During the 19th century GSA’s curriculum focussed on improving draughtsmanship and design skills, and the School had close links with local manufacturers, including the textiles industry. Carpet makers James Templeton & Co, who regularly donated money to GSA and also had links to the School’s Management Committee and Board of Governors. In 1983 Templeton’s merged with another local carpet manufacturer, A. F. Stoddard and when this company closed in 2005, a number of small carpets were donated to GSA along with the company’s design archive (now held in our Library).
In the 1890s, technical studios were opened at the School and GSA began to teach embroidery. The embroidery section was overseen by tutor Jessie Newbery (1864-1948) and soon became renowned for its contemporary designs. In 1902 The Studio magazine stated ‘Look to the Glasgow School of Art if we wish to think of today’s embroidery as a thing that lives and grows’.
In this period GSA also became known for ‘The Glasgow Style’, a design aesthetic developed by students and staff which had links to Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts movements. Examples of Glasgow Style embroideries in our collections include pieces by Jessie Newbery, Ann Macbeth (1875-1948) and Grace Melvin (1892-1977).
Although the embroidery course at GSA promoted personal creativity and the development of new styles, its teachers also encouraged students to learn from historical examples and use them as sources of inspiration. In 1898 Jessie Newbery stated in The Studio magazine: “I believe in education consisting of seeing the best that has been done. Then, having this high standard before us, in doing what we like to do; that for our fathers, this for us.”
During the 1930s – 1960s GSA was involved in the Needlework Development Scheme (NDS). This scheme was sponsored by Coats Thread Manufacturers of Paisley. It collected embroidery pieces from different geographical areas and different historical periods, in order to showcase a wide variety of techniques. Coats appointed representatives from the four Scottish art schools (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Dundee) and gave them a budget to travel around the UK and Europe, and collect embroidery samples. In 1934 Kathleen Mann (1908-2000), GSA’s Head of Embroidery, travelled to France and Italy to collect works for the NDS. When the scheme closed in 1961 its collections comprised some 3000 pieces. These were distributed to art schools, museums and organisations such as the embroiderer’s guild. GSA’s then Head of Embroidery and Weaving, Kath Whyte (1909-1996) requested a number of pieces for GSA. These form our Needlework Development Scheme (NDS) collection, and the pieces are still used today to support teaching.
Other material collected by the School for teaching purposes include a range of lace samples dating from the 17th to the mid-20th century, and a set of Jacquard sample books containing examples of furniture fabric woven by N & N Lockhart & Sons Ltd for Donald Brothers Ltd, Dundee. Weave was introduced to GSA by Agnes Cook McCreadie (b.1899) in the late 1930s. However, we currently only hold examples of student weave samples from the late 20th century.
During the second world war, students worked with a variety of found materials and vegetable dyes to produce textiles despite resources being scarce. However, after the war the textiles department flourished under the support of the School’s Director Douglas Percy Bliss and a new course in Printed Textiles was established by Robert Stewart in 1949. Stewart was a former GSA student and became a significant figure in British Design, working for Liberty, Donald Brothers and the Edinburgh Tapestry Company, and producing designs for textiles, ceramics, as well as public art.
Stewart taught at GSA for 35 years, our holdings include examples of work by a number of his former students including Eirene Hunter, Margaret Stewart and Jimmy Cosgrove (who went on to lead Printed Textiles at GSA in the early 1980s). The Archives & Collections also hold a number of printed textiles and student notebooks from the late 1970s and 1980s by former student and textile designer Fraser Taylor.
Since the 1940s GSA has held an annual fashion show. This is now part of the Fashion & Textiles Department third year curriculum, however, it was originally an extra-curricular activity involving students from all disciplines. In 2017 an exhibition documenting the history of the fashion show was held at GSA, utilising ephemera, photographic and audio-visual material held in the archives and attracting new donations from former students, including a number of fashion show garments.
We continue to add material to our holdings to fill in gaps and to document current activity at the School. Recent additions include printed textiles by Erin McQuarrie, GSA Newbery prize winner in 2018.