Sew Last Century! at the The West End Festival

A while ago now, but we thought you might like to see a few snaps of the Sew Last Century troopers take part in Glasgow’s West End Festival Parade, which took place a few weeks ago. The girls looked fab in their very own designs inspired by GSA Archives and Collections’ Sylvia Chalmers sketches, designs and textiles. And look, sunshine!


For more information about Sew Last Century!’s work with the Archives and Collections Centre, see our previous blog post.

Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh embroidered panels return from Japan

Our beautiful pair of embroidered panels by Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, wife of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, have returned from their exhibition tour of Japan. The exhibition, entitled Klint’s Golden Rider and Vienna: Celebraring the 150th Anniversary of Klimt’s Birth, has been travelling around various galleries and museums in Japan since late 2012.

Since the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art opened 20 years ago, Gustav Klimt’s 1903 painting Life is a Struggle (Golden Rider) has been a beloved museum treasure. Structured around this painting, this exhibition introduces the artist’s stylistic development. The exhibition also examines various influences on the production of the Golden Rider, including the influence of the arts of Japan on those of the West (japonisme), and the activities of the Vienna Secession (founded in 1897 and led by Klimt) and the Wiener Werkstätte (founded in 1903).

Embroidered panels, by Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, c1902-1904

Embroidered panels, by Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, c1902-1904

Our panels are linen embroidered with silk and metal threads in satin stitch and couching with silk braid, ribbon, silk appliqué, glass beads, square linen buttons painted gold. The faces are painted in watercolour on white kid stretched over card, and date from c1902-1904. Similar panels appear in Mackintosh’s drawings of the east wall of the principal bedroom at The Hill House although it is not certain when they were installed there as early photographs taken in 1904 do not show them. The panels appear to be duplicates of those shown at the Vienna Secession exhibition in 1900 and bought by Emil Blumenfelt; at least one of these (listed as a ‘bed curtain’) was lent by Blumenfelt to the Turin exhibition in 1902 – although it lacks the lower section of black silk seen on The Hill House panels.

Up the Women

BBC Four's Up the Women

BBC Four’s Up the Women

There seems to have been a burgeoning interest in the Women’s Suffrage Movement recently, if prime time television is anything to go by anyway. Last week we had Clare Balding’s Secrets of a Suffragette on Channel 4, investigating what really happened when activist Emily Davison threw herself in front of the King’s Horse during the Epsom Derby on the 4th of June, 1913, and last night saw the first episode of BBC Four’s Up the Women, a comical look at the struggle for women’s suffrage.

Written by and starring Jessica Hynes, the programme, despite its comic edge, seems to be fairly historically accurate, and we wonder if Jessica visited any archives during her research for the series. The biggest battle of all seems to be against other women:  “Women in trousers! Driving motor cars! Is that what you want?” exclaimed one of the less inclined characters.

The costumes in particular seemed very authentic, and reminded us of some items from our own textile collection. As luck would have it, last night’s programme coincides with an archive visit today by a researcher interested in GSA’s very own suffragette Ann Macbeth. As such we had an excuse to dig out some of our own textiles from the time.

NMC 420 - Embroidered Yoke/Collar, c.1911-1920, probably worked by one of Ann Macbeth's students

NMC 420 – Embroidered Yoke/Collar, c.1911-1920, probably worked by one of Ann Macbeth’s students

The focus at the time seems to have been on domestic items: table runners, place mats, teacosies, aprons, collars; but with an emphasis on making the everyday beautiful. The colours are also often surprisingly bright, and one or two of our items even feature the recognisable purple, white and green of suffrage.

Ann Macbeth (top left) painting alongside fellow female students, c1912

Ann Macbeth (top left) painting alongside fellow female students, c1912

See our previous post about Ann Macbeth, written to celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8th March.

You can watch Up the Women on BBC iPlayer.

Sew Last Century!

P1040629The Studio, a designing, making and textiles club for 10-18 year olds in Glasgow, has teamed up with the GSA Archives and Collections for an exciting 15th month project called ‘Sew Last Century!’. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Young Roots programme, the project will enable 60 young people from Glasgow to explore the Textiles heritage of their city, learn some heritage skills, and create their own designs based on the treasures they find in the GSA archive.

P1040790The project began this month with a behind the scenes tour of the archive and a chance to view and sketch from the work of 1950s textiles graduate Sylvia Chalmers.

