Scottish Textile Design: Beyond Pattern

In the second part of our regular column mapping the Scottish design landscape, our Local Heroes curator takes a closer look at textile design

Feature by Stacey Hunter | 10 Oct 2017

Surface pattern design is a sector where Scotland’s designers excel, and one that we were keen to turn our eye to in our ongoing tour of Scottish design. We’ve selected six designers who epitomise the aspects we love to celebrate in Scottish design; eclectism, Scotland’s international in reach and an embracing of highly original and innovative methods whether in terms of an approach to printing, designing or manufacturing.

Our country’s expertise in textile design was vividly brought to life earlier this year with Sample, an exhibition at the Lighthouse where Collect Scotland shone a light under an industry where designers are not always credited for commercial work.

Two of the founding members of Collect Scotland are Marion Parola and Yvonne Elliott-Kellighan, also the designers behind the ambitious, bold and highly experimental, Bespoke Atelier – Scotland’s most exciting surface pattern studio. The duo recently translated the northern seaside nostalgia of a lido in Morecambe into a contemporary and chic Art Parc (pictured) with an explosion of nuanced colour palettes rendered in graphic forms. Working at architectural scales, Bespoke Atelier recently designed patterns rendered in concrete that are integrated into exterior entrances at Woodside Health Centre. Their ‘stained glass’ wallpaper explores the relationship between the garden greenhouse and urban architecture and is an innately feminine masterpiece.

Welcome Home at CCA is a key place to find high quality Scottish textile design – its owner (another co-founder of Collect) Mhari McMullan consciously selects bold prints and colours from mainly Scottish designers with a contemporary, rather than traditional style. She says “Geometrics are always popular prints but we've had a lot more painterly textiles with a hand done or illustrative feel recently in the shop.”

Among the Welcome Home cohort is Isabella Bunnell whose illustrations mix contrasting textures and bright colours with a sense of humour. Applied to fabric, her work can be enjoyed in the form of a cushion featuring a reclining nude. While with Vajournal, an interactive diary for feminists, the designer provides an exquisitely illustrated canvas on which to explore feminist rage. Thought-provoking activities ask readers to list all the people they have ever slept with, describe their worst and best sexual experiences, and to relay their hopes and dreams, feelings about their bodies, and experiences of everyday sexism.

In the capital, designer Karen Mabon has a similar preoccupation with describing people in her thoughtful, and sometimes surreal drawings that are translated into silk scarves. Her depth of historical knowledge about who and what has come before her in art and design terms distinguishes her work from an Instagram/Pinterest generation of designers trapped in a circular sourcebook. Mabon’s SS18 swimwear and silk sleepwear collection launches at Premier Classe in Paris this month, exploring themes that include Lucid Dreaming and The Zodiac. This combined with her recent move towards homewares with Lily Pond and Swan Lake cushions brings her contribution to elegant boudoirs full circle.

The patterns created by Hazel Dunn have a dynamic 70s feel to them – which, inspired as the designer is by Soviet-era children's books and the natural world, isn’t so surprising. Dunn, a Glasgow based illustrator, works diversely across formats from fashion and interior textiles to colourful visual identity creation for clients like RSPB and enigmatic monochromatic moving image. Exploring her work feels like a walk through an enchanted forest.

Laura Spring’s highly distinctive work takes an original approach to colour blocked screen printing while paying attention to textile design heavyweights of the 60s like Finland’s Marimekko. Spring’s designs dance and fizz with energy and colour and she applies them to a carefully curated range of accessories for the body and the home with precision. Each zipper features a hand-stamped leather puller, made less than a mile from her studio in Glasgow by “a master leather craftsman called Colin.” This attention to detail and a healthy appetite for travel has resulted in her most mesmerising collection to date – The Good Life inspired by a Finnish form of weaving called Täkänä and exhibited at Helsinki Design Week and Design Junction in London this year.

We didn’t have room to tell you about Susan Castillo; Jemima and Alice Dansey-Wright; Rachel Duckhouse; Niki Fulton; Fun Makes Good; Lyndsay Mackie; C F McEwan; Primary Press; Natasha Samasuwo and The Store Hus, so follow us on Twitter and Instagram to hear more about surface pattern designers and for the latest in contemporary Scottish design.