Timorous Beasties: The Devil in the Detail

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Video Transcript

Paul Simmons, Timorous Beasties

My name is Paul Simmons, and I am one half of the Timorous Beasties.

 

Alistair McAuley, Timorous Beasties

And I’m Alistair McAuley, the other half.

 

Paul Simmons, Timorous Beasties

We started off doing printed textiles, and with printed textiles, it kind of allows you to still draw and paint and do a lot of those kind of artistic things. I think we were very much interested in the process, and we still are. I think one of the very important things about designing for anything is to know about how it’s made.

 

Alistair McAuley, Timorous Beasties

It’s very basic facility, but it’s incredibly versatile. We can do bespoke and made-to-measure fabrics and wallpapers and engineer panels so they fit in and things that you couldn’t really do in a commercial printer. And that has lead us to do things as diverse as windows for a housing scheme in the Garbles. We have produced gravestones. We have produced ceramics. We do all sorts of things.

 

Paul Simmons, Timorous Beasties

In this studio we physically print quite a lot of wallpapers and a lot of the designing that we do is with the end product in mind. We were asked to design a wallpaper influenced by a lot of things in the V&A. Because we’ve chosen to use flock, it meant we couldn’t actually use a lot of detail. So we chose very generic shapes that were in a lot of silks and in a lot of some of the Elizabethan papers. It’s quite interesting when you look at some of the pieces and you might not know a lot about the process, but it’ll say something to you. There’s so many objects in the V&A; you’re really spoiled for choice. But one fabric in particular could be arguably one of the best printed fabrics ever, is a fabric called “Peacock Amongst the Runes.” It’s actually a British toile that was done in the late 18th century.

 

Alistair McAuley, Timorous Beasties

Interestingly enough, with today’s incredible technology, you just can’t get that sharpness and depth of colour that you can get from this piece. We would love to do that kind of printing and we’re going to try and do it later. It’s a process that’s not really for commercial gain; more just pushing yourself a little bit.

 

Paul Simmons, Timorous Beasties

What is kind of interesting is that people have been producing a lot of toiles in the last twenty or thirty years, but they always try to reproduce the old toiles rather than actually producing a toile about now. I think the toiles that we started producing have a certain resonance and had something that people could really relate to. The Glasgow toile, which had scenes of junkies shooting up, toiles a bit like “Peacock on the Runes” were the original influences for that.

 

Alistair McAuley, Timorous Beasties

What gave the Glasgow toile particular integrity is that it was developed using a source that was literally on the doorstep. These were the scenes from where we used to work.

 

Paul Simmons, Timorous Beasties

All these sort of details, people really relate to. I think that’s what makes our toiles really stand out. There are quite a few pieces in the V&A that I’ve certainly used or had a look at, the repeats in them…but it might be something like a piece of ironwork. Which is completely different to a piece of fabric, but there’ll be some images in there or some shapes or the way it’s put together, the composition, that will be very influential. It’s very easy to get access to see a different piece of design or art or whatever it may be, but when you go and actually physically stand in front of the original piece, you can’t compare it, really. You can almost pick anything, absolutely anything, and you can find some of the best examples of that thing at the V&A. It means you can always go back there and you can always rediscover and see things with a new eye.

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The Glasgow-based design duo Alistair McAuley and Paul Simmons joined forces in 1990. Here they tell us about how they updated a 200-year-old fabric style, and about their fascination with collections at the V&A. Junkies and vagrants replace traditional images of 18th-century French peasants in the Timorous Beasties' Glasgow Toile, an act of historical subversion by the Scottish textile designers.

 

 

 

Junkies and vagrants replace traditional images of 18th-century French peasants...