P1040892The ‘Studioettes’ loved seeing Sylvia’s work – from student sketchbooks, painted designs and fabric samples, to professional screen printed cloth – and filled their own sketchbooks with ideas to take back to The Studio HQ in Partick. Since then, the ‘Studioettes’ have been hard at work turning their research into costumes for Glasgow’s West End Festival Parade.

P1040821The Studio is run by two former GSA Textiles students Lynsey Wells and Jen Olley and is supported by the charitable company In The Making Glasgow.  For more information contact


Embroiderers’ Guild Exhibition at Glasgow Caledonian University

Image courtesy of The Embroiderers' Guild collection

Image courtesy of The Embroiderers’ Guild collection

Glasgow Caledonian University will host a touring exhibition of the Embroiderers’ Guild collection from 9th May-20th June 2013.

The Embroiderers’ Guild collection includes c.11,000 catalogued items, comprising pieces spanning more than six centuries and many countries. Catalogued items also include designs, threads and needlework tools.

The beginnings of the collection saw embroideries, photographs, articles on embroidery and original designs accumulated for the purpose of distribution, in boxes, to members. They were called ‘Model Boxes’. They were the forerunners of present day folios used by members and Guild branches for study, inspiration and learning. From the outset, the collection had a similar ethos to that of the Needlework Development Scheme, of which GSA Archives and Collections holds over 100 related textiles.

There is now a touring exhibition of over a hundred selected pieces from coptic times to the present day. The exhibition will also include the World’s Longest Embroidery and 3000 postcard-sized images showing the life and times of the 200 plus countries recognised by the United Nations.

For more information visit the Embroiderers’ Guild website.

Needlework Development Scheme: Symposium

_IGP1531Last Wednesday we had the pleasure of attending a symposium about the Needlework Development Scheme held at Edinburgh College of Art/University of Edinburgh.

The Needlework Development Scheme is an important and overlooked part of Scotland’s textile history. Founded by Scottish thread manufactures J&P Coats in 1934 with the specific intention of educating through study and practice, a collection of over 3,500 embroideries was distributed when the scheme disbanded in 1961, between Edinburgh College of Art, Glasgow School of Art, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Grays School of Art, The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Embroiders Guild and The Royal Scottish Museum.

Edinburgh College of Art has, like the other institutions involved, a beautiful collection of antique textile samples, once part of the ambitious Needlework Development Scheme (NDS) that aimed to “encourage interest in embroidery and raise the standard of design and technique.” ECA’s collection has been lying inert in boxes, hidden in the ECA board room wine cellar, only rediscovered in 2011, exactly fifty years since the Scheme ended in 1961.

A project entitled Revival and Re-invention, embroidery heritage in the 21st century, is currently underway. The main objective of this project is to re-establish connections between these institutions, re-linking the collection and scoping focal points to ensure an exciting future for the collection with relevance for education in the 21st century.

Frances Lennard, senior lecturer in Textile Conservation at the University of Glasgow, inspecting an item from ECA's NDS collection

Frances Lennard, Senior Lecturer in Textile Conservation at the University of Glasgow, inspecting an item from ECA’s NDS collection

_IGP1539Last week’s Symposium was the first of hopefully many attempts to get all the institutions with NDS collections together to discuss the future of the NDS. In the morning, Lindy Richardson, Programme Director of Textiles at ECA, and invited speakers, including Frances Lennard, Senior Lecturer in Textile Conservation at the University of Glasgow; GSA’s Archivist Susannah Waters, and Matthew Jarron, curator of  Museum Services at the University of Dundee, spoke about the history of the scheme, the idiosyncrasies of the various institutional NDS collections, and the conservation of textiles. In the afternoon we had a chance to view items from ECA’s NDS collection, then we had group discussions about the potential, for example, to reinstate the scheme; to create an online resource; and to provide wider access to the collections. The event was a great success: We all learned from each other about the care of our collections; shared best practice and exchanged knowledge about the history of the NDS and about how the collections can be used in the future.

As part of a tour of the country’s NDS collections, Lindy Richardson and Lucie Whitmore from Edinburgh College of Art visited us a few months ago to view GSA’s NDS collection (see our previous blog post).

Visit the Revival and Re-invention project website for more details. You can also view a selection of Glasgow School of Art’s NDS pieces on our flickr.

Dorothy Smith material on display in GSA Library

Following International Women’s Day on Friday, GSA Archives and Collections and Library staff have created a small exhibition dedicated to Dorothy Smith, a student at GSA during World War II who studied Design and specialised in Embroidery and Weaving.

