GSA Archives and Collections reflect on the Awaken project which breathed new life into our collections by re-imaging them as textiles. Fashion and Textiles lecturer Helena Britt shares her insight below, illustrated with some photographs from the project’s final exhibition…
Why did you use GSA Archives & Collections?
Department of Fashion & Textiles and the Centre for Advanced Textiles (CAT) staff used GSA Archives & Collections during a project titled Awaken, led by Jimmy Stephen-Cran. The intention of the project was to examine the conceptual possibilities of re-interpreting archive material for contemporary fashion and textile related design work. Fourteen members of staff participated in the project, all were experienced textile and fashion practitioners in their respective fields. Archives & Collections staff were vital to the success of the project as they held inductions for all of the project participants, facilitated further visits and archive item viewing, provided a wealth of insight into the items viewed and suggested areas for further investigation.
For the project I worked collaboratively with Elaine Bremner and we viewed items from the Gillespie Kidd & Coia archive, which contains an array of drawings, photographs, plans and documents related to this architectural practice. Items considered to be visually interesting and appealing were selected as inspiration from which we created drawings using hand and digital processes. The drawings produced then formed the basis of design development involving further drawing, colour, pattern layout and scale exploration, and sampling onto fabric.
We had always intended to carry out site visits to view existing Gillespie Kidd & Coia buildings to generate our own primary research but unfortunately we were unable to do this due to the timeframe of the Awaken project.
Had you used archives or museum collections previously?
Archive and museum collection use varied between the different creative practitioner participants. For certain participants use of historical material from archives and or museums for creative projects was integral to the design process, whereas for other participants this was not the case.
I worked collaboratively with Elaine Bremner for the Awaken project. Although I visited Archives & Collections for aspects of my teaching practice and had undertaken research in museums for previous design projects, I had never used archives for creative process inspiration until Awaken.
What was your experience of visiting the Archives & Collections Centre?
Visiting the Archives & Collections Centre is both truly fascinating and highly insightful. Viewing artifacts, learning about related stories and being able to analyse and discuss items increases individual understanding and is always an enjoyable experience.
I am also fascinated by the packaging used to store Archives & Collections Centre items; the actual process of conserving and archiving, and the amount of knowledge contained with the minds of Archives & Collections staff!
From discussion with the other Awaken project participants I know that the above is representative of all those participating.
What did you find out from our holdings?
Analysis of the data collected during the Awaken project contributes to understanding regarding textile and fashion practitioner utilisation of archive resources in the creative process. Conclusions drawn from the findings cover considerations when working with archives, reflection on the creative process journal method and suggestions for further research to further extend archive utilisation understanding.
From a personal perspective, although I was aware of the architectural practice of Gillespie Kidd & Coia I had little idea about the extent of their portfolio.
Has your visit led you to using other Archive / Museum sources?
Building on the Awaken project, the topic of archive utilisation in textile and fashion design processes has become a focus of research activity at GSA. A project funded by The Royal Society of Edinburgh, titled Interwoven Connections: The Stoddard Templeton Design Studio and Design Library, 1843-2005, is being undertaken. This project focuses on the Stoddard Templeton Design Library which was the in-house resource used by designers to inspire and aid the design process. In addition to visits to the Design Library and Archives & Collections Centre at GSA the following archives and museums will be visited: Glasgow University Archives and Collections Services, Glasgow Museums, Paisley Museum, Bridgeton Library, Victoria & Albert Museum and the Kidderminster Museum of Carpet.
More information about Awaken can be found here.