Small Business Life

The only woman hand-forging culinary knives professionally in the UK – meet Holly from Loftus Knives

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Lyzi Unwin
Content Producer
Fervent blogger sharing signature Studio Cotton advice & small business stories
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I adore coming across someone who’s specialising in doing one thing really really well. It’s such a wonderful thing to know someone has honed their skills into creating this one very special thing. Holly is one of those people.

I’ve never really given knives a whole lot of thought, but Holly’s knives are gorgeous items made with true care, which are then used to chop and prepare food for ourselves and our loved ones. That’s just so beautiful when you think about it.

You can see more of Holly’s work on the Loftus Knives website, and on @loftusknives on Instagram.


1. Tell us about your background before Loftus Knives

It’s been about a ten year journey for me to get into knife making, with the first five years largely in my head.

My working background was always in community work in some form or another, working in homeless shelters or supporting disabled people, so the transition to craft was not an obvious or easy change. But here I am, the only woman hand forging culinary knives professionally in the UK.

My interest in knife making really piqued about a decade ago on a visit to America, where I crossed paths with a hobbyist knife maker.

Up to that point I hadn’t given any thought to knives, and assumed these days they’d all be made in factories, stamped out from sheets of stainless steel and finished by machines.

I got completely drawn into the idea of making something so useful and long-lasting, but with no previous experience in craft, no experience making anything at all, it took me a long time to figure out how to get started.


Photo by Robert Logan


2. How did you come up with the name of your small business?

I had originally decided on using the name of a childhood home back in Ireland where I’m from. The name was shared with one other business in a completely different field, which I didn’t think would be a problem, especially as I was tacking ‘knives’ onto the end of my business name.

But the other business ended up contacting me and insinuated they would sue if I went ahead with it, so after a suitable period of overthinking I finally settled on using my surname.


3. What’s the loveliest thing a customer or fan has said about Loftus Knives, that still makes you smile now?

I feel very sentimental about these tools we use to care for ourselves and the people we love. They’re just knives, but they can also be heirlooms and hold a lot of meaning and memories.

It means so much to me that people who use my knives take the time to share their moments and memories with me – and they share them a lot. I’ll never forget one email in particular, from someone who’d got one of my chef knives.

They’d been through a terrible depression and hadn’t been able to cook for themselves for months, but they said that knowing they had this amazing knife encouraged them to buy vegetables so they could cut it, cook it and eat it.

They told me they cut up a turnip and some potatoes, and experienced happiness for the first time in a long time. That really moved me.


4. What’s the loveliest part of running Loftus Knives?

The relationships I have with my customers.


Photo by Gareth Hacker


5. Sing the praises about an organisation or professional that helped you on your small business journey (and let us know how)

Cockpit Studios, where my workshop is based, is the UK’s only dedicated craft studios. They’re a charity and an award winning social enterprise, and home to over 150 craftspeople working across a huge variety of disciplines from ceramics to jewellery, luthiery to basketry.

Cockpit have several awards available every year which support emerging craft talent, and in 2020 the course of my life was changed when I became recipient of their Newby Trust Craft Excellence Award.

The award included a subsidised studio at Cockpit, business support and a place in this vibrant craft community. Without it, there was no way I could have gone full time when I did – some of the kit I need to make knives is so expensive.

Having that period with reduced rent meant I could invest in good equipment and high quality materials early on, so by the time my award year was over I had built a good reputation and was set up to continue full steam ahead.

Also, having a landlord that actively supports and promotes our work, where our rent goes back into supporting other emerging craftspeople – it’s golden.

If you are a craftsperson in the UK, please check Cockpit Studios out – it might change your life too!


6. As recommended by you

We asked Holly to recommend 3 podcasts, blogs, or Instagram accounts that she’d recommend to other small business owners…

The Blindboy podcast

Most podcasts are too hard to follow while I’m trying to work, but I find his hot takes easy to have on in the background while I’m sharpening knives. Being from Ireland and living away from home, there’s something very comforting for me about listening to an Irish accent too.

(Sidenote from Lyzi: I also highly recommend the Blindboy podcast! He talks about unusual subject matter in an incredibly interesting and calming way.)

Building your Brand by Liz Mosley

The podcast where I first heard of Studio Cotton. Liz interviews industry experts on everything from understanding your brand values to email marketing. Always food for thought, even if it’s not relevant to my current goals. The interview with Aime is a great first dip.

Tree maps

Not really a blog, but I highly recommend looking up tree maps like Remarkable Trees UK or the Woodland Trust’s Ancient Tree inventory.

There are so many amazing trees out on the streets, and lots of these freely available maps can help you identify the most gorgeous ones that might be on your street on in your local park.

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