World at their feet: Carpet factory archive opens to public

Carpets from Stoddard Templeton archive

A new exhibition opening at Glasgow School of Art this weekend offers the public a first glimpse of a unique archive.

The Stoddard Templeton archive includes thousands of designs, drawings and patterns for luxury carpets.

The two companies were Scotland's most prominent carpet manufacturing innovators, with kings, queens and maharajas among their clients.

They designed, supplied, and laid many iconic carpets, including for the White House, Westminster and the Titanic.

"They were hugely important," said Helena Britt, design researcher at Glasgow School of Art.

"The west of Scotland carpet industry was a huge industry. They shipped all around the world, from very early on in the companies' history.

"From the late 1800s they were sending carpets all around the world, furnishing palaces and prestigious homes in Australia, in the Caribbean, in various parts of the world.

"From a Glasgow base, they were highly international."

Stoddard had a royal warrant and provided carpets for many royal households, at home and abroad.

"We did a lot of work for the royal family, " said Ronnie Wilkie who worked for both companies for almost four decades.

"I worked directly with the Queen and did Balmoral and her houses all over Scotland."

Mr Wilkie was instrumental in rescuing the design archive after both companies closed and helped persuade Glasgow Museums, Glasgow University and Glasgow School of Art to buy it.

The archive and library contains thousands of sketches - works of art in their own right - as well as photographs, books, carpet pattern designs and a selection of carpet samples.

When Holywood director James Cameron decided he wanted to recreate the original carpets from the Titanic for his film set, he went straight to source.

"We put forward a programme to the company and reproduced them," said Mr Wilkie.

And with hours of filming, reshooting and editing required to create the watery scenes from the Hollywood blockbuster, it turned out to be a bumper order.

"It was great because every time they put the carpet down on the Titanic they put it under the water then brought it up and we got a repeat order because they had to order four of each section of the carpet."

ronnie wilkie Ronnie Wilkie worked for both Stoddard and Templeton for almost four decades

So the carpets may have survived the Titanic but for all their might Stoddard Templeton were eventually worn down by cheaper, commercial rivals.

The archive is all that survives of the days when Scotland had the world at its feet.

This weekend the public will get a first look at the collection which is being catalogued and digitised.

Helena Britt hopes it will now act as a vital resource for a new generation of designers.

"The collection as a whole is absolutely phenomenal and the part of it that we have is the most amazing resource," she said.

"And so to have access to that, to be able to show that to students, to be able to give access to the public, but then also tell the stories of the designers and the design process behind it - it's really important that it's documented for future generations."

And Mr Wilkie echoed that sentiment: "It's part of the heritage, it's part of Glasgow. Templetons were the biggest employer many, many years ago, so for it to disappear would have been tragic.

"To let designers in the Art School now use the archive is great."

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