Interview: Kelly Partlow of Hillhead and Co.

January 14, 2021

Where are you from & what brought you to VA if you did not grow up locally?

I’m from Fairfax in Northern VA and went to college at Christopher Newport University in Newport News. After I graduated I moved to Newport News permanently and eventually married my husband and settled in Williamsburg where he grew up. I absolutely adore Hampton Roads, it’s so down to earth and filled with amazing small businesses – something I really didn’t experience growing up in NOVA.

What was your inspiration for starting Hillhead & Co.?

I was going through a really bad breakup and found myself binge watching a lot of old familiar TV shows, but wanted to do something more productive. I started watching macrame tutorials on YouTube and  I got the name Hillhead from the street I lived on when I studied abroad in Glasgow, Scotland my junior year of college. It’s a place I always wanted to keep close to me.

Did you start macrame as a hobby?

I started as a hobby four years ago and gave my pieces away to friends and family when I had too many. Macrame is still my favorite gift to give! But soon after that I started teaching workshops and opened an Etsy shop to officially sell online and at markets and pop-ups.

Tell us a little bit about your creative process.

I tend to find inspiration for macrame pieces in unconventional places, like the pattern on a knit sweater, or on a walk in the woods. When I’ve completed a piece, it rarely looks like the idea I had when I originally started, but the concept is generally the same. I also really love incorporating natural dyes into my work and try to find ways to include them as much as possible. Avocado dye (which produces a blush pink color) and turmeric dye (which makes anything from pale buttercup to rich mustard) are my two favorites.

What is your favorite part of your creative process?

Honestly, I love being done! Sometimes the creative process can be torturous, having a clear vision in your head that doesn’t come out right, struggling with new techniques, comparing yourself to other makers; but once I’ve finished and can step back from the work, it feels so satisfying to look at a completed piece and know that it’s whole.

What is the most rewarding part of what you do?

Seeing my work in other people’s houses is incredibly rewarding. It’s still so crazy to me that a stranger liked something I made so much that they bought it and chose to display it in their home! It’s such an honor that I really didn’t consider when I started doing this.

What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome while starting your own business?

I think comparing myself to other makers and other businesses has been hard. I didn’t use social media actively before I started my business and really only use it to promote my brand. Everything from style, to pricing, to aesthetic can be picked apart, and it can sometimes feel like everyone else has it all figured out. I had to take a break from social media and actively promoting my work because I got so burnt out during the 2019 holiday season trying to keep up with what everyone else was doing. But now that I’m back making new work, I’ve settled into a sense of peace and pride that I think will help carry me through those times.

Tell us a fun random fact about yourself

I have a rescue cat and a rescue rabbit who are both torties, meaning they’re both black and orange! Our rabbit, Bun (creative, I know) loves our cat Sadie but unfortunately the love doesn’t go both ways. Sadie is 13 and was raised as the only pet in the house before I adopted her three years ago, so she isn’t crazy about sharing human affection. Fingers crossed that one day Sadie will get so tired of Bun’s kisses that she’ll just give in.

check out Hillhead and Co. on instagram

or check out her Etsy shop

or pick up some of her goodies at Horticulture Design co.!

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