A Scottish student art graduate had designs on success after winning a compettiion to come up with a new tartan design.
Sophie Anne Campbell (23), from Oban, studied textile design at Glasgow School of Art and graduated this summer, and is now studying an MA at the school of textiles in Galashiels.
One of her final projects was to enter a competition organised by Alternative Flooring, in conjunction with the art school. The challenge was to come up with a brand new tartan design which could be woven into rugs and runners. (www.alternativeflooring.com)
Sophie’s design was inspired by the streets around her Glasgow student home.
The judges, who included Lorna Haigh from Alternative Flooring, Elaine Bremner, Woven Textiles tutor at the Glasgow School of Art and Louise Gray, fashion designer and GSA graduate, all commended her lively, colourful and imaginative design.
Last week Sophie was invited to the Alternative Flooring factory in Hampshire to see her design being created on the looms.
Sophie said: ‘I come from a creative and musical family and my interest in making and exploring different materials has always been encouraged. As a child I was always creating scrapbooks and filling sketchbooks with drawings. When my father came home from his work offshore, I would show him my magazine, The Hillside Times (named after our house) filled with news and illustrations of what we’d all been up to.
‘Being a Campbell and coming from the highlands tartan is a design I’ve grown up with. I’ve been living in Glasgow for four years and decided to use my surroundings as inspiration for the competition.
‘Because it was during lockdown, I couldn’t get out much, so I walked around my neighbourhood (Great Western Road) as if I were a tourist, taking photos and looking at the city from a different perspective. I made a note of geometric shapes, different textures and colours and wove all those influences into my tartan design using six bright colours. I am quite a “maximalist”, so I found it natural to come up with a tartan which was cheerful and colourful with lots going on.
‘Being a Campbell and from Oban our family will always wear kilts made from our own tartan for special occasions. I’m very aware of how tartan is loaded with historical and emotional importance. But I didn’t feel intimidated by all the history, I felt confident in my own style that I could create a brand-new design which reflected my personality.’
Sophie was delighted to visit the carpet factory to see her tartan being woven.
She explained: ‘It was really great to see and compare my digital designs, to the small square samples, to seeing it being woven at such an industrial large scale. Something I have never experienced before.
‘It is also amazing to see the craftmanship that goes into these carpets. The time and skill is important to recognise and appreciate. I think it is also appropriate to appreciate the woven craft and techniques. Especially in this day and age where things are so consumed and produced, it is refreshing to see such an ancient technique as weave and transforming into modern day tartans.
‘During the generations of mass textile production, it is important to step back and admire the trade in action. These novelty pieces are created and the skill, craftsmanship and attention to detail is important to admire.
‘The stages in between the carpet being woven and sitting on a shelf or in a display book is a lot more tedious and hand crafted than I had imaged. There are so many different elements, from having maintenance for the looms, to the weaver checking every thread, to the finishing, and the threading and fixing of any mistakes the looms have made. Most of these jobs are done by hand and skilled hands at that! It was a real honour to be able to walk about the factory and be introduced to the real designers!’
Sophie particularly likes working with wool.
She said: ‘Wool is sustainable, and it works in a circular economy. It’s very satisfying to work with an ethical material and not feel that I’m doing damage to the environment in any way. Both my grannies are great knitters.
‘I grew up wearing those scratchy woollen sweaters they knitted for us and feel great fondness for those clothes. My grannies are so proud to hear that I’m working with wool to create a new tartan.
‘Being a highlander there’s a lot of tartan to be seen in homes that I know. You can see tartan carpet in some of the old hotels in Oban. The tartan picnic rug or throw is familiar to so many people. It’s a very traditional look but it can be quite dark. I enjoyed bringing brighter colours and a more contemporary look to my own tartan design.
‘I love colour, texture, and content and like my designs to feel busy. I like a sense of narrative too. I’d say that I create designs which promote a positive atmosphere – bright and cheerful.
‘This was just the news I needed. It was a real confidence boost and so great to have a positive reaction to all the work I’ve been doing for the last four years. It just confirmed to me that I’m on the right track.’
Sophie added: ‘I’ll be based Galashiels for the next year doing a Masters in Fashion and Textiles at the Heriot-Watt School of Textiles and Design with an industry placement. I’ve been working at Hallmark through the summer and have the promise of some theatre design work which I’m looking forward to. It’s going to be a busy time with more opportunities for work experience which will be great.’