit, weave and print. I was then accepted into the Design for Textiles course at Heriot Watt University's Scottish Borders campus. During my four years there, I specialised in print but particularly excelled in my final year where I won a Bradford Textile Society award and the Dr Oliver Award for the highest achieving textile graduate of the year. I graduated with a first class honours. I have remained in the Scottish Borders to start building my brand, Variorum.
I have always wanted to start my own business, ever since I was making paper jewellery and setting up 'shop' on the living room floor to sell my creations to my family. My father is really into business and owns/part-owns three stores in Lerwick. I think this was an influence growing up and made my aspirations bigger with what I could achieve on my own. I had a shoe painting business while I was in school which, gathering the scale of it, was very successful. I also created Helen Marie Textiles while I was in university, creating bright, floral, printed accessories. I was granted an inspiring trip to the Isle of Lewis shortly after this that made me realise where I was going wrong with this current business idea. I was trying to please too many people, focusing on the trends, rather than niching down and supplying something unique. Over my final years of education, I had this new brand brewing in my head, waiting to bring to life.
Towards the end of my final year of university, the Coronavirus pandemic hit and didn't allow me to complete my degree to the standard I intended. It also cancelled the degree show, the New Designers Exhibition in London and, of course, the actual graduation. It was absolutely heart-breaking, after years of working towards these final moments, to then leave the university in tears without the proper send off the students were hoping for. To keep our spirits up, myself and a few of my university friends teamed up to make a collective in May 2020 to support and promote each other through one platform. This allowed us to focus on something positive and continue being creative during those dark times. This was also when Variorum was finally born.