Famous Scottish Textile Designers

Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

Can a country become famous for certain kinds of products? Can someone become famous for designing tablecloths? this lesson, learn about some famous Scottish textile designers.

What is Textile Design?

Textile design is the process of creating how textiles look and feel. Textile designers are usually trained in arts-related subjects. They decide what textiles are made of, how they're made (say, woven or knitted), and they might decide what patterns or designs are printed on the surface.

History of Textile Design in Scotland

Scotland has a long history of textile design and manufacturing that goes back hundreds of years. The country was known for fine laces and knitted goods as well as printed cottons and woven damasks. A damask is a type of cloth, often woven from linen or silk, with a design that is visible on both sides of the fabric.

The Scottish textile industry was centered on places like Glasgow and Dunfermline. Of course, someone had to design all these fabric products which means that the Scottish textile industry had many textile designers. While some companies--like those that made printed cotton products--tended to use in-house designers, the linen damask industry, which produced more high end luxury goods, resulted in the creation of a small group of successful, celebrated independent textile designers.

Now let's learn about some of these Scottish designers.

Famous Scottish Textile Designers

Joseph Neil Paton

One of the earliest known Scottish textile designers who became famous for his work was Joseph Neil Paton (1797-1874). He specialized in damask patterns, many of which were made in Dunfermline. Paton sold designs to the leading Scottish manufacturers, perhaps most prominently Erskine Beverage and Co.

Paton's work was featured in a display of ornately patterned tablecloths at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London. His son Joseph Noel Paton also designed textiles before becoming better known as a painter. Today, more than 700 of his designs are in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

James Balfor

James Balfor was another Dunfermline designer who created damask patterns in the 1840s and 1850s. Balfor's designs were ornate with elaborate borders and celebratory images. They featured noted figures like the Duke of Wellington. Balfor did a lot of work with the company Dewar and Son and frequently designed table linens. One his most famous was the Crimean War tablecloth filled with the personalities and victors of the Crimean War.

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