Embroidery sample showing a variety of stitches, by Dorothy Smith, c1940-1945

Embroidery sample showing a variety of stitches, by Dorothy Smith, c1940-1945

The Archives and Collections Centre holds a collection of material by Dorothy Smith, including her GSA student notebooks, her Jordanhill teacher training notebooks, textile designs and embroidery samples as well as two finished embroidery pieces, of which just a small selection is on display here. Library books thought to have been consulted by Dorothy Smith in her days as a student and still available for consultation today complement the selection from the ACC.

Studio 58: Women Artists in Glasgow Since World War II (Glasgow: Glasgow School of Art, 2012)

Studio 58: Women Artists in Glasgow Since World War II (Glasgow: Glasgow School of Art, 2012)

The display cabinet is located on Level 1 of the Library. An introduction and captions are provided alongside the display and can also be found in the ‘Library Display Cabinets’ folder as part of the Archives and Collections course on the VLE. Call in at the librarians’ office (just to the left of the display) or at the Archives and Collections Centre for more information.

Look out for future posts about our library displays here and on the Library’s Art and Design Resources blog.

Celebrating International Women’s Day

In celebration of International Women’s Day we thought we’d highlight the efforts of GSA alumnus and tutor Ann Macbeth (1875-1948).

Ann MacBeth and fellow student, Drawing and Painting class, c1912

Ann MacBeth (left) and fellow student, Drawing and Painting class, c1912

MacBeth was a renowned designer and embroiderer who was also heavily involved in the suffragette movement. Her commitment to women’s rights was expressed through her embroidery as well as in direct action. While her designs won international medals (she designed a banner for the 1909 Edinburgh women’s suffrage procession and demonstration, and a linen quilt with the embroidered names of hunger strikers for an exhibition in April 1910),  she also endured imprisonment, solitary confinement and forcible feedings in the name of the cause.

Suffragette banner 'WSPU Holloway Prisoners',  1910. It includes the embroidered signatures of 80 suffragette hunger-strikers who had 'faced death without flinching'. Made in the style of a traditional friendship quilt it symbolises the spirit of comradeship that gave suffragette prisoners the strength and courage to endure hunger strike and force feeding.

Suffragette banner ‘WSPU Holloway Prisoners’, 1910. Includes the embroidered signatures of 80 suffragette hunger-strikers. Image courtesy of Museum of London. 

MacBeth’s colleagues at GSA supported her protests.  Correspondence in the archives reveals that in May 1912 she wrote to the Secretary of the School thanking him for his ‘kind letter’.

I am still very much less vigorous than I anticipated…  after a fortnight’s solitary imprisonment with forcible feedings … but the doctor thinks this will improve when I get away.

She did not recuperate as quickly as expected. By June, her doctor told her that she needed at least five months’ care as a ’semi-invalid’. She may also have taken part in the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) window-smashing raid in London in 1912, but she is not mentioned in any sources.

Glasgow School of Art was a hive of activity for the suffrage cause, and between classes, students, including Ann Macbeth, took turns at stitching suffrage banners. MacBeth’s predecessor, Jessie Newbery (wife of Director Francis Newbery), was another active WSPU member.

Francis Newbery and Ann Macbeth in painting studio using easels, c1912

Francis Newbery and Ann Macbeth in painting studio using easels, c1912


The Needlework Development Scheme

GSA's Archivist Susannah shows ECA researchers Lindy and Lucie some items from our Needlework Development Scheme textile collection.

GSA Archivist Susannah shows ECA researchers Lindy and Lucie some items from our Needlework Development Scheme textile collection

Researchers from Edinburgh College of Art visited us last week to have a look at some items from our textile collection and to discuss the Needlework Development Scheme. Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections Centre has a collection of around 125 textiles that were formerly part of the Needlework Development Scheme, (1936-1962), a sheme set up by thread manufacturers J & P Coats with the stated aim being to encourage greater interest in embroidery and raise the standard of design. When the scheme disbanded, the textile collection was split up between various Scottish institutions.

F40_NDS1075, Embroidered apron, Portugal, 19th century

F40_NDS1075, embroidered apron, Portugal, 19th century, an item from GSA’s Needlework Development Scheme textile collection

Lindy Richardson and Lucie Whitmore from Edinburgh College of Art were excited to see our collection of textiles from the scheme, as they have recently uncovered a number of items themselves. Edinburgh College of Art are now looking for people with memories of the Needlework Development Scheme. See below:

NDS